Join 3,414 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The economics of Death Star planet destruction.
April 29, 2011 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Furthermore, let’s remember that Alderaan isn’t gone. It’s just blown up. Suddenly all the metallic elements that were languishing away in the planetary core are floating around in the void, ripe for the plucking. And anyone who can plausibly claim to have owned them is dead. You can build a lot of Death Stars with that much tungsten. Well, not even a lot—but maybe one.
The Overthinking It Think Tank takes a look at “the economic calculus behind the Empire’s tactic of A) building a Death Star, B) intimidating planets into submission with the threat of destruction, and C) actually carrying through with said destruction if the planet doesn’t comply.”

The extensive use of a “hyperdrive propulsion system” renders Krugman’s theories inapplicable to this analysis.
posted by kipmanley (78 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
The power to overthink things is insignificant to the power of being born with lots of Midichlorians and being manipulated like a toy to betray everything you believe in and everyone you love.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:36 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Damn you for introducing me to this website.
posted by AugieAugustus at 11:40 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


meybee the emperor just likes fireworks yall
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:47 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Overthinking movies and fantasy economics are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.
posted by fuq at 11:51 AM on April 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


And anyone who can plausibly claim to have owned them is dead.

There are some pretty suspect argument in there. I suspect that anyone who'd blow up an inhabited planet wouldn't worry too much about property rights or trade barriers, for example.

"You blew up Alderaan? Didn't you see the sign?"

"What sign?"

"The sign. The one that said, there will be a 80% import tariff on all catastrophic laser influxes, destructive geographical phenomenon and interstellar dynamite fishing."

"Oh, man, there was a sign?"
posted by mhoye at 11:52 AM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Jeebus. I loved Star Wars as a kid, and I still have a big soft spot for the original releases of the first three films.

But leave it to fans to drain a thing of all its wonderment and fun.
posted by kaseijin at 11:56 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


But leave it to fans to drain a thing insist that any way of participating in their preferred fantasy world other than their way drains it of all its wonderment and fun.

ftfy
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2011 [18 favorites]


What I love about overthinkingit is that it truly, gloriously does exactly what it says on the tin.

I've never read anything there which doesn't take any concept and drive it as far as it can be driven, full speed, like it was stolen and there are cops in pursuit.

I both admire and hate them for this practice.
posted by hippybear at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2011 [16 favorites]


"Martha and I bought Tauntaun's intergalactic homeowner's insurance against planetary destruction... "
(O_O)
"...and MAN was it worth it!"
(^_^)


Tauntaun. 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on planetary destruction insurance.

posted by lemuring at 12:09 PM on April 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


@kaseijin - I'm one of those that often criticizes (or at least explores out loud) the decisions movie characters make. It's fun for me to put myself in their shoes, or in their head, and reason things out like the Overthinking crowd does here. For those like me, this exploration is a delight rather than a joykill.

I should add that some very close friends don't share this delight, so I've learned when to keep my observations to myself.
posted by closetphilosopher at 12:09 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yay, overthinking stuff!

The beginning of the movie starts off with the Imperials already chasing the rebels, already knowing they've stolen the plans - I'm guessing they already had Alderaan as a target at that point. I mean, at the point when you've got the leaders personally helping smuggle out plans, you've got a problem.

Even assuming they have something of value like a manufacturing base, you gotta figure at that point, you'll be dealing with endless guerilla warfare, sabotage, and IEDs and thermal detonator traps if you try to occupy the planet fully. (Do you want to fly sabotaged Imperial Star Destroyers that warp into stars at random? Maybe not.) Plus you inevitably end up killing innocents and creating more rebels in the process.

No, what the Empire wants is a clean show of force.

Not only "We will fuck your shit up", but more importantly, "We know everything, and you ain't slick." Plus this leaves so few survivors who are close to the murdered, you don't generate a mass of terrorists to deal with.

The next step is simple- then you call for informants. It's one thing to get spies when you offer money, but when they're afraid you'll nuke the whole damn planet, you'll get a lot of folks out to help you.

Now we're talking classic European style divide-and-conquer- "Well, if you don't inform us who is plotting against us, we'll assume you're all together and kill everyone. You don't want to be associated with those rebels, now do you?"

