Friday, April 29, 2011

Does the Death Star make economic sense?

I am a Star Wars geek. I know far more trivia about the Original Series, Prequel Series, and Expanded Universe than is healthy for me. And Wardo, CRChair, and Sean can attest that we've had more than our share of conversations about the minutiae of George Lucas's universe. But I am not sure we have ever had a discussion quite on the level of this analysis of the economics of the Death Star (WARNING! There's some salty language in spots) which uses various economic and political theories to analyze whether or not the Emperor's pet project - THE DEATH STAR - really makes sense on a macro-economic scale.

The more you spend on bureaucracy, the less control you have directly over your Empire. The less you spend on bureaucracy, the more you have to tighten your grip, and the more star systems slip through your fingers.

So, the Emperor and Tarkin focus on making one really huge, high-impact investment: The Death Star. They throw in Alderaan as part of that investment. This doomsday weapon will supposedly free up their resources to spend less on administration, personnel and infrastructure, and continue to function without a Senate. It seems like a big investment until you realize how much they save by not actually having a functioning government.

This is an attractive option even today, as politicians look to pay for tax cuts and handouts to core constituencies by laying off or cutting salaries and benefits for bureaucrats and government workers, as well as by skimping on infrastructure.

The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t work. The underpaid, undermotivated, poorly managed stormtroopers can’t even track down the Empire’s most wanted fugitive androids in an extremely sparsely populated area where they have undisputed control. If Tatooine still had meaningful senatorial representation and local government, Luke never would have gotten off the planet.
If you love Star Wars, I must say this article is a must-read piece.


Toad734 said...

But the Empire didn't have undisputed control over Tatooine...Republic credits weren't even accepted on that planet. The planet was actually controlled by the Hutts who were neither enemies or allies of the Empire.

Nomad said...

Your comments really apply to the Tatooine that existed at the time of the Prequel Trilogy - hence the reference to REPUBLIC credits instead of IMPERIAL credits. By the time of Episode 3 (A New Hope), Stormtroopers were able to move about Mos Eisley unmolested and take control of the entire spaceport without resistance.

The fact that Jabba is still a crime lord by Return of the Jedi does not argue against Imperial control, since clearly Vader found him a useful ally. (There are even references in the expanded universe to indicate that Jabba and his pet bounty hunters were instrumental in the Jedi purge that followed episode 3)