Higher tech items on a lower tech world


Low tech planets have at least four things to offer high tech worlds in trade:

1. resources

Probably there are many high tech mining operations on low tech worlds, which might or might not spread some of the money around.

2. agricultural goods

high bulk, low value, except on the very luxury end, so very hard to compete in intersteller trade - still, there are some worlds that need these imports

3. labour

Labour might be in terms of export: slaves, indentured servants, depending on the legal structure, or you might see some form of company-subsidized out-migration to factories in high-tech worlds. Because they are competing against high-tech automation to do simple jobs, the wages and terms would probably be horrific. Or they will be in personal services: this might mean domestic servants, or prostitutes. With the large differences in tech here, there are going to be a lot of abuses; since slavery is usually illegal, there is the potential for pseudo-slavery emerging, as well as pirates and raiders engaged in this sort of human trafficking activity. Here is a circumstance under which those deadly low-birth rules might get used, although even then I suppose the human traffickers will want to protect their investment.

If low and high tech worlds are in close proximity, it could also pay to have a supply chain with low-tech assembly in the low-tech world, but more high tech parts of production on the high tech world. So Tech 12 world A orders rubber rings from Tech 5 world B, which world B's plentiful and desperate workers can make at home by hand and send to a collector who brings them to world A to install in life support systems in their robotic factory.

Also, some items just *are* low tech to produce. Even though the process of making a Tech 15 coffee mug might be different from a Tech 4 coffee mug, they both just keep your coffee warm. The amount of labour going into it is MUCH more at Tech 4, which just means that those workers make very little, but the product will still sell whereever it happens to be.

4. art, tourism, cultural goods

This is highly contingent on circumstances and fashions: some individuals in low tech worlds maybe do very well out of this, while others will get minimum wage jobs, and there is little potential for broadly based economic growth.

Following the logic of trade in high tech items, unless the low tech world has some very high-value items to trade, they are likely to be at a perpetual trade deficit, meaning their economy will be chronically cash-poor, from inflow of expensive high tech items and outflow of what few credits they can get. They are likely to be in chronic debt, which they cannot get out of by printing money because presumably only the Imperium can do that. This situation will be much worse if local elites spend their money on high tech imports, rather than on buying from their own industries. They will be like Greece in the Eurozone crisis, only possibly much worse off. Their high tech industries will be stunted by competition from much higher tech places. They might get out of this cycle by restricting imports and subsidizing local producers - or, if the Imperium doesn't allow this they'll need to find subtle ways to do this, like onerous customs checks, or product requirements that are too specific for intersteller megacorps to bother with. Getting a military or Scout base would be a big help to a world caught in this spiral, as well as an externally funded starport as these things bring in external cash, if nothing else from the spending of the personnel stationed there.

Following through on the logic of this shows that it is really important to look not just at what is happening in worlds in isolation, but also what is going on nearby and how their economies might related to each other. From these arise not just local color but also possible conflicts which could lead to adventure hooks
Lower Tech worlds could also buy manufacturing plants. Many third world countries that adopt first world small arms purchase manufacturing rights/equipment as well. Or dont bother to purchase it, just copy.
Being said:
Lower Tech worlds could also buy manufacturing plants. Many third world countries that adopt first world small arms purchase manufacturing rights/equipment as well. Or dont bother to purchase it, just copy.

true, done right it could be a way to bootstrap development, done wrong (or if they have bad luck on the market) it could set of a debt cycle.