After that, you don't have to fire the damn Death Star anymore, just have it show up in orbit and let the people give up the offenders on their own.

They'll dismantle their own leadership in fractious violence and then you bring in your troops and do clean up. Not only that, you restore order and infrastructure and appear to be the good guys. Set up your puppet state under the regional governor and move on.
posted by yeloson at 12:12 PM on April 29, 2011 [19 favorites]


As they point out, the Romans had this figured out 2000 years ago. Pillage, destruction and mass execution are a lot cheaper than a fully operational battlestation, but in terms of %GDP the legions probably cost Rome a comparable amount to the Empire's cost for the Deathstar (I & II).
posted by bonehead at 12:26 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nonsense.

There are literally parsecs of asteroid material floating out there in the Alderaan system, many of which are composed of the same materials as the Alderaan core itself. Additionally, unlike the chunks of ex-Alderaan flying hither-thither-and-yon, the asteroid belts are arranged in fairly orderly harvesting groups, orbiting the star in a predictable fashion.

There's actually little economic advantage in mining the Death-Starred-planet. The strength of the DS technology lies in shock-and-awe, which as we've seen more locally in time & space,... isn't all it's cracked up to be.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:36 PM on April 29, 2011


But seriously, could ya not build a planet destroying space station with a small, thermal exhaust port?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:41 PM on April 29, 2011


I think the real lesson here is that the Emperor is a jerk.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:00 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think what's being overlooked here is the nature of the economy in the Empire, as opposed to the more peaceful Republic that preceded it. In order to facilitate his rise to power, Papltine manufactured a war and in so doing created a vast military-industrial complex that I believe came to be the true power behind the throne.

The MI complex, in order to ensure that it continues to be funded, wanted the Death Star - a massive, complex, and costly project. Note that construction of the first Death Star is begun at the end of RotS - a full twenty years before it becomes operational. There is no efficiency here - just a bunch of contractors over-promising and under-delivering for years and years on a new weapon system, all in the pursuit of more and more lucrative contracts. The Emperor has no choice - to continue his hold on power, he needs the backing of the MI complex, and so it continues. The Emperor needs a strong military to keep control, and the military needs the government to keep funding it.

As for the design flaw - the small thermal exhaust port right below the main port - I believe it to be deliberate. In order to continue justifying the expenditures on the military, there has to be a credible threat somewhere...and let's face it, the Rebels, able to field an attack force of some twenty stunt fighters at the Battle of Yavin, isn't really a threat in the face of the Empire vast military might - but the design "flaw" (once leaked) allows the Rebels to win an amazing victory, destroying this amazing weapon. It's a huge win for the Rebels, and a massive propaganda gain for the Empire - look at how dangerous the Rebels are! We need to build more ships! More stormtroopers! Another Death Star! The enemies are real and out there!

If the Empire had truly wanted to destroy the Rebel base at Yavin, they would have brought about a dozen Star Destroyers, blockaded the moon, and landed several thousand stoomtroopers to clean up after a bombardment both from orbit and from TIE fighters.

The Emperor and his backers in the MI complex need the Rebels to keep the level of fear and threat high, to justify the continued expenditures on a large military presence. The destruction of Alderaan is small potatoes in comparison to ensuring the continuation of the power structure that has emerged in the wake of Papltine's rise to the throne.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:02 PM on April 29, 2011 [34 favorites]


This article put more thought into Star Wars than George Lucas did.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:08 PM on April 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


The Destruction of Alderaan is first and foremost a communications issue. In a situation where technology is available at such a level to allow inter-planetary and inter-system communication, we have to assume a strong possibility that those communications can be easily manipulated, possibly even at the level of individual electrons (or whatever). Think about what we can do even now with image and video manipulation. The Empire probably knows this, and has probably been using this technology to influence its citizens for years. To pull an example from a different universe, think "Fruity Oaty Bars." The problem is, everyone else likely also knows this, or at least suspects it. This puts the veracity of anything the Empire says over mass channels into question. If you need to convey a message and have it be trusted, there are really only two ways around this problem- either send a personal communication by couriers who are trusted implicitly (perhaps two droids, one of whom may in fact be a central figure in the rebellion); or blow up a whole fucking planet. No-one can dispute that it occurred, and if you have a Death Star, it's pretty obvious who did it. This sends a message to any system that was harboring rebels, or even somewhat intransigent on the whole Empire issue, not to mention any loose Jedi who may still be floating around.

