- The Alliance does not use currency and is not capitalistic
- The value of things is not measured in money
- Foreign things such as curios, culture, entertainment and so forth is valuable to the Alliance and the people in it
However, this gives rise to a number of questions, with a few of the most important that I'll list here:
- How does the Alliance screw over other foreign nations with its economy?
- How does the Alliance economy get taken advantage of by foreign nations?
- How does the Alliance act in a trade war?
- Does the Alliance have the necessary tools for a trade war in that they understand the concept of value, trade and economy?
- Does it have a supercomputer allocating resources?
Remember everyone, our goal is to make this work.
The Alliance uses currency on local planets, but they don't have a government-wide currency, a dislike of capitalism, and generally doesn't use currency / has a barter system. In terms of understanding the economy, they are at rock-level technology while other societies are using guns (Resource backed currency) or atom-bombs (FIAT and other complex financial instrumentation). In terms of economics this is like someone who's only heard about kung-fu getting into a gunfight with a pro. How are you going to understand a subprime mortgage scheme if you don't have money?
In a trade war, the Alliance doesn't really have anything to fight with. They can throw cheap goods at someone but they don't have any way to capitalize off that. You'll likely see some enterprising individuals buying up all below market-price stuff and reselling it at a higher price. You may be able to pressure some businesses but being flooded with a lot of cheap goods isn't going to force a government to change its ways. Conversely they can only really agree to STOP trading stuff and don't have a great way to adjust prices. Other nations will have a much easier time instituting tariffs, taxes, loans, or just generating liquidity. They just lack the tools and financial instruments needed for this kind of thing. ICly it makes sense that merchants love dealing with the Alliance because they are so easily taken advantage of. It also makes sense that the Alliance isn't an economic power-house, and is easily taken advantage of if you're willing to put in the time to go through the negotiation process.
On a side note, this also likely means that the majority of trade with the Alliance is done through brokers who just spend all their time cutting deals with the Alliance and stockpiling material that they can then resell.
This does seem to match what we see in the Alliance: They would have a hard time producing things like ships, a hard time staffing the organizations they need to, and a hard time getting people-specific services (Like having a real barber cut your hair instead of barber-bot).
That doesn't address everything though, but I'm putting it down here for note keeping purposes.