Ferengi 2.0 (first draft, comments welcome)

The Ferengi never lived up to their potential in any series and are often seen as a joke. With a few changes they could truly show a different worldview that could compete with the human (Federation) view. I will present my ideas in the form of a story.

The setting is a bar, like Quark’s on DS9.

The characters are:

Drep, a Ferengi who was born in the time before the Ferengi made first contact with other races. He was put in stasis because he had a disease that couldn’t be cured at that time. He was taken out of stasis five years ago when a cure for his disease was found. He has spent the last five years traveling and learning about life in the 24th century.

Fred, a human bartender. He just wants to finish his shift and go home.

Nurick, a Vulcan.

Oklath Runzerr,a Klingon. He is interested in the belief systems of other races. He recently purchased a copy of the rules of acquisition.

Drep is sitting at the bar talking at Fred.

Drep: I hate the 24th century! I hate the way everyone treats me because I’m a Ferengi.

Fred: Yes. People are often unfriendly to Ferengi.

Derp: Unfriendly! It’s disrespectful! They say the name Ferengi like it’s a curse word. Why just this morning…..

Derp talks loudly and at length about his recent experiences of being disrespected because he is a Ferengi. Fred tries to listen as patiently as he can until there is a loud crash as a Klingon slams his drink on the counter.

Oklath: I will not listen to any more of this! Ferengi are not respected because they are without honor!

Fred: OK. Perhaps the Ferengi idea of honor is different from yours. Let me get you another bloodwine.

Oklath: No! I will say this! What angers me is not that Ferengi are sniveling worms. There are many races without honor. I would not trust a Romulan either. What angers me is that this Ferengi is complaining about not being respected when he doesn’t care about that at all. This is just some trick to scam the bartender out of a few strips of latinum. I will not sit back and just watch this happen.

Derp: You are very rude.

Oklath: Maybe I’m rude but you don’t care that I’m rude. You are only unhappy because I interrupted your chance to make a profit. Isn’t that right?!

Derp: No. It isn’t. I was speaking the truth.

Oklath: Truth?! Ferengi don’t believe in truth.

Oklath takes out a PADD.

Oklath: I happen to have a copy of the rules of acquisition right here. I have studied many races beliefs and I have to say that the rules in this book are dripping with dishonor. I can’t see how anyone who follows these rules can claim to be upset about being disrespected.

Drep: If you really want to discuss this take a seat here and let’s talk.

Oklath: No! Because I don’t believe that you want to engage me in a real discussion. You will just try to trick me out of some latinum.

Drep: If you have studied the rules of acquisition then you must be familiar with rule of acquisition number 50.  Never bluff a Klingon.

Oklath: Hah! Are you serious that you want to discuss this with me Ferengi?

Drep: I would not ignore rule of acquisition number 50.

Oklath: Very well. Let’s discuss this but I’m warning you Ferengi. If this is a trick, you will regret it.

Drep: That’s fine. Let’s begin.

Oklath sits down near Drep

Oklath: First, do you follow the rules of acquisition?

Drep: Most of them.

Oklath: Typical Ferengi. Doesn’t even believe in his own people’s rules.

Drep: I’m not typical at all. I was born in the year 2000.

Fred: Really? How are you still alive?

Drep: I’m quite good at acquiring profit so I accumulated large amount of wealth. But before I could enjoy my wealth, I contracted an incurable disease. I spent my wealth on getting put into stasis until a cure was found. I was taken out of stasis five years ago and cured. When I was put into stasis Ferengi had not yet made contact with other races. The 24th century is very different from my time. Even Ferengi society has changed a lot. So I have some issues with some of the newer rules.

Oklath: Hm. That’s why you seem different from other Ferengi. Most Ferengi wouldn’t even sit and talk with a Klingon.

Drep: I think the Ferengi of this time are so used to being disrespected by other races that they don’t even bother to try to explain the Ferengi point of view to others. In my time I was a respected businessman. I did those things that were expected of good Ferengi and I prospered because of that. If I hadn’t become ill, I would have lived out my life without ever experiencing the kind of disrespect that I have to endure now everyday.

Oklath: You sound like you are speaking the truth but I can’t believe it.

Drep: Is it because I’m a Ferengi?

Oklath: No. It’s because I can’t
understand how you can be speaking honestly about your desire to be respected if you follow the rules of acquisition.
Let’s take a look at one of these rules. Rule number 131.  If it gets you profit, sell your own mother. Do you follow this rule?

Drep: Yes, I do.

Fred: Wait! That’s actually a rule? I thought it was just a joke. A Ferengi will sell his own mother. Ha ha. Like that.

Oklath: I was also surprised when I read it. But it is one of the Ferengis most sacred rules.

Fred: (to Drep) So have you actually sold your mother?

Drep: No. of course not. The rule says “If it gets you profit”. This rule doesn’t force you to sell your mother.

Fred: But would you sell your mother for the right price?

Drep: If you put it that way, yes.