Of course, destroying said Death Star, particularly if you kill the Emperor while you do it, sends a similarly unambiguous statement.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:09 PM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Maybe things are different in the Empire, but don't you think someone in the Empire's marketing department would politely suggest they call it the "Life Star?"
posted by drezdn at 1:17 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


'Life Star'?

What, like the thing that Wookiees put on top of their Life Day trees? Ridiculous.
posted by box at 1:24 PM on April 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


I suspect the marketing department probably also suggested that Vader, as the Emperor's henchman, not dress solely in black and choke people to death with his mind. I can visualize how that meeting ended.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:25 PM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Maybe things are different in the Empire, but don't you think someone in the Empire's marketing department would politely suggest they call it the "Life Star?"

How does one politely make a suggestion to the guy who shoots lighting from his hands and has no problem killing people?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:26 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can visualize how that meeting ended.

With Bob from marketing strangled, and a new marketing guy hired the next day that looks a lot like Bob with a beard?
posted by kmz at 1:29 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love this. I've actually spent a non-zero amount of time in my life thinking about the economics and politics of the Empire, though my conclusions weren't nearly as detailed.

I will say that when my friends and I played Star Wars: the RPG for a couple of years in high school, I eschewed the canned character classes and made mine a gray-market businessman, a la Lando. I sold stolen goods, and eventually had enough money socked away to start some serious R & D on new weapon systems, which I then sold. Yeah, our Gamemaster was probably too permissive in some respects, but he did create a world to play in where there were multiple and myriad pockets of rebellion against the Empire, and that was pretty cool.
posted by Shohn at 1:31 PM on April 29, 2011


You link is broken kmz. Either do or do not, mmm'kay?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:34 PM on April 29, 2011


Sort of a People's Front of Judea alongside the Judean's Peoples Front? I can see the fun in that.

Splinter!
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:34 PM on April 29, 2011


The Big Error of Death Star construction is that it is nothing but a ripe target, like our aircraft carriers. He would have been better served constructing smaller 'death asteroids' capable of obliterating life whilst not destroying the planet itself. The energy requirements would be significantly lower, and he wouldn't need to put all his eggs in one basket. Staying onboard DS2 as it goes into battle is another significant error. You think he would have learned his lesson from the recently deceased Grand Moff Tarkin.

Drezdn: Nonsense. This is a weapon of war against a monarchist rebel group seeking to reinstall the racist ideologies of their sad outdated religion, it's not supposed to be friendly. (Also, 'Death Star' is probably a slang term, like 'osprey' or 'warthog'. It's probably officially the G.E.S. Coruscant or something equally dull.)
posted by leotrotsky at 1:34 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Suspending what we know for a moment, it would have been far cheaper to bombard Alderaan with plentiful asteroids until the populace was dead and the planet covered in dust and tidal waves for the next 200 years.
posted by Thistledown at 1:39 PM on April 29, 2011


Monarchist? The Old Republic ran with an elected representative system of government. Who was the monarch you think they seek to reinstall?
posted by hippybear at 1:39 PM on April 29, 2011


I'm guessing this has been covered in several places, but it seems to me that there isn't anywhere on the Death Star to land/dock your Star Destroyers, and I can't imagine you need the station's entire size for the planet-blower-upper gun. What the fuck is the point of having a big giant metal ball that requires manned laser guns all around its surface to fend off attackers?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:40 PM on April 29, 2011


But seriously, could ya not build a planet destroying space station with a small, thermal exhaust port?

Or at least put a grate over it.
posted by marxchivist at 1:42 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you compare the size of the Star Destroyers compared to the Millenium Falcon with the size of the Death Star compared to the Millenium Falcon (easily done if you look at the footage of the MF being taken into the equatorial hanger bay in A New Hope with the footage of the Falcon grappled onto the Star Destroyer in The Empire Strikes Back before they "float away with the rest of the garbage"), you'll see that Star Destroyers are pretty minuscule compared to the Death Star.

