Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz is casting around for new models for the financial system in the wake of the Great Recession, and he’s looking to Star Trek for inspiration.
“How blue-sky do we want to get? Does anybody besides me wonder what the banking system looks like in the background of Star Trek?” Poloz asked an audience at the Economic Club of New York on Thursday.
And in an even stranger turn, Poloz appeared to suggest that a dystopian vision of economics presented in Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Year of the Flood” could be a financial model for the future.
“Now that’s blue-sky thinking,” Poloz said. “People work for a massive corporation, live in the corporate compound, go to corporate restaurants and events, and bank with a financial intermediary wholly-owned by their own employer, which in turn invests the funds in growth for the corporation.”
Poloz described this as “the corporatist model of finance,” and admitted it was a “far-fetched” idea but was presenting it to his audience “as an illustration that the sky really is the limit in this space.”
But the “Star Trek” model is certainly more radical, if not nearly as scary as Atwood’s vision.
In the Star Trek universe, money has been eliminated altogether and, in the words of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, “people are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions.”
Though Star Trek’s writers have never fully explained how a society moves to a cashless economy, they were probably right in assuming that scarcity -- the fundamental problem of economics -- would have to be solved first.
Not an easy task.
It’s been a busy week for Poloz, whose financial system review released this week ruffled some feathers in the mortgage and real estate business by asserting that house prices in Canada are 10 per cent to 30 per cent too high.
The Bank of Canada governor followed up on that in his appearance at the Economic Club Thursday, arguing that despite the overvaluation, he doesn’t see a housing bubble burst in Canada.
"We don't think we suddenly became over-valued in a bubbly type way. We don't think of this as a bubble in any way," Poloz said, as quoted at Reuters.