Interstellar Trade

interstellar trade
Image from Steve Bowers

Although nanofabrication and solar system and habitat cluster resource self-sufficiency greatly reduce the amount of trade required by wormhole link or (for more isolated systems) relativistic trader, interstellar trade still remains an important part of galactic civilization

Primary items that are traded are almost always those things that cannot simply have their designs sent over a commlink. These include:

Transapient design/comm templates

For all of its tremendous bandwidth, the Known Net still finds its resources strained (or even exceeded) when attempting to transmit information of sufficiently high transapient or deity class. Godtech devices are often so complex that while there are storage devices able to hold the blueprints, there is insufficient bandwidth to transmit them. Instead the storage devices have to be physically transported to their destinations where sufficient processing power has been constructed to translate the blueprint into hardware.

In a similar vein, consider how much bandwidth a deep, involved conversation between two gods takes up! The thoughts and communications of the Archai are often so vast and involved, so complex that they have to be transported in a manner similar to design blueprints. An ancient historical low tech analogy from Industrial Age Old Earth was sending a letter across the Atlantic in the days of steamships and telegraph. But in this case the letter may actually contain a copy of a portion of each correspondents mind. And the minds are bigger than many planets.

Luxury or one-of-a-kind items

Actually, 'luxury' and 'unique' are frequently one and the same. In a future in which nearly any material object can be mass produced at whim, unique or one-of-a-kind items (artwork, handicrafts, etc.) often take on enormous value. Of course each item has to be authenticated and certified as a unique original. The same applies to items made 'by hand' rather than simply mass replicated using nano. And again to items of information made one off (music, poetry, literature, all targeted to just one person, or carrying the 'chic-factor' of only one or a limited number being guaranteed to exist). Such information might not be able to be transmitted over the web even if the storage medium itself is not part of the value (and it probably would be; consider rare hardcopy books) due to security concerns (Cyberian hackers, ahuman or other non-sephirotic ai sniffer probes, and so on).

Finally, even items that can be mass produced using nano can take on additional, and very great, value if certified as actually coming from an original source instead of a replicator.

'Here, try this wine. It's actually original from the Valles Marineris vineyards. Bottled on Mars and shipped here and everything. Doesn't it just taste so much better than that replicated stuff?'
In these cases the 'value' of these items would be in people's heads, but that has been the case with trade in luxury items for all of human history. A citizen of the galaxy, or anyone else, may not actually need any of them. But they sure may want them.

  • Cargo Gel  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Utility fog based device used for transporting cargo in a wide range of environments from planetary surfaces to interstellar spac
  • Customs  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Duty levied on imports from foreign polities.
  • Eridanus League, The  - Text by Aaron Hamilton, updated by Steve Bowers
    Early interstellar empire, informally aligned with the First Federation.
  • Expenditure Switching - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Policies designed to switch spending and investment from foreign goods to domestic goods. Popular in small, isolationist or semi-isolationist, or disenfranchised polities.
  • Exports - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Goods, services, knowledge, creativity, and/or capital assets sold abroad.
  • Free Ship - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Any non-affiliated interplanetary or interstellar vessel; basically a mobile Free Zone. There are many different types of Free Ships, ranging from the most practical (Free Trader) to the most eccentric and quixotic. All have a proud tradition of non-alignment with corporate, political, or archailectic powers. Some pirates justify themselves as Free Ships, but all they do is give other Free Ships a bad name.
  • Free Trade - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Interpolity trade free from any restrictions such as tariffs.
  • Free Trade Area - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A group of polities which removes tariff barriers between member polities but allows each member to decide on its own tariff policy towards non-members.
  • Free Trader  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev (inspired by Traveller RPG) and Daniel Harle (Fast Trader entry)
    An independent interstellar merchant ship, unaffiliated with any megacorp, polity or archailect empire.
  • Freeport - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Areas close to spaceports and stargate terminals into which imports are allowed without paying tariffs on the condition that they are exported.
  • Import Controls - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Government imposed limits on the entry of goods into a polity.
  • Import Penetration - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The proportion of domestic consumption accounted for by imports.
  • Import Restrictions - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Limitations placed on the purchase of imports by quotas, tariffs, etc., favored by some centralized and isolationist polities. Megacorps often use aggressive memetic engineering to ensure maximum import penetration and minimum import restrictions. Megacorps also often work in favor of import restrictions in order to keep their competitors out of the market.
  • Imports - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Goods, services and capital assets purchased from other polities.
  • Interstellar Econometrics  - Text by Anders Sandberg, with some material by HÃ¥kan Andersson
    Trade between distant worlds is made difficult by distance and the cost of interstellar transport.
  • Interstellar Trade Mechanisms  - Text by Ryan B
    An overview of the historic and notable mechanisms of interstellar trade used by civilisations outside of the Nexus
  • Marketer Fleet, The  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Marketing cult and para-religion.
  • Nexus, The - Text by Orion's Arm Editors
    The common term for the Wormhole Nexus.
  • Philosophy of Abundance, The  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The Corporate Religions of the later First Federation period.
  • Repatriation Bond  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev (inspired by and modified from original in Traveller RPG)
    Document guaranteeing passage of an individual to a specified location upon completion of contract work or upon suspension of contract work for any reason.
  • Smartstuff  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    General term for "smart" packing materials.
  • Starlark, The  - Text by Steve Bowers
    One of a numerous class of ships built after the Great Expulsion, as the population of Earth sought refuge in the worlds and habitats of the Solar System and among the stars.
  • Tariff - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A system of duties or prices imposed by a polity on imported or exported goods. Tariff regulation varies widely, from non-existent (much of the NoCoZo) to high (many of the more centralized lower toposophic or baseline polities).
  • Trade Language - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Language used by several different polities or clades (each with their own separate language) when engaging in trade or other commercial interaction. Often a trade language may supersede local languages for many purposes, or donate loan words, lexemes or phrases to those languages. Also used to describe various commercial languages used by NoCoZo, Cygexpa and Fomalhaut trading companies.
  • Unscanned Market - Text by John B
    A semi-mythological portion of the NoCoZo economy dealing with unregistered ("unscanned") products. These products are either incredibly cheap, or not normally available due to sophont rights or other moral or societal restrictions. The best confirmed independent estimates of the Unscanned Market indicate that it is at best a small fraction of a percent of the GCP of the NoCoZo, even if various demagogues inflate the estimate by some factor.
Development Notes
Text by Todd Drashner
original note by Keith Halperin
Initially published on 28 July 2003.

Additional Information
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