We haven't SEEN docking places for Star Destroyers on the Death Star, but there'd certainly be plenty of room for such spaces.
posted by hippybear at 1:43 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The whole premise is flawed - "maximizing imperial economic output" is an unlikely motive for the Emperor, and certainly wasn't the motivating idea behind the Roman Empire. The popularity of that sort of thinking today is more normative than descriptive anyway. (For example, a state surrounded by oceans and allies that was looking to maximize its economic output would hardly adopt a policy of matching the rest of the planet's military spending dollar-for-dollar. Similarly, Roman Legions didn't limit their raping and pillaging to non-Roman cities.)

The galactic empire blew up planets because the sort of people running the show thought blowing up planets was awesome. Anyone who thought differently wouldn't have risen to a position of authority, due to poor performance reviews and/or Skype-strangulation.
posted by bonecrusher at 1:44 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ah, I should have said aristocratic, with the Jedi representing a ruling class (de facto, if not de jure)
posted by leotrotsky at 1:46 PM on April 29, 2011


C'mon, "Death Asteroids"? That's no where near as intimidating as something that takes up several degrees of your visual arc on the friggin planet surface! What use is a terror weapon if it doesn't look impressive?

"Death Asteroids". I hear you can get a get a cream for those now.
posted by bonehead at 1:46 PM on April 29, 2011


It's probably officially the G.E.S. Coruscant or something equally dull.

I'm pretty sure the second one was the I.S.S. Tarkin.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:53 PM on April 29, 2011


The Empire's fatal mistake was trying to intervene in the free workings of the Force. (Because, remember, the ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.) You can't have a planned "Economy of Force," if you like — no matter how many "new ways" you find to motivate people. Putting your thumb on the scale will screw up the incentives and drive people to do things they never otherwise would, like set up rebellious bases on ice planets and fly halfway across the galaxy to take lessons in killing you from a wrinkled old dude whose company they initially find unpleasant and frustrating. Of course, the Jedi are just as guilty of this, with their crazy no-love rule incentivizing secrecy and ill-conceived power grabs ("I will even learn to stop people from dying!")

"No. Leave them to me. I will deal with them myself." Famous last words when dealing with systems beyond the comprehension of a single person. And note that the Empire's ultimate downfall comes as a direct result of that final imperial hubris: attempting to replace what little meritocracy remains in the system with out-and-out father-to-son succession.
posted by No-sword at 1:58 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


It isn't over thinking, per se, so much as taking absolutely everything about a narrative literally and extrapolating in an astringently literal, materialist way. Seems kind of banal and sterile to me. The hubristic, self-congratulatory faux-erudition is pathetically off target:

War in general makes poor economic sense. Thousands of lives are lost and millions of man-hours are spent producing things that will break, explode or be exploded.

There's nothing true about that statement. War can be immensely profitable just in reference to hypertrophic production, to say nothing of extractive processes (natural resources, taxation) enabled by conquest.

Total crap. No offense.
posted by clockzero at 1:58 PM on April 29, 2011


Ah, I should have said aristocratic, with the Jedi representing a ruling class (de facto, if not de jure)

Technically, it's theocratic, although there also appears to have been an aristocratic element to the government of the late Republic and early Empire (Count Dooku, Princess Leia).

Don't get me started on Naboo, which may have the stupidest political system in the galaxy.

Seriously, I think there are colonies of womp rats living around the Sarlacc pit that have a more logical form of government. I mean, even nerfs manage to maintain a relatively stable system of matriarchal authority, and they're domesticated ungulates.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:01 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Suspending what we know for a moment, it would have been far cheaper to bombard Alderaan with plentiful asteroids until the populace was dead and the planet covered in dust and tidal waves for the next 200 years.

Price wasn't the object here. Complete and total power, with the will to use it and the sweet, sweet trembling fear of the subjects was the point.

Remember, Alderaan was destroyed, even though Leia had supposedly given up the location of the Rebel base. Tarkin had a point to make.

What the fuck is the point of having a big giant metal ball that requires manned laser guns all around its surface to fend off attackers?

