The economics of Star Wars: Modeling and systems risk analysis suggest financial ruin for the Galactic Empire

December 2, 2015 by Erika Ebsworth-Goold
Economic modeling and systems risk analysis suggest financial ruin for the Galactic Empire
Darth Vader and the Empire faced a dire economic future after the Battle of Endor, says the School of Engineering’s Zachary Feinstein

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

The Rebel Alliance blew up two of their sworn enemy's space stations, defeated their leader Emperor Palpatine, and dissolved his government. The fictional Galactic Empire, brought to life by the beloved Star Wars movie franchise, was in ruins after the Battle of Endor, at the end of "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi."

And as it turns out, the financial state of the Galaxy was in serious trouble as well.

Even "catastrophic," concludes Zachary Feinstein, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis.

In a case study titled "It's a Trap: Emperor Palpatine's Poison Pill," Feinstein assesses the condition of the Galactic economy following the Empire's collapse, and applies economic modeling and systemic risk analysis to the Star Wars economy. He even establishes the Gross Galactic Product, similar to a more traditional GDP.

The bottom line: The Rebel Alliance would have to bail out the Imperial banking sector to prevent a devastating economic collapse.

"This project was really about modeling the size of the Galactic economy and banking sector," Feinstein said. "Once I had that, I simply applied my research on measuring financial systemic risk to determine the required bailout."

The video will load shortly
Feinstein discusses the economics of a galaxy far, far away. Video by Clark Bowen/WUSTL Video Services.

First, Feinstein modeled the galactic economy by estimating the price of both Death Stars, using the most recently completed aircraft carrier in the American fleet as a measuring stick.

Comparing the price ($17.5 billion) and size (100,000 metric tons of steel) of the USS Gerald Ford with an estimated size of both Death Stars, the price tag for the Empire was astounding: $193 quintillion for the first version; $419 quintillion for the second, though manageable in comparison to the $4.6 sextillion Galactic economy.

In the movies, both Death Stars are destroyed within a four-year time span, which would have been a staggering economic blow to the Imperial financial sector. To prevent a total financial collapse would require a bailout of at least 15 percent, and likely greater than 20 percent, of the entire economy's resources.

"The most surprising result was how large the economic collapse could be," Feinstein said. "Without a bailout, there was a non-negligible chance of over 30 percent drop in the size of the Galactic economy overnight—larger than the losses from the Great Depression over 4 years (from peak to trough).

"The outlook appears very grim for the common Imperial citizen," he said. "I think it is unlikely the Rebel Alliance could have found the political will and financial resources to provide the necessary banking bailout until it is too late.

"It may be that the Force is awakening 30 years after the events of Episode VI because of the economic forces at play," Feinstein said.

What remains to be seen: If economic vitality is restored in time for the new chapter of the Star Wars saga. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" opens nationwide in theaters Dec. 18.

Explore further: Hubble captures a galactic waltz

More information: It's a Trap: Emperor Palpatine's Poison Pill. Arxiv: arxiv.org/pdf/1511.09054.pdf

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ta2025
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 02, 2015
And of course this measurement is completely invalid. You cannot compare the price of building an aircraft carrier out of steal in the 21st century on earth to the manufacturing technologies that they would have developed after 1000s of years of living and working in space. Asteroid mining for raw materials, automated, robotic construction and relatively free energy from fusion power and abundant solar power in orbit will significantly lower the costs for building mega structures in space.
axemaster
5 / 5 (4) Dec 02, 2015
Comparing the price ($17.5 billion) and size (100,000 metric tons of steel) of the USS Gerald Ford with an estimated size of both Death Stars

I won't argue with any of the rest of the paper, since it's obviously not reasonable to do so... But I would like to point out that considering the more advanced technology and industry, as well as economies of scale, the Death Stars would probably have been much cheaper to build per ton than an aircraft carrier.
jeffensley
1 / 5 (2) Dec 02, 2015
Yep, this passes for science these days. Fun discussion to have with friends over beer but this guy is getting paid which doesn't look good when colleges are gouging their students.
foolspoo
not rated yet Dec 02, 2015
Youve got to be incredibly linear and borderline incompetent to have such half wit thoughts. Great counter points laid out here already.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Dec 02, 2015
I won't argue with any of the rest of the paper, since it's obviously not reasonable to do so... But I would like to point out that considering the more advanced technology and industry, as well as economies of scale, the Death Stars would probably have been much cheaper to build per ton than an aircraft carrier.

