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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.
Sometimes these trader cultures in large clan-ships have a Thalassocracy, where they have a monopoly on trade since they control all access to space.
If people living on planets want to engage in interstellar trade, they have to go through the thalassocrats.
With creative maintenance, the service life might be longer than 30 years, see below.
Question: how many cargos can a merchant starship carry in 1 year?
This makes each trip four months from departure to departure, or three cargos per year.
Therefore if the cargo was available for free at the origin the minimum selling price at destination is 0,000 per ton, or 0 per kilogram.
The implication is that only very high value cargo can be profitably shipped interstellar.
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.
Go to The Tough Guide to the Known Galaxy and read the entries "ECONOMY", "FREE TRADERS", "PIRACY", "REPLICATOR", "TRADE" and "TRADE FEDERATION".