From Wikipedia:
The first Death Star is depicted in various sources of having a crew of 265,675, as well as 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 30,984 stormtroopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 180,216 pilots and support crew.[4] Its hangars contain assault shuttles, blastboats, Strike cruisers, land vehicles, support ships, and 7,293 TIE fighters.[5] It is also protected by 10,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,600 ion cannons, and at least 768 tractor beam projectors.[5]
Also note that the Empire built a Super Star Destroyer, which regular Star Destroyers could dock in/to, so it's probable that Star Destroyers could dock to the Death Star.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:02 PM on April 29, 2011


although there also appears to have been an aristocratic element to the government of the late Republic and early Empire (Count Dooku, Princess Leia)

I always thought that meant that Leia and her (adoptive) parents were sovereigns of Alderaan, not the Republic structure, which I thought of more as like a UN-type deal.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:06 PM on April 29, 2011


It all boiled down to stolen codes.
posted by clavdivs at 2:08 PM on April 29, 2011


I always thought that meant that Leia and her (adoptive) parents were sovereigns of Alderaan, not the Republic structure

Well, if the senate is made up of people with titles (whether local, or connected to positions in the Republic), then there is an aristocratic element. Like the patricians in the Roman senate.

There also may have been some sort of honorary title involved with a role in government or the bureaucracy, along the lines of the distinctions made between princes of the blood and others in Tsarist Russia.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:11 PM on April 29, 2011


In addition to the basics of the criticisms outlined above by IAmBroom and Never Used Baby Shoes, and taking bonecrusher's observation in good faith (there's some of that in the original article as well), we also have to ask what kind of impact the subtraction of Alderaan from the Imperial economy inflicted on its capacity to refill losses suffered in its fight against the rebellion (see for instance the ripples of far-flung economic disruption that continue to emerge from the disaster in Japan). In this case, we have to consider not only the direct losses of production and administrative capacity suffered in the planet's destruction, but also the overwhelming contagion of uncertainty and risk that would have cascaded through the galactic economy after the incident.

Until this moment, the Empire could portray the rebellion as a minor nuisance of little consequence to life and the prospects of capital accumulation in the core systems. Suddenly, with Alderaan's destruction, not only did the Emperor and his henchmen truly reveal the indiscriminate violence of their leadership, but in doing so they called into question the value and assessed risk assigned to property, capital investments, and loan instruments throughout the galaxy. A cascade of downgrading would have undoubtedly ensued, drying up credit markets as lenders withdrew their funds from an environment in which not even the Empire would guarantee the security of the firms and planets that lenders were being asked to finance.

Alderaan's destruction was so catastrophic to the galactic economy that even Coruscant, at once the Wall Street and K Street of the Galactic Empire, celebrated the Emperor's death.

A cogent analysis here might very well resolve into a supremely personal irony. The decision to destroy Alderaan, while easily painted as a spectacular act of 'Shock and Awe' with limitless strategic value in its propaganda impact, was ultimately a vindictive act of personal spite and revenge perpetrated by small men against one individual, Leia Organa (and to some extent her Senator father). The obsession with personal politics exhibited by Darth Vader and the Emperor (which we see again and again in the sequels/prequels, but was demonstrated most spectacularly at Alderaan) may very well have doomed the second Death Star's construction effort. By the time Imperial planners acknowledged the losses at Yavin and set about tendering the construction of a second Death Star, thanks to the militarily unnecessary destruction of Alderaan they would have faced an altogether different set of circumstances than accompanied the largely uneventful assembly of its predecessor.

Whether because of shortages of advanced parts, skilled engineering and project management expertise, or disruptions to the civilian shipping networks that were necessary to deliver all those goods to the assembly location on-time and in-sequence (and most likely a dreadful intersection of all these things), there is no denying that notwithstanding its marginally 'operational' status, the second Death Star was nowhere near ready to act as an overwhelming tool of force projection or political terror when the rebels set upon it at Endor. The galactic disruption triggered by the subtraction of Alderaan from the interstellar economy hobbled the Imperial Navy's efforts to build a second technological terror, and that delay ultimately led to the death of the Emperor himself and the fall of the Sith regime.
posted by waterunderground at 2:13 PM on April 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


It isn't over thinking, per se, so much as taking absolutely everything about a narrative literally and extrapolating in an astringently literal, materialist way.