But think of the cost of ensuring that shipments get where they need to. It's not like in countries on Earth where the steel is just shipped from mill to shipyard. 'Dem rebel scum is jus' waitin' to blow up the odd transport or two en route. Gotta have plenty of escorts on standby 24/7.

Yep, this passes for science these days.

Scientists are allowed to have fun, too. And before you link this to gaouging studenst you should look at the salary of the average researcher (less than 60k for an assistant professor like him...and add to that that it takes 10+ years to get there where you earn practically nothing)
gkam
1.1 / 5 (7) Dec 02, 2015
Why does anybody pay attention to a "space" movie which has sound in the vacuum of space, one "G" of gravity everywhere, breathable air, and everybody speaks English?

This is as silly as the poorly-thought-out Star Treck.
antialias_physorg
4.8 / 5 (10) Dec 02, 2015
Why does anybody pay attention to a "space" movie which has sound in the vacuum of space, one "G" of gravity everywhere, breathable air, and everybody speaks English?


This may be hard to understand for you, but this is something called a "movie".
Movies are for something we call "entertainment".
And even scientists like to do other stuff besides science (even though science is fun). One of these things might just be go to the movies and be entertained.

You should try it sometime. Get out a bit and have some fun. I promise you - it'd do you a world of good.
ta2025
5 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2015
@antialias_physorgnot - not completely true. If you have an economy that includes hyperdrive and 1 mile long ships, you can ship almost anything anywhere. It wont add to the overall expense. Most metallic parts would built in any convenient asteroid field. Planetary Resources, the new asteroid mining company believes there is enough rare earth metals in any medium sized asteroid to supply more minerals in one shot than have ever been dug from the planet in history.
ta2025
4.5 / 5 (2) Dec 02, 2015
@gkam - because movies about real-life science are BORING!
gkam
2.5 / 5 (4) Dec 02, 2015
ta2025, ever see 2001 A Space Odyssey? It can be done with intelligence and work.

How could anybody take the phony stuff in those other silly sagas for the uninformed? Read real sci-fi, such as that from A.C. Clarke.
jeffensley
not rated yet Dec 02, 2015
Scientists are allowed to have fun, too. And before you link this to gaouging studenst you should look at the salary of the average researcher (less than 60k for an assistant professor like him...and add to that that it takes 10+ years to get there where you earn practically nothing)


Where I'm from $60,000 is a good living. Someone or something is getting a lot more money because the cost of tuition has skyrocketed since I went through college. If it's not professors/researchers then is it administrators, insurers?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Dec 02, 2015
Where I'm from $60,000 is a good living.

You're forgetting that this is bought at some cost
a) It needs to cover the debts accrued during college/university (which doesn't come cheap in the US. Tuition debts currently still eclipse all credit card debts there (1.2 trillion $))
b) It comes with no job security whatsoever (3 year contracts are already considered "long term")
c) It's by no means assured that all the investment in a) will net you that 60k salary. There are way more grad students than assistant professor posts (58k is average for assistant professors, BTW. It can be quite a bit less.)

If you drop out of high school and start flippin' burgers you're WAY ahead by the time any of your former class mates ever has the fortune to net an assitant professor post...and for quite a few years after that.
ta2025
4.4 / 5 (5) Dec 02, 2015
@gkam, not only have I read most of the classic works multiple times, I have just become a science fiction author. Yes, 2001 was a very great book and movie. I liked it, but it puts some people to sleep. There is nothing wrong with a good old space opera. I'm sorry it insults your intelligence so much.
gkam
2 / 5 (4) Dec 02, 2015
It should not be called science fiction if it does not obey the laws of science. It is just fiction.
ta2025
3.5 / 5 (2) Dec 02, 2015
@gkam, the laws of science change. a little over a hundred years ago, they were debating the properties of Aether and it was still called science.
Nik_2213
not rated yet Dec 02, 2015
Um, if you apply the 'Impossible Things' rule, SW is *Fantasy*.
But, sadly, so is ST. Though droll fanfic 'The Captains Speak' spins TOS unto 'Logical'...