Oklath: Then I can’t see how you can expect anyone other than a Ferengi to respect you if you are willing to sell your own mother. It’s not logical.

Nurick: Ha. (A stifled snort)

Everyone looks at Nurick who is sitting near them.

Oklath: I can’t believe it. Did a Vulcan just laugh?

Nurick: (regaining his composure) It has been known to happen on rare occasions. It’s almost as rare as a Klingon using logic.

Oklath: Are you mocking me!

Nurick: Not at all. Your statement was logical. I would like to see how the Ferengi responds.

Drep: Well, you are going to have to pay to hear that. I was going to just say the answer but now that I know that you want to hear what I have to say, I have no choice but to charge you. Rule number 178.  The world is a stage – don’t forget to demand admission.

Nurick: Typical Ferengi. I’m not going to give you any latinum.

Oklath: Watch. He will use this as an excuse to end this conversation because it is not going well for him.

Drep: Perhaps we can workout an alternative form of payment. I would be willing to accept your services as a logic advisor for the duration of this conversation as a substitute for latinum.

Nurick: What exactly would I be expected to do as your logic advisor?

Oklath: Be careful. The 79th rule is Benefit from the Vulcan greed for knowledge.

Nurick: Thank you. I’ll be careful.

Drep: Your job will be to evaluate the logic of the statements in this conversation and to help me to speak according to logic.

Nurick: Interesting. But how would you profit from me acting as your logic advisor?

Drep: Excellent question. Rule of acquisition 222. Knowledge is latinum.

Nurick: Explain.

Drep: As I said, I was born in year 2000. The 24th century is a strange place for me. Before I entered stasis I had never seen a Klingon or a Vulcan. I need to acquire more knowledge about this century before I go back into business.

Nurick: So knowledge about how Vulcans use logic can help you understand the 24th century better and thus make more profit?

Drep: Exactly!

Nurick: It is logical. I will accept your deal.

Drep: Great!

Oklath: Enough delays! Answer my question. How can you say you desire respect when you follow such dishonorable rules?

Nurick:As your logic advisor, I would counsel you to concede this point.

Drep: (to Nurick) I don’t think I will. (To Oklath) Following the rules of acquisition is what made me respectable and prosperous in my former life. Why should I change?

Oklath : Respected among Ferengi perhaps but your rules are dishonorable in the eyes of most other races.

Drep: And the reason I am engaging in this conversation is to eliminate that false image.

Oklath: I was wrong about you Ferengi. I thought you were dishonest. But you are not dishonest. You are insane.

Oklath is standing up

Fred: Wait. Let’s hear what he has to say. If he is insane then this is the most interesting insanity I’ve heard in a long time.

Oklath: OK. But my patience is wearing thin. I believe that Rule number 131, if it gets you profit, sell your own mother, is dishonorable. Are you telling me that this is a false image?

Drep: Yes. Let me explain by telling you a joke that I used to tell as a child. Why is it so difficult to sell your mother? Because by the time you get old enough to be able to sell her, nobody want to buy her. There is no market for second hand mothers.

Nurick: You are not helping your case.

Fred: Selling your mother is a terrible thing. How can make a joke about that?

Drep: It is a terrible thing but I can joke about it because it never actually happens. Ferengi never sell their mothers. I’ve never heard of a case of it happening. The rule is not telling us to sell our mothers. It’s telling us to not let anything get in the way of profit.

Oklath: I don’t see the difference. If you don’t let anything stand in the way of profit, why not sell your mother? If you sell your mother you get some latinum right? Why not sell her and get the latinum?

Nurick: That is very logical.

Drep: The rule states you must sell your mother for profit. Latinum is not profit! This is a fundamental concept of Ferengi economics that no other race seems to understand.

Fred: You’re right about that. I can’t understand that at all.

Drep: Let me try to explain. Imagine two Ferengi who both recently sold something of value and got paid. One Ferengi is sitting in a room full of latinum. He received more latinum than he could ever spend in his whole life. And that’s saying a lot because Ferengi are very good at spending money. The other Ferengi only received a few strips of latinum. Only enough to keep him from poverty. Who is the best Ferengi?

Oklath: This question seems like a trap. But I’ll spring the trap anyway. I’ll say the wealthy Ferengi is the best. Now tell me that I’m wrong.

Drep: You are not wrong but you are not right either.

Oklath: Hah! You are clever! Now tell me the answer.

Drep: OK. It depends on how much profit they made. Selling something for less than it is worth is not profitable no matter how high the price may be. That’s why Ferengi never sell their mothers. Because who would value a mother more than her own son?

Fred: So Ferengi care about their families? All of ever hear them talk about is business never family.

Drep: Of course we care about our families. But we have trouble expressing it like many races do. I sometimes envy how openly you humans express your feelings for your families. If you are away from your families you suffer from “homesickness”. You make it sound like an illness that anyone could get. Most races view missing ones family too much as a weakness. I have never seen a proud Klingon warrior complaining that he misses his mother. And the most you can get out of a Vulcan is “I’m concerned about my family’s welfare in my absence”. So Ferengi are not unusual in this regard.