You've never visited that website before, have you?
posted by hippybear at 2:17 PM on April 29, 2011


waterunderground,

Well, that would explain this cartoon.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:17 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whatever, it's still more economically realistic than Atlas Shrugged.
posted by condour75 at 2:18 PM on April 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


there also appears to have been an aristocratic element to the government of the late Republic and early Empire

Well, Lucas has been on record for YEARS now as saying that he feels that "benevolent dictator" is the most effective form of government. Plus Padme was elected queen, not born into the title.
posted by hippybear at 2:20 PM on April 29, 2011


What the fuck is the point of having a big giant metal ball that requires manned laser guns all around its surface to fend off attackers?

If you assume that the point of the Death Star is more intimidation than actually blowing up planets left and right, it makes sense. It's also designed to be a big target in the sky, to draw fleets into kill zones. Presumably most of the weapons are anti-cruiser and not so much anti-fighter. (Plus, you really do want the rebels wasting time trying to build fleets - it's easier to track parts and manufacturing plants than it is to track thousands of saboteurs, assassins and underground cells pushing for popular revolt).

The manned weapons also make sense- assume the Rebels will hack any system you tie together. Notice that while R2D2 does hack a lot of things in the Death Star, he can't hack the laser to stop working, or force the Death Star to jump somewhere else, or vent it's corridors of Imperial troops into vacuum.

Notice that it's also designed to conspicuously take damage in only certain ways- the manned guns go boom and we see soldiers getting fried. Meanwhile, the high command are shielded somewhere deep inside and totally not bothered by any of this. The common soldier must also be united in fear of the Rebels as much as the rest of the population. Plus it's cheaper than trying to shield everything, everywhere.
posted by yeloson at 2:32 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


You link is broken kmz. Either do or do not, mmm'kay?

Oh crap, I totally messed up the link and didn't notice: Death Star Orientation.
posted by kmz at 2:36 PM on April 29, 2011


or vent it's corridors of Imperial troops into vacuum.

That reminds me that Star Wars (at least the original trilogy) is maybe the only exciting-things-in-space movie I've ever seen that never once references the vacuum of space, unless you count when Han and Leia put on little oxygen masks in a cave on an asteroid.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:38 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


In space, no one can hear you reference itself.
posted by anifinder at 2:41 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


But wouldn't any off-planet survivors have a claim on the minerals or any other ruins of their home planet?
posted by limeonaire at 2:48 PM on April 29, 2011


Would you want to make a claim against an organization that just destroyed a planet, just 'cause they could?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:51 PM on April 29, 2011


Your wife was a UPS driver in the Star Wars universe and was dropping off Darth Vader's latest ebay purchases when the Death Star is blown up. Would the wrongful death suit be against the Empire or Rebels?
posted by drezdn at 3:09 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The original overthinking of the death star.

"Why does the Empire care, anyway, about reducing its organic garbage output? Are we to believe that the architects of the Death Star, a group of individuals bent on controlling the entire known universe, are also concerned about environmental issues?"
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 3:17 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't forget that the Death Star is referred to as a space station, not a ship or a weapon.

In other words, the Death Star akin to a big-ass aircraft carrier -- a platform that can move and fulfill different roles. One is which just happens to be "blowing planets to smithereens."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:18 PM on April 29, 2011


Drezdn: you could probably file suit against them both. The absence of protective grating over the thermal exhaust vent is clearly negligence, and the case against the Rebels for wrongful death is open & shut. There is the obvious problem of sovereign immunity from prosecution, particularly during a time of war. Otherwise can you imagine the claims?
posted by leotrotsky at 3:19 PM on April 29, 2011


"Life Star?"

This isn't Sith Lord Kucinich here, we're not going to have a Life Star, Sunny Day Troopers, or a Peace Council.

Would the wrongful death suit be against the Empire or Rebels?

Unfortunately, due to the decisions of Imperial Justice Scalia of the Galactic Court way back in the Old Republic days (who we later discover, of course, was a Sith Lord), your wife will need to go through the normal arbitration process.
posted by formless at 3:33 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


It all boiled down to stolen codes.

Plans. Codes, they could've pasted into the body. But despite having mastered supraluminal travel, manipulation of gravity, force fields, and artificial intelligence, they're still running up against a max attachment size.
posted by condour75 at 3:47 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Drezdn: First, IANAL, and IANYL.