Giggles aside, you're overlooking the possibility that the Imperial Shipyards are self-supporting, with their own farm-planets, asteroid mining, production facilities etc, so exist outside the civilian economy.
kplcjl
5 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2015
Why does anybody pay attention to a "space" movie which has sound in the vacuum of space, one "G" of gravity everywhere, breathable air, and everybody speaks English?

This is as silly as the poorly-thought-out Star Treck.

First off, that's "Trek" which is a made-up word for a made-up concept. Who said the music in the movie originated in the vacuum of space? I see foreign films where the actors are obviously not speaking English, but in this movie we won't get actors from the planet Endor to speak their native language. It is a "play", IE, something produced for entertainment, not for authenticity. You know, if you are going to go through the trouble of building a space ship, it might help to design it to supply breathable air in it. It is technically possible to embed metal in your clothes and have magnetic fields attract you to the "floor" of the ship, so artificial gravity in a ship beyond our technological ability isn't much of a stretch. Repeat: It is a "play".
kplcjl
5 / 5 (1) Dec 02, 2015
@gkam, @ta2025 is right. Also, a lot of science fiction includes "scientific principles" that don't exist in current scientific theories as well as principles that are still theory. I have to admit that there are some stories in science fiction that I think better fit in the fantasy category. They all are "fiction" including the economic principles of the galactic economy and the empire that has that economy.
In "Frequency", you have smoke appearing in the present for an activity that happened 30 years before. Obviously in the present the damage is 30 years old. As the changes occur in the past, they should appear 30 years old in the present while you are also seeing the probability of the desk still existing in the present because nothing more done in the past should remove it. Of course the probability of the task being completed in the past should affect the appearance in the present. Of course they didn't call that movie science fiction so the "science" in it could be fuzzy.
sascoflame
not rated yet Dec 03, 2015
The first economic and political fact that jumps out at me is the absurdly of a Galactic Empire. The Galactic Empire's territory at its peak consisted of some one and a half million member and conquered worlds, as well as sixty-nine million colonies. . They even fought a war over what kind of slaves to use. If you look at the concentrations of wealth and poverty along with royalty you see a corrupt empire.

Palpatine an efficient and effective leader quickly brought to an end the corruption in the Senate. This brought the wealthy planets into rebellion along with elitist organizations like the Jedi.

The only way Palpatine could stop the rebellion was to assume dictatorial powers. The idea he was a Sith Lord was nothing but racist propaganda along with the idea of a Death Star. As they say the winners write the history from what I can see the bad guys won. But economics means that they cannot last.
del2
5 / 5 (2) Dec 04, 2015
First off, that's "Trek" which is a made-up word for a made-up concept.

Correct, it's 'trek', but it's not a made-up word. It's a Dutch/Afrikaans word — look up 'Great Trek' in Wikipedia for example.
… and everybody speaks English?

Jabba the Hutt doesn't speak English, nor does Chewbacca, nor lots of other characters. (Oddly enough, they seem to understand English though.)
Bongstar420
not rated yet Dec 05, 2015
Comparing the price ($17.5 billion) and size (100,000 metric tons of steel) of the USS Gerald Ford with an estimated size of both Death Stars

I won't argue with any of the rest of the paper, since it's obviously not reasonable to do so... But I would like to point out that considering the more advanced technology and industry, as well as economies of scale, the Death Stars would probably have been much cheaper to build per ton than an aircraft carrier.


Having armies of slave clones and robots helps eliminate the need for economy...plus you can point guns at anyone any time and make them work for you
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2015
Palpatine looks a bit like Greenspan, as such they would likely just print their way to prosperity.

We ourselves have a "Galactic Empire" as well, it's governed by those who support the fractional reserve banking system and it's bound to bring financial ruin to all but a very select few.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Dec 06, 2015
Where I'm from $60,000 is a good living
@jeffe
1- that is the average, not the guaranteed income
2- income differs upon areas: $60K in say, rural AR, is going to be good money whereas $60K in NYC is going to be pathetically low

.

Correct, it's 'trek', but it's not a made-up word. It's a Dutch/Afrikaans word
@del2
thank you- you beat me to the punch.

Ozzle
not rated yet Dec 07, 2015
I love star wars, regardless of the "science" or lack thereof. I think this is a totally moot issue. Who gets paid for this? And why?

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