I read Freakonomics recently; rather, when this posts, I will have finished it about two months ago or so. It was good, I recommend it. I think this essay response for my Sociology class, which I will have finished by the time this posts (it's on a scheduled delay, did you figure that out?) was influenced by it, and I ended up creating an interesting economic system for a potential world I have yet to build:
The question was about the functional theory of social stratification, which is really boring. The content to follow has been edited for both academic and artistic integrity. And I'm delaying its posting, so when you ask me about it on the street like so many of you will, you might have to jog my memory as well.
The functional theory of stratification is the idea that since occupations have varying degrees of importance to society, they must be incentivized with things like money and social class. Looking at it from a different angle, we can see it as question of supply and demand. Economic forces have always determined the value of goods and services; it's a simple extension of the same concept to apply it to occupations as well. The overall demand for surgeons is lower than that of line cooks in restaurants. Economically, this would seem to drive the cost for surgical services down, but the demands on quality for a surgeon are much higher than those for a common line-cook. A surgeon needs years of training and experience before they are ready to perform. In economical terms, the quality demand on surgery is higher and supply is lower, so the surgeon's price is going to be higher than the line cook's. This isn't a criticism on the line cook's performance or importance; it's an economic function of society, and based on the costs involved his job really is less valuable than the surgeon's, so he's going to be paid less.
And we must consider: If education for all people was essentially equal, the supply side of the supply/demand equation for any occupation would be determined primarily by the number of people pursuing a career in that field; theoretically, their prices would fluctuate like market commodities, and it would be possible to trade "occupational futures" like we do today with beans and gold. An intrusive alternate government could take all our children, raise them as equals in some weird children's convent or something, give them all great education, let them all pursue the highest goals they care to. This is a system where essential communism could possibly work; it's a concept I'd love to try out one day in prose. We always need new and interesting governments and economies, and the "we're all orphans" idea is just too damn convenient to never ever use.