There is a much larger problem than sovereign immunity (arguably the Empire is still bound by certain standards of care, in ensuring the security of its properties and their approaches for instance, that make a civil suit pursuable). We might also split hairs on whether there was ever a declaration of war that would render such a suit void, but setting that question aside for now:

We can expect any such suit to unfold with the sort of painful slowness and obstructionism that befalls similar civil actions in North America today. Given that it may be years for the action to make its way to trial, it is likely that neither defending party will exist by the time you get there. [Some of this hinges on which Death Star this wrongful death occurred at, since their destructions were what, 3-4 years apart?]

The Empire's dissolution is the obvious consequence of the deaths of both Palpatine and Vader at Endor. If you take in the Extended Universe, there's some question about how long a functioning Empire hangs on as a reasonable target for civil litigation, but it's pretty clear that without the unifying influence of Palpatine it fragments into warlordism and banditry within fairly short order. Expecting this surviving rump to respond to your civil action is probably a hopeless gesture.

Meanwhile the rebels act quickly to wipe away any notion that they will assume the Empire's existing debts and obligations by declaring a 'New Republic'. The institution of the New Republic also arguably results in the dissolution of the Rebellion as a functional corporate entity, were it ever one for the purposes of accounting and galactic jurisprudence. Depending on how this was done, and what kind of arrangements were made for the settling of the Rebellion's debts and liens, there may be an opening to make the claim against the New Republic, and an opportunity to secure a speedy settlement in the early years of optimism that follow its institution.

If this does not prove possible, and if your wife was killed at Endor, you might still be able to sustain a claim against major state or corporate participants in the Rebellion's later stages, who we might argue displayed great negligence in attacking a construction site without providing advanced warning to the thousands of independent contractors they knew to be at work there. The Mon Calamari would be a particularly tasty target, given their planetary government's overwhelming material involvement in the planning and execution of that attack.

But on balance, a suit against any of these actors would have a low probability of success. Again, IANYL, but it appears to me that your best chance of gaining some compensation would be to target UPS directly, since they clearly failed to meet standards of care when they sent their ill-equipped employee into either a system in which open hostilities and planetary disintegration were in the offing (Yavin), or a controversial construction site (the second Death Star) at which a rebel attack would have been clearly foreseeable.

UPS might hide behind what assurances they might have received at the time from the Empire that the region around the Endor construction site was secure. However, either UPS had no foreknowledge of the battle station's operational readiness and thus should have questioned the Imperial Navy's security claims and conducted their own independent assessment, or they knew the station was purported to be battle-ready, and thus admit to having been in much greater collusion with the Imperial Navy and Executive than has been proven to date. Out of all the parties we've discussed naming, UPS is the most likely to settle your claim in order to avoid the much greater set of liabilities that emerge from the messy question of its relationship with the Empire's inner circle. In any case, best of luck to you, and I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by waterunderground at 4:34 PM on April 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


Plans. Codes, they could've pasted into the body. But despite having mastered supraluminal travel, manipulation of gravity, force fields, and artificial intelligence, they're still running up against a max attachment size.

You're under the impression that The Empire is a benevolent organization that does not control airspace or communications?
Setting aside the idea that the Empire is shown to be omnipresent, even if someone got an e-mail or somesuch out wouldn't that simply leave great big pointers to both the transmission and reception point. Not really a great idea keeping in mind we are talking about a government that busies itself with the task of rooting out and killing people on shitty little desert planets. Never mind the fact they have no problem with full on assaults to rebel bases or even planets.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:07 PM on April 29, 2011


Price wasn't the object here. Complete and total power

I believe the phrase you're looking for here is "POWER! UNLIMITED POWER!"
posted by Ghidorah at 6:16 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Speaking of marketing, either the Star Destroyers can't actually destroy stars or they wasted a bunch of money on the planet-destroying Death Star.

Note that construction of the first Death Star is begun at the end of RotS - a full twenty years before it becomes operational.