Oklath: Do not demean my feelings for my family by comparing them to yours! Our feelings are not similar at all. Ferengi express their “love” for family through exploitation. Rule number 111 says, Treat people in your debt like family … exploit them.

Drep: Of course you should exploit your family. This is a good thing.

Fred: I don’t want to be exploited by anyone.

Drep: Are you sure? What if I told you that you were a useless person?

Fred: I would be offended and I would ask you to leave.

Drep: Exactly! Rule of acquisition number 287, Everyone wants to be useful but no one wants to be used

Oklath: There is no rule number 287!

Drep: There is now. I just made it up! Ha!

Oklath scowls and growls at Drep.

Nurick: So by exploit you mean make use of?

Drep: Yes.

Nurick: That’s logical.

Fred: It doesn’t sound right to me. I mean, what kind of relationships must you have in your family with everyone exploiting each other?

Drep: Peaceful and harmonious relationships. Look, I could only exploit a member of my family if we were on good terms right? If I had a hostile relationship with my family they would be useless for me.

Nurick: Logical

Drep: It would be almost impossible for a young Ferengi to be successful in business without exploiting his family. And to do that he must maintain good relationships with his family. Young Ferengi who break from their families and try to make it in business on their own get eaten alive. They can’t complete with Ferengi who have families that they can exploit.

Oklath: You are a formidable opponent but the ground on which you stand is unstable. It will lead to your defeat.

Drep: Let’s test that theory. I assume you have more rules you would like me to explain?

Oklath: Yes, I do. Please explain rule number 61.  Never buy what can be stolen. Can you explain the honor of that rule? Isn’t stealing dishonorable?

Drep: Theft is not inherently dishonorable as you would put it. Let’s imagine an ideal economic system.

Oklath: Your style of argument requires a lot of imagination.

Drep: I’m sorry but it’s the only way I can think to explain it.

Oklath: Then proceed.

Drep: Ok. Imagine an ideal economic system. In this system a thing would be owned by the person who valued it the most. A great musical instrument should be owned by the person who can play it the most skillfully.

Nurick: That is logical.

Oklath: But don’t you believe that the Ferengi system is the ideal system?

Drep: The Ferengi system is the best system but it’s still not ideal. That’s why we can add new rules like I did before.

Fred: It’s strange. Most races have ideals that they aspire to. For the Klingon it is honor, for the Vulcan it is logic and for the human it is the improvement of oneself and others. The Ferengi seem to be above even their own ideals.

Oklath: It is because they have no ideals.

Drep: I would say it is because we believe in Ferengi ingenuity and tenacity. But let me continue speaking about the ideal system. The theft of something valuable transfers its ownership from someone who valued it less to someone who valued it more. If the previous owner valued the thing he would have taken better care of it and made it more difficult to steal.

Fred: So the previous owner lost his right of ownership because he did not fulfill his responsibilities as the owner of that thing.

Drep: That’s a very human way to put it but you are essentially correct. You can see that the Ferengi philosophy is not completely incompatible with the philosophies of other races.

Oklath: You will not win this argument! Please explain rule number 68.  Compassion is no substitute for a profit. I’m sure that is not compatible with any Human philosophy. Compassion is very important to humans. (To Fred)Tell him I’m right.

Fred: If we had not embraced compassion we would have eventually destroyed ourselves. (To Drep) Let me ask you, Are you familiar with the incident at Cerkun 5?

Drep: Yes, I am. This incident is always mentioned when someone wants to defame my people.

Oklath: Really? It clearly shows how dishonorable the Ferengi are. What say you human?

Fred: Well, I would rather be killed by a Klingon Bathleth than die the way the settlers of Cerkun 5 died.

Oklath: And you Vulcan? Can you explain the logic of Cerkun 5?

Nurick: I’m unfamiliar with this incident. It seems to generate very strong emotional reactions.

Fred: You can say that again!

Oklath: The fact that those criminals got away with such a heinous crime makes my Klingon heart cry for vengeance.

Nurick: Perhaps a Vulcan discussion technique would be helpful here. Before discussing our opinions about a thing, we first list all of the facts of the case that are not in dispute while avoiding any speculation, value judgments or of course, emotional language.

Oklath: I know I won’t be able to speak about this without becoming emotional.

Fred: I’ll try it. The year was 2388.

Drep: This was soon after it became common for Ferengi to do business with other races.

Fred: Cerkun 5 was uninhabited except for a small mining colony. A group of Ferengi traders made a contact with the settlers to supply them with tridum on a regular basis. What the settlers failed to notice was that the contact had a very severe penalty clause that would trigger if they couldn’t supply the tridum on time.

