Click to view Don't panic! Sure, our economy is crappier than a crap-monster attacking a crap factory. But that's the time when you should look to the future. Our economy could be transformed at any moment, by developments like new technology - or first contact with an alien species. And you can prepare for this bright future by reading science fiction, which is full of amazing stories of economic miracles. Prepare for our super hopeful future by reading about all the ways our economy could be revolutionized overnight! Replicators! I'm not actualy sure how they got rid of capitalism back in original Star Trek days, but by the time the Next Gen rolls around, they're making anything they want using replicators, which are basically magic make-everything machines. In the season one finale "The Neutral Zone," Captain Picard meets a 20th century troglodyte who's been frozen for centuries and still wants to use old-school money. Picard explains: "This is the twenty-fourth century. Those material needs no longer exist." Interestingly, at least one of the novels has Spock inventing the replicator, when he realizes you don't actually need to demateralize something in the transporter, before "rematerializing" it. Mmmm... that Martini tastes molecule-tastic!
Hand over the economy to computers. In the last chapter of I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, the Earth gets divided into four regions, and supercomputers are running the Earth's economy. The machines are perfect and have access to perfect information, so they make immaculate decisions, keeping the Earth's economy zipping along efficiently. Writes Asimov:
The Earth's Economy is stable, and will remain stable, because it is based upon the decisions of calculating machines...The population of Earth knows that there will be no unemployment, no overproduction or shortages.
Open up multiple realities. In David Louis Edelman's Jump 225 trilogy, the economy has already been revolutionized by the development of Bio/Logics, programs that allow you to hack your own body in various ways. But when the famous Surina clan comes out with its latest product, MultiReal, an even bigger revolution is on the way - MultiReal will let you access multiple realities, and play out the same scenario in an infinite number of ways, picking the best version for yourself. It could lead to economic chaos - or it could lead to a whole new boom, as hordes of entrepreneurs hack reality to make sure their own ventures succeed. (Still waiting for the third book to see how it all plays out.)
Pluck some gold from space! Jules Verne's lesser-known works are full of people finding gold from the heavens. In particular, The Hunt For The Meteor features a scientist shooting a laser-like beam to try and divert a giant meteor made out of pure gold. (Not sure if that would create economic prosperity, or just devalue gold.) Alas, the meteor crashes in the ocean. In another Verne classic, Hector Servadac, a meteor made of gold telluride crashes into Earth and carries off a piece of our crust with people on it. We're rich! But adrift in space! Discover anti-gravity AND anti-aging technology. The United States of the year 2018 has become a dystopian mess, run by an increasingly totalitarian government, in They Shall Have Stars by James Blish. So Senator Bliss Wagoner decides to shake things up, by developing gravity control systems that allow faster-than-light travel, and inventing a surefire anti-aging drug called asomycin. The resulting one-two punch of progress revolutionizes the economy and allows people to start exploring interstellar space. Let robots take over the icky manual labor. That's what the human race does in Battlestar Galactica, after the Cylons are created to take up our burdens. And it works out great... for the most part. Sell something we have in abundance. In the Damon Knight story "The Big Pat Boom," aliens come down to Earth and start buying up cowpats, causing a huge cowpat boom. Discover a lost civilization. In old-school adventure novels, the protagonist often discovers a lost civilization, and with it a huge new source of wealth. In Ludwig Holberg's eighteenth century classic Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum, Nicolai ventures to the center of the Earth and meets a ton of weird races, including hyper-intelligent trees and dog people. He creates a whole new economic boom by generating a huge demand for periwigs among the dog people. (That's entrepreneurial genius for ya. I would never meet dog people and think, "I know, I'll get them hooked on periwigs.") BTW, a periwig is a big 18th-century style wig. Go back in time to the boomtime. In the awesome Japanese movie Bubble Fiction: Boom Or Bust, a woman who works for Hitachi accidentally re-engineers a washing machine to work as a time machine as well... but it only seems to work for her. The Japanese government begs her to go back in time to 1990, before the Japanese economy collapsed, and prevent the economic bubble from bursting. That works every time!
Start a regular old real-estate bubble. Bowling-ball-shaped aliens decide to take over the Earth in Clifford Simak's They Walked Like Men. But instead of coming down, ray guns blazing, and mounting a takeover, they buy up huge chunks of it - creating a massive bubble. Which they then burst, on a prearranged date, so as to make the world ripe for their takeover. Good old fashioned public works projects. We may have to go to Mars before we see the New Deal tried again, but at least it happens in the Philip K. Dick novel Martian Time-Slip. The Plumbers Union starts a new Martian colony that becomes among the most prosperous on the planet, thanks to a robust program of public works. And yet somehow, despite all this fiscal largesse, the colony also manages to accrue a large cash reserve as well. It's not the most prosperous colony though — the richest is actually the Zionist colony, which manages to reclaim large stretches of desert into farmland that actually exports back to Earth. Only on Mars. Money grows on trees! The easiest way to have an economic miracle is just to find a new, fresh, unspoiled planet and start anew, exploiting its resources like there's no tomorrow. Or, if you're kind of a moron, you can do what the people colonizing prehistoric Earth in the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy do: declare that the leaves on the trees are the currency in your new society. Of course, they wind up with runaway inflation. (That Hitchhiker's scenario makes me hope Joss Whedon is right about who would win in a fight between spacemen and cavemen.)
Teleporting pirate planets. In another Douglas Adams joint, the Doctor Who story "The Pirate Planet," times have been hard on the planet Xanax. Maybe because people with panic disorder keep trying to swallow it. (Okay, fine, maybe the planet's called Zanak instead.) In any case, the planet achieves a sudden rush of peace and prosperity under its new ruler, the Captain, because it gets hollowed out and starts materializing around other planets, to harvest their mineral wealth. Soon the streets are strewn with jewels and precious stones. (It's not explained why these items remain valuable once they're common.) As the Doctor explains, "It's an economic miracle. Of course it's wrong!"