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It has detailed analysis of the economics of interstellar trade, and a system of equations to model trade routes and economic demands.
Sometimes the traders live in large "clan-ships", developing a "trader culture." Each ship is a world, carrying the entire clan. Novels including this include CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein, STAR WAYS aka THE PEREGRINE by Poul Anderson, the Cities in Flight novels of James Blish, MERCHANTER'S LUCK and FINITY'S END by C. Cherryh, RITE OF PASSAGE by Alexi Panshin, A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY by Vernor Vinge.
Assumption: starship fuel is cheaper than cargo jet JP-4 fuel.
This ignores taxes, station docking fees, and fuel.You can alter some of the assumptions yourself to tweak the economy to suit your science fictional background.Merchant Starship Costs Assumption: starships in the interstellar empire are equivalent to present-day jet airliners.You'd probably be better off reading the full article but some people want executive summaries.Rick starts with certain assumptions and follows them to various conclusions about the interstellar economy.
There is a long history of SF novels about interstellar free traders eking out a marginal existence on the fringes of the huge trader corporations, from Andre Norton's Solar Queen novels to the Space Angel series by John Maddox Roberts.