Drep: Severe is a value judgment. Disproportional penalty clauses are common features in the first drafts of all Ferengi contacts. They are there simply to ensure that the other side reads the contract carefully. We expect them to be there. They are not meant to be a trick. In fact, omitting such a clause is a nasty trick as this means that the other person will spend a lot of time looking for it and not find it. No Ferengi would ever expect that the first draft of a contract would be accepted. This custom led to a lot of trouble when Ferengi first started trading with other races. When Ferengi offered contacts to non Ferengi with these clauses, they were accused of trying to trick the non Ferengi. When non Ferengi offered contracts to Ferengi without these clauses, the Ferengi spent weeks looking for the clause without finding it.

Fred: I’m not disputing the legality of the contract. I’m disputing the way the contract was enforced.

Nurick: Let’s get back to the facts.

Fred: Ok. Eventually the settlers encountered production delays and the penalty clause was triggered. The Ferengi took everything the settlers owned according to the penalty clause. Except for the settlers clothes, they took everything they could. All of their equipment. All of their supplies. They didn’t even allow them to send a message to their home world for help before taking their communications equipment. The settlers begged the Ferengi for mercy. They asked for some of their food supplies to be returned but Ferengi leader just said “You can eat worms!” And then left them to die. Their supply ship arrived too late to save them from starvation but what the Ferengi didn’t count on was that the settlers were able to improvise writing materials and record what happened. In the end it did no good. The Ferengi were tried in a Ferengi court and set free. The Ferengi court called the case an unfortunate cultural misunderstanding.

Oklath: But this case did show the true nature of the Ferengi. (To Drep) That’s why Ferengi are disrespected.

Nurick: That went as well as could be expected. ( to Drep) Is there anything you want to dispute about these facts?

Drep: The facts are accurate but the interpretation is faulty. To explain this case we have to understand the Ferengi home world of Ferenginar.

Oklath: See how he tries to confuse us by changing the subject.

Drep: The situation is not as simple as you think. To understand what the Ferengi were thinking we have to understand the conditions that they were used to.

Nurick: Logical. Please proceed.

Drep: In some ways Ferenginar is a very fortunate planet. The most prominent feature of Ferenginar is the constant rain. Large storms are very rare but the rain never stops. The Ferengi evolved to cope with the rain. That’s why we have large lobes and no hair. But constant rain means there is always a constant supply of fresh water available to everyone. If you are thirsty, all you have to do is go outside, look up and open your mouth. Thirst is not a problem on Ferenginar. Also, the constant rain provides excellent conditions for moss to grow. And it grows on everything. Except for the polar regions, the whole planet is covered in slime and moss. This in turn provides excellent conditions for grubs, worms and beetles to grow. And they grow everywhere. You can’t walk anywhere outside without stepping on a few grubs. But the advantage of this is that hunger is no problem on Ferenginar. Ferenginar is a non stop all you can eat all you can drink buffet as long as you don’t mind drinking rainwater and eating worms like our ancestors did. You might think these damp conditions would lead to a lot of sickness but the Ferengi immune system is very strong. I guess those Ferengi who were prone to illness, died out a long time ago.

Fred: So there are no doctors on Ferenginar?

Drep: There are but we don’t really need them. The main health problems on Ferenginar are lifestyle related illnesses. Doctors on Ferenginar prevent people from feeling the bad effects of their unhealthy lifestyles. If everyone just drank rainwater and ate worms they would be much healthier.

Nurick: The Ferengi are very fortunate.

Drep: Also the Ferengi are the largest living beings on the planet so we have no natural enemies. And natural disasters are very rare so Ferenginar is a very safe planet.

Fred: With such abundance, why aren’t the Ferengi more compassionate to those in need?

Drep: The human concept of compassion doesn’t work on Ferenginar. There are no hungry or thirsty people to give food or water to. If someone is sick, it’s probably because of their poor lifestyle choices. There are no natural dangers to save anyone from. What is there left to do? Give free entertainment to those who are bored? The abundance of Ferenginar allows the Ferengi to be cutthroat in business. On Ferenginar it’s fine to take everything a person has because they can survive even with nothing. The Ferengi who traded with the settlers of Cerkun 5 had never done business off of Ferenginar before. When they said “You can eat worms” they meant it literally. They thought the settlers would have an uncomfortable time until their supply ship arrived but still survive. It was exactly as the Ferengi court said, an unfortunate cultural misunderstanding.

Fred: But this still doesn’t explain why Ferengi are so mean spirited. If you are so lucky why not just be content with what you have?

Drep: Asking a Ferengi to be content is like asking a Vulcan to smile or asking a Klingon to get along with others. Contentment is A deadly disease to Ferengi. Contentment is one of our biggest sins. Let me tell you something that Ferengi don’t often talk about. Deep within the mind of each Ferengi is a small voice. It’s saying “You have enough. You don’t need anything else. Just sit down and take a rest. Just enjoy the things you have.”

Fred: That sounds like a pretty smart voice. Everyone would like Ferengi a lot more if you listened to that voice every so often.

Drep: We would be dead if we did that. You said without compassion, the human race would have destroyed itself. Without greed, Ferengi cannot live. So far I’ve only told you the good things about Ferenginar. We don’t usually talk badly about our homeworld especially to outsiders but I will today. Ferenginar is a horrible place. It rains constantly. Can you understand what that means? I can see from your faces that you cannot.

