Merchants is a very fine example of how value has changed over time. Eastern and Western culture agree that they lie outside the social order. As technology advanced and society progressed the Merchant or Businessman has become a pillar of modern society.
Today, Diplomats, Organizers, Diplomats, Researchers, IT, Management, Sales, Bureaucrats etc. are the modern armies of wars and conflicts that allow the losers to try again and again without fear of losing their life. Economic superiority is conflict that allows everyone to play and go home with their hides intact to try again.
Every modern livelihood or professional skill can be converted to very liquid cash. The better people are in these skills the more resources they can garner relative to time spent. Cash that can be used to make them more effective: either by investing on training equipment and supervision (which most people do for careers), professional equipment, and most importantly freeing up Time.
A character can have a "boring" skills, but if he is a top level manager, broker, investor, etc who only need to do 20hours or better very flexible hours he can Min-max the use of his or her time.
My GM is planning to run Traveler and i'm just planning to play a pregen. I'm tired min-maxing and being asked to min-max for other people. Anyway, a real personal challenge for me is min maxing using the character given to me with my own skills. Old school gaming asks a lot for the players, so much more that the Player's skills become a necessary part. Critical thinking and Problem Solving skills ARE skill after all.
It is strange how they can be taken for granted. Min-maxing should always be a low-profile artform, its just like Magic tricks, once people know how its done regardless of how much work it requires they will take it for granted and devalue it. Preventing this kind of Irrationality, goes into the art of real-world munchkining.