Yet it only took a maximum of four years after the first Death Star was blown up for the second one to be "fully armed and operational." (Given the general level of surprise, it is unlikely that construction of the second Death Star began before the destruction of the first one.) And the second one was a redesign: the first Death Star was 160 kilometers in diameter and the Death Star II was 900 kilometers in diameter
posted by kirkaracha at 6:42 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


This discussion brings back ever so fond memories of my MOO2 days. I would happily imagine the people on the planet running in terror as their sun is blotted out by my fleet of 30 or so Doom Stars, each equipped with a minimum of four Stellar Converters and each with a time shifting device allowing them to fire twice a turn. I would contemptuously slap their defense aside, destroy the planets and build new Gaia type planets from their wreckage. Of course, they weren't all that useful until I got the Gravity Generators online, because my brilliant engineer race was from low gravity worlds, but, such is the cost of cosmic dominion...
posted by Samizdata at 6:46 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


...with Alderaan's destruction, not only did the Emperor and his henchmen truly reveal the indiscriminate violence of their leadership, but in doing so they called into question the value and assessed risk assigned to property, capital investments, and loan instruments throughout the galaxy. A cascade of downgrading would have undoubtedly ensued, drying up credit markets as lenders withdrew their funds from an environment in which not even the Empire would guarantee the security of the firms and planets that lenders were being asked to finance. Alderaan's destruction was so catastrophic to the galactic economy that even Coruscant, at once the Wall Street and K Street of the Galactic Empire, celebrated the Emperor's death.

waterunderground, you make good points. It is important to remember that a galactic scale economy is a complex beast, where a sudden change can bring about unforseen consequences.

However, building on the idea of a powerful, moneyed elite as the true power in the Empire, is it not unlikely that Tarkin tipped off certain elements who would have had a chance to move their interests from Alderaan and potentially invest them in other ventures that might benefit from Alderaan's destruction. However, in a complex system, even these moves may not have been enough to prevent damage to the elite interests due to the Empire's capricious application of extreme violence.

In reviewing the progression of the movies in my own mind, I suspect that there was an element in the Empire playing both sides against each other in order to maximize profit. The Rebel fleet gains in strength in each movie, indicating some level of supply coming in. Supplying both sides in the conflict would be profitable, and ultimately, it would not matter who won the "final" battle in RotJ (with a very rapidly built "new" Death Star - unless, of course, our shadowy elite had already sold the Empire on building a second one "for strategic reasons/to ensure more total control" long in advance of Yavin) - a fledgling Republic would still need to hunt down and defend against remaining Imperial forces, and an Imperial victory likely means that the Rebellion lives on somewhere - but just needs to be resupplied and re-equipped.

And that is all my overthinking for a Friday night...my wife is rather concerned that I'm analyzing power structures in the Empire and creating conspiracy theories about it
posted by never used baby shoes at 7:03 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Basketball is a peaceful planet! We have no weapons!"
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:29 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I believe the phrase you're looking for here is "POWER! UNLIMITED POWER!"

Wow. Hadn't seen those in a while. Those prequels were just staggeringly bad movies, weren't they? When there are three actors in your scene and Samuel L. Jackson is giving the least bad performance, you have a problem.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:37 PM on April 29, 2011


And then the Emperor ejaculated in his robe.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:38 PM on April 29, 2011


Somewhere Kevin Smith is loading this thread, hitting CTRL+P, and calling his agent to tell him he has a new script.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:40 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those prequels were just staggeringly bad movies, weren't they?

Yes and no. I get the impression that Lucas was shooting for them to be somewhat cartoony on the surface level, while deeper in general theme (he criticizes politics and democracy).
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:47 PM on April 29, 2011


Brandon Blatcher, since in general, you're a pretty nice person, you seem to have fallen into a devious trap. You see, when we are confronted with something so abjectly awful, like the prequels, we want to believe the best of people, not the horrible, plain-as-day-truth, and you're trying to give Lucas some sort of credit by believing the films actually have depth, even so little depth as to accomodate drive-time radio level politics.

It's not there. Lucas really, really is a hack, and the more that comes out, the more I read, it's become clear to me that the original movies were successful due to the people around Lucas, the people who ignored him and did what they thought would work instead. The originals were classics not because of Lucas, they were classics in spite of him. The prequels sucked because Lucas has grown so powerful that he literally can't be talked out of his