(To Oklath) Imagine the way your ancestors lived on your homeworld thousands of years ago. Hunting targ with little more than sharpened sticks and stones.

Oklath: They were warriors. Any deficiency due to their primitive technology was more than made up for by the strength of their hearts.

Drep: (to Nurick) Imagine your ancestors on your homeworld. How would they have felt standing next to the Cliffs of Serenity?

Nurick: The Cliffs of Serenity are well known for the calming effect they have on the Vulcan mind. I’m sure even primitive Vulcans, without the benefit of logic, could have appreciated this to some extent.

Drep: (to Fred) Imagine primitive humans on your homeworld, Looking up at the stars in the night sky. What would they have felt?

Fred: They would have felt the same thing as we do now. They would have felt awe and wonder.

Drep:( to Oklath) On Ferenginar, the Ferengi have no natural enemies and to hunt for food all you have to do is to bend over and pick up a worm.

Oklath: You cannot experience the thrill of the hunt. What a dreadful world.

Drep: ( to Nurick) On Ferenginar there are no natural wonders. The constant rain washes away even the tallest mountains. There are only swamps and rivers of muck.

Nurick: So there is no esthetic beauty to appreciate. That is unfortunate.

Drep: (to Fred) Constant rain means we never can see the stars. Also, exploration is not fulfilling because Ferenginar is just one big swamp. It’s not difficult to travel on Ferenginar. There are no large oceans or tall mountains or large predators to avoid but once you arrive somewhere you see it’s the same as where you left.

Fred: What a full place.

Drep: It’s not difficult to stay alive on Ferenginar but it’s a very difficult place to live. It will fill your belly and empty your soul.

Fred: How do Ferengi survive mentally in such an environment?

Drep: We create things. Anything on Ferenginar that can be enjoyed, has been conceived by a Ferengi mind and built by Ferengi hands. Everything that can make life worth living has been made by someone and thus is owned by someone. This is where the Ferengi gained their acquisitive nature. Other races say that if a Ferengi can’t buy something they are not interested in it. That’s true but I hope you can now see the reason for our acquisitiveness.

Fred: I understand your point but now that Ferengi can travel to other planets, they can see the wonders of nature on many worlds and in the stars. Why cant they appreciate the beauty they encounter?

Drep: We are just not conditioned to appreciate something that we cannot possess. I guess we are victims of our own success.

Nurick: What do you mean by that?

Drep: Different races succeed in different ways. The Klingon homeworld is a dangerous place with many predators. Klingons survived by becoming aggressive. This aggression is why they could create their empire. Ferengi became successful through greed. The Ferengi alliance is based on Ferengi greed just as the Klingon empire is based on Klingon aggression. If we were content with our lives, we would just drink rainwater and eat worms and sleep. We would never have developed our society where we are now. To a point where Ferengi are an important power in the quadrant.

Nurick: It is unfortunate however that Ferengi cannot appreciate the esthetic beauty of nature.

Drep: No, on the contrary, appreciate is too weak a word to use. Ferengi are overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. It’s too much for us. That’s why Ferengi almost never visit Risa. I went there once. I left as soon as possible. I saw a beautiful beach and I thought “I could just live under a tree here for the rest of my life. I could live off the fruit and just relax everyday”.

Fred: Why didn’t you do that?

Drep: For the same reason why you don’t do that. There is something that propels all sentient beings forward. We just express it differently. For Ferengi, we call it greed. For Klingons it is honor. For Vulcans it is logic. For Humans it is self improvement.

Oklath: I’m insulted that you compare Klingon honor with Ferengi greed.

Fred: It makes some sense to me.

Oklath: You still have to explain rule number 109. Dignity an an empty sack is worth the sack. If you believe that dignity is worthless, how can you expect to be respected?

Drep: This is easy to explain. Imagine you went to a planet for the first time and everywhere you went you saw signs telling you not to put spoons up your nose. There were signs explaining why it’s bad to put spoons up your nose, signs explaining that it’s against the law to put spoons up your nose and what penalty you will face if you are caught. You would think that the people on this planet really like putting spoons up thier noses. The fact that there is a rule against it shows that people must want to do it. The same is true for the rules of acquisition. The more rules that there are against something, like valuing your family for example, the more people want to do it.

Drep: I have read some of your history. It makes a very good cautionary tale. Humans abandoned currency based economics in the 22nd century right?

Fred: Yes, we did. I think it’s very clear that we have been doing much better as a species after we stopped using wealth as the measure of our worth.

Drep: Of course you did! Abandoning currency based economics was a great idea for you.

Fred: So you disagree with currency based economics?

Drep: Not at all. Currency based economics is clearly superior to any other system. It was a good idea for Humans do abandon currency based economics because you were doing it all wrong!

Fred: What were we doing wrong?

