In a world with a united human species, machines have been distributed by a republican form of government that can create matter out of energy which is provided in something along the lines of a wall socket. These machines are closely monitored by the government so people can create limited things and no weapons. I understand that the incentive of running for a government position would be power, but what would be the reason for becoming say, a teacher, or a lawyer, or any other form of government worker if all physical needs (besides land) were met by these machines? Also, would any form of currency be necessary?
You're looking at a post-scarcity society; there are discussions of such societies all over sci-fi. Star Trek is the classic example - with any possible artefact or machine available from the replicator, what good is money?
So, here's a few options:
This is really the big one. It's already a major part of being a public servant. The social rank and prestige that comes from serving others is a prize that cannot be bought or bartered, but must be earned, so it would be unaffected by the replicator technology that supplies all material needs.
Plenty of people thrive on being constantly challenged to do more, go farther, take risks and chances. These people would be perfectly suited to a life spent in public service.
Just plain fun
Okay, sure - the replicator can make me any computer or toy that I may want, but I want to play with tanks and rifles and rocket launchers. The only way to get my hands on that kit is by joining up and doing my Public Duty
For other ideas, watch a few episodes of Star Trek, or read a Culture novel.
You can create matter. You can't create humans.
In USA, manufacturing is a diminishing part of workforce. It's mostly services, trade, and government.
the percentage of all nonfarm workers in manufacturing declined from 24 percent in March 1973 to 10 percent in March 2007, and workers in the service sectors went from 70 percent to 83 percent.
In other countries trends are similar. Most of the hard work is done by machines, really. So you could get rid of some part of the smallest part of workforce, and that's it.
- You still need teachers, medical teams, barbers etc
- Many will prefer naturally grown food
- Or hand crafted items
- Some things may be unobtainable from these sockets
- Someone needs to transport hand-crafted goods
- And transport people
So your change would affect only a part of that 10% of manufacturing, a part of farm workers, and for sure wouldn't affect 83% (probably more by now) in services.
TL;DR Nothing changes, not really.
People would still need to pay for the energy to run the "replicators" unless the energy was also free.
In that case, being pessimistic, you would have 1% of the population available for the workforce and 99% sitting around expecting to be entertained.
Creating matter takes a tremendous amount of energy, think about nuclear power-plants. The currency could be quotas on the energy use. Or a right to breed, as a means of eugenics and restricting the populations consumption to the available energy capacity.
You can have an extremely authoritarian government that takes a huge role in raising the people. Then they would never question why do they work, because that is just how the society is. That removes the need for quotas.
There is always some resource being limited.
Others have mentioned energy, which is never unlimited. The limits can be high, but they will always be there.
Other than that, the most fundamental limited resource is space. Real estate is called REAL estate because it will never lose value due to mass production.
People will be willing to do a lot to have lots of elbow room and a window with real sunlight.
Disney will still own the right to produce anything related to Mickey Mouse. Just because anybody can print out a mickey mouse doll doesn't mean they are allowed to. Parents will be willing to do a lot so that their dear little one can get the toys they want.
I don't think any physical currency is required. Virtual currency on the other hand very well may still be used. I don't think it would be necessary; If you have the ability to literally defy the laws of physics and CREATE matter, then there is virtually no conflict. Everyone gets what they need, every need is met by this matter creation. There wouldn't be any incentive to go to college to become a teacher or profess at a college either. Unless of course, "all physical needs," doesn't include the robots having the physical capability of teaching.
Regardless of the previous statements, I do think that human lawyers, teachers, etcetera will always give a better answer or experience for the other humans, possibly a higher pay. Maybe a higher pay gives them a reason to become a teacher or lawyer. The machines would be cheaper, since they provide a less relatable answer or experience, and they aren't expensive since you can create matter.