Drep: Think about the Klingons. They are very violent but channel their aggressive impulses into productive activity. That’s why the Klingon Empire is strong. The same could be said about Ferengi and greed. We channel our greed into the pursuit of profit. That’s why the Ferengi Alliance is strong. But Humans couldn’t put thier greed to productive use. Instead, your misdirected greed almost destroyed you. You solved this problem by abandoning greed and embracing a more egalitarian philosophy. I admit that this did keep you from destroying yourselves but it came at a very high price. You had to give up greed.

Fred: But giving up a negative thing like greed can only be helpful. Our society improved so much. I don’t want to go back to living like early Humans did. The wealthy had all of the power and the poor were cast aside.

Drep: That’s because your greed was focused on amassing wealth, not acquiring profit.

Fred: I don’t get it.

Drep: Then let me explain it to you as I would to a Ferengi child. The acquisition of profit is good. Amassing wealth is bad. Is that clear enough for you?

Fred: But if you acquire profit, then you would naturally amass wealth. I don’t see the difference.

Oklath: There is no difference. This is just word play designed to confuse you.

Drep: Let me try this. (To Oklath) If two Klingons of rival houses fought to the death in a one on one battle with Bathleths, would that be honorable?

Oklath: I can’t answer that question. Klingons don’t just decide to kill each other even if they are from rival houses.

Nurick: Your example is very simplistic.

Drep: Ok. But is it possible to be honorable?

Oklath: It’s possible.

Drep: What if one Klingon killed another by poisoning his food?

Oklath: That is clearly not honorable in any situation.

Drep: So Klingons make a distinction between these two cases but humans don’t. To humans they are both murder. This leads to a lot of cultural misunderstandings. In the same way, Ferengi see acquiring profit and amassing wealth as completely different. Non Ferengi don’t make this distinction so again it causes a lot of cultural misunderstandings.

Fred: But isn’t the amassing of wealth the natural consequence of acquiring profit?

Drep: It’s complicated.

Nurick: Perhaps you should first define both profit and wealth to avoid more misunderstandings. One we all agree on the proper meanings of these terms, we can then move forward.

Drep: Ok. Profit simply put is the difference between revenue and cost. Wealth is the sum total of the monetary value of ones possessions that are not being used to generate profit.

Fred: I still don’t see a big difference. It’s like profit and wealth are two sides of the same coin.

Drep: Not at all. Let me explain with a hypothetical situation. Imagine two Ferengi, both are quite good at acquiring profit so they soon both amass small fortunes for themselves. The first Ferengi builds a small but comfortable house for himself. In the house, he builds a vault where he keeps his latinum. Throughout his life, he spends his latinum to keep himself comfortable and happy.

Nurick: That sounds like a logical course of action. If I lived in a society with a currency based economic system, I would try to do the same.

Drep: Then you won’t like the second Ferengi so much. The second Ferengi takes all of the latinum that he is not using for his business and spends it as fast and as enjoyably as he can. Lavish parties, the most expensive clothes, and extravagant perishible luxury items. You name it. If he does buy a home, he buys one so large that he cannot afford to keep it even with his small fortune. There is a very real chance that he will be bankrupt within a few months.

Fred: What an idiot.

Drep: Now imagine you had to do business with one of these people. Which one would you choose?

Nurick: The first Ferengi seems to be a financially responsible person. I would choose him. But I suspect that my choice is incorrect.

Drep: You are correct that you are incorrect and I’ll tell you why. The first Ferengi has abandoned the pursuit of profit. Rule number 18.  A Ferengi without profit is no Ferengi at all. He would be an object of scorn and ridicule no matter how much wealth he had had amassed. The second Ferengi is still acquiring profit. Remember, he doesn’t spend all of this wealth. Just the excess wealth that he doesn’t need for his business.

Fred: But why squander all of the excess wealth as quickly as possible? Why buy a home that will cause him to become bankrupt? That can’t be good business, can it?

Drep: It’s excellent business. By squandering his excess wealth and putting himself into a difficult financial position with his home, he is showing everyone how much confidence he has in his ability to acquire more profit. The unspoken message is “I don’t need to hold on to this latinum because more latinum will come soon and I’ll double my efforts to make sure that that’s what happens”. That kind of confidence attracts success. That Ferengi would be surrounded by people wanting to do business with him. In truth few are daring enough to follow this path completely, but certainly amassing a large amount of excess wealth is seen as a weakness among Ferengi. A Ferengi who wasn’t able to squander his wealth would soon see his business prospects dry up. As the 265th Rule of Acquisition says; The fear of loss may be your greatest enemy or your best friend – choose wisely.

Oklath: But then isn’t the whole thing pointless. You acquire profit to amass wealth so you can spend the wealth in a way that forces you to acquire more profit.

Drep: It may be pointless but it sure is fun! Rule of acquisition 275.  Latinum can’t buy happiness, but you can sure have a blast renting it.

Fred: So Ferengi are just hedonists.

Drep: What’s wrong with righteous joy?

Fred: It doesn’t seem so righteous to me. Having a party after taking as much latinum as you can from others.

Drep: A Klingon will rejoice in the defeat of his enemies in honorable combat. A human will feel satisfaction giving, pardon my language, charity to whoever they please. A Vulcan will feel….nothing. We all have different belief systems. You won’t be able to understand the Ferengi belief system from a Human perspective.

Fred: I guess.

Drep: Excellent. Let me explain it to you from a Ferengi perspective. We talked about compassion before and how Ferengi seem to lack compassion. But that’s not really true. You might say that squandering wealth is the Ferengi expression of compassion. The latinum you spend becomes another persons revenue which in turn increases their profits. So squandering your wealth gives others the opportunity to acquire profit. There is nothing as openhearted as this to a Ferengi. This is why Ferengi rejoice in each other’s good fortune. If one Ferengi in a town became rich, every other person would be licking their lips in expectation of profits. This is compassion to a Ferengi. Locking your latinum away in a vault denies anyone the opportunity to acquire profit. To a Ferengi this is a despicable action, almost as bad as giving the latinum away as charity!

Fred: So giving away wealth is bad and hoarding wealth is bad but spending wealth is good?

Drep: Yes! Exactly!

Fred: But there are more things you can do with your wealth than that. What if you lent your money to another person?

Nurick: That’s an interesting question. Is interest earned on a loan considered profit?

Drep: No! Interest is not profit! I’m starting to understand why other Ferengi don’t bother to discuss such things with non Ferengi. This is one of the most basic and obvious distinctions in Ferengi philosophy.

Nurick: Now you understand how many Vulcans feel when discussing logic with non Vulcans.

Fred: Please do go on. I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.

Drep: How interested?

Fred: (Gives Drep a drink) It’s on the house.

Drep: Ha ha! You are starting to understand Ferengi philosophy after all. Ok. I’ll explain the difference between acquiring profit and earning interest. Profit is acquired by what you do. Interest is earned by what you have. Profit is acquired by cunning and hard work which are things that Ferengi value. Interest is earned by amassing wealth which is something that Ferengi look down upon.

Fred: Lending money for interest was one of the cornerstones of the economy on earth before currency was abolished. Einstein, one of earths greatest thinkers, once said that compound interest was the strongest force in the universe.

Drep: Yes. But was it a force for good or ill? Another saying from Earth is “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” and that’s what happened. Money and power concentrated into the hands of a few. The rich and powerful were rich and powerful because their parents were rich and powerful. It was a return to the hereditary rule of kings and the results were both tragic and inevitable. Humanity almost destroyed itself because of compound interest! That’s why I don’t blame you Humans for abandoning currency based economics. You were doing it all wrong! In the Ferengi system the rich don’t necessarily get richer. The greedy and clever get rich. The stupid or lazy stay poor. However you feel about greed, you have to admit that it’s better than the human system.

Fred: So in the Ferengi system, everyone has an equal chance to get rich no matter who your parents are?

Drep: Not exactly. Remember family are to be exploited. Being from a rich family is an advantage but you still have to capitalize on that advantage. Rule of acquisition number 139. Wives serve; brothers inherit. This ensures that wealth and power are in the hands of those best able to wield them. Even if you are born lucky, you still have to make your own way in the world.

Fred: But don’t some Ferengi lend money to desperate people usually at high interest rates? We have a phrase for that. It’s called loansharking.

Oklath: What is “sharking”?

Fred: It comes from the word shark which is an aggressive predatory fish from Earth.

Drep: (looks at his PADD, then shows it to the others) What a beautiful creature! All teeth!

Nurick: It is a highly efficient design.

Drep: (to Fred) For a second there I thought you were insulting me or maybe you thought you were but you failed. Loansharking? What a wonderful way to put it. Actually that phrase explains why it’s a perfectly legitimate business practice. A loansharker has to be active to catch his prey just like a shark. To be a loansharker you have to find someone or make someone desperate enough to agree to a high interest rate. Then you have to make sure the person doesn’t disappear and finally collect the principal and the interest. Not everyone has the lobes for this business.

Fred: I see. How about investing the money?

Oklath: I’m not familiar with “investing”. What is it?

Drep: It’s an abomination! It’s one of the main reasons why humans were so bad at currency based economics.

Oklath: But what is it?

Drep: it was a way for stupid rich people to pretend that they were good at business. Some people were so stupid they knew they didn’t have the lobes for business so they hired smart people to do their business for them.

Nurick: You are obviously very emotional about this topic. Perhaps you should take a deep breath.

Fred : I’ll try to explain it. Basically, it’s the separation of ownership and control in a business. The original idea was a way to manage the risks of business. If a person used all of his money on one business venture, and it failed, he would lose all of his money. But if he bought “shares” of many different businesses, if one business fails, he would still be ok. Buying shares in a business is called investing. If the business makes a profit, manager of the business distributes the profit to the investors.

Nurick: It seems logical.

Drep: But it’s impossible. Profits cannot be distributed. You can’t give someone profit. Profit can only be acquired by an individual.

Fred: But if the revenue of the business exceeds the expenses then the business will get a lot of money. The business then distributes the money to the investors.

Drep: Money is not profit! (To Oklath) Could another person be honorable for you? (To Nurick) Could another person be logical for you?

Oklath: No. Only your own actions determine your honor. Honor cannot be given from one person to another.

Nurick: The same is true for logic. I can benefit from the teachings of someone more advanced in logic than myself but I cannot be given logic.

Drep: Profit is the same. Profit can only be acquired. It cannot be given to another person. Money is not profit.

Fred: But the investors were taking calculated risks. Didn’t that make them businessmen? And the managers were making decisions to maximize the profit that the business could make. Didn’t that make them businessmen?

Drep: Not according to the Ferengi definition. Neither Investors nor managers are businessmen.

Fred: It seems like a rather arbitrary definition. Warren Buffet was a famous investor from the 21st century who was celebrated for his wisdom. It seems strange that you don’t even consider him to be a businessman.

Drep: I read about him. He is a prime example of how you Humans corrupted the pursuit of profit. Warren Buffet once said “The Stock Market is designed to transfer money from the Active to the Patient.” How is that a good thing? Active people get things done. By allowing things like investing in businesses and earning interest on wealth, you make it possible for people to become wealthy while remaining passive. To Ferengi that’s an abomination. There was a saying from the 21st century Earth. It was “Make money while you sleep”. (To Oklath) Can you gain honor while you sleep?

Oklath: Yet another irritating question. The answer is no.

Drep: (To Nurick) Can you become more logical while you sleep?

Nurick: Well, there are certain techniques, such as lucid dreaming, but even they require effort. So I agree with your point.

Fred: But investing in businesses and earning interest on wealth were great drivers of economic growth. If you don’t allow these things then any business could only be as big as a single person could manage with his own resources.

Drep: You say that like it’s a bad thing! If a business is getting too big for a single person to manage, then the person sells off the less profitable parts and keeps the most profitable part for himself. On Earth, you allowed your businesses to grow into huge conglomerates that nobody could understand let alone manage.

Fred: But I admit that the system became unworkable. The “Companies” as they were called became too powerful. They even rivaled governments in the amount of power they had.

Drep: Then why didn’t you just get rid of companies and investing? Why get rid of all currency based transactions? It seems you Humans threw the baby out with the bath water as you say.

Fred: In human history there were many attempts to limit the power of corporations but none of them worked. I guess people felt getting rid of currency based economics was the only way to end the power of corporations.

Drep: You Humans were clearly greedy and clever enough to acquire profit. I know you’ll never be Ferengi but by following the Rules of Acquisition you could have saved your currency based economic system.

Oklath: You have given me much to think about.

Drep: I just wish everyone were as open minded as you are.

Fred: I don’t want you to take this the wrong way but if you feel so uncomfortable around other races, why don’t you live on Ferenginar? With your skills at acquiring profit you should be able to do very well for yourself.

Drep: I hate Ferengi in the 24th century. The thing that angers me the most about being looked down upon because I’m a Ferengi is that Ferengi of this century deserve to be looked down upon.

Fred: That’s rather harsh.

Drep: It’s no more than the Ferengi of this time deserve.

Oklath: I don’t understand. You have spent so much time defending the Ferengi way of life and now you say I was correct all along?

Drep: You were attacking the rules of acquisition and I was defending them. But now we are talking about Ferengi of the 24th century who have lost their way.

Oklath: I see.

Drep: As I said about Ferenginar, the only things which could be enjoyed were things which were conceived in a Ferengi mind and built by Ferengi hands. The Ferengi of my time were builders not traders as we are now. We built great cities and monuments to distract us from the dismal reality of Ferenginar. As a prosperous businessman, I traveled to all of the major cities of Ferenginar. I marveled at the ingenuity of the Ferengi mind and the industriousness of the Ferengi spirit. I really don’t understand why Ferenginar isn’t a major tourist attraction like Risa. It more than makes up for its lack of natural beauty with it’s Ferengi made wonders. When I was taken out of stasis and cured of my illness, I couldn’t wait to see what new wonders my people had built. Imagine my shock when I saw that Ferenginar had actually deteriorated in my absence. There were very few new buildings and older ones were falling into disrepair. It seems once my people found out that trade with other planets was easier than building things on Ferenginar, they abandoned building altogether. Now successful Ferengi pay others to build things for them on other planets. Very little of the wealth of the Ferengi alliance goes to Ferenginar as most Ferengi don’t want to live there. Anyone who can afford to live off of Ferenginar does so. Only the poorest and the wealthiest live there. The poorest live there because they have no choice. The wealthiest live there because they are rich enough to construct huge luxurious mansions so it doesn’t matter where they are. They never leave their mansions anyway.

Oklath: But aren’t all Ferengi females required to live on Ferenginar?

Drep: Of course. That’s why most men live off of Ferenginar most of the time.

Fred: Oh. Well I’m sorry but it’s past closing time. Good night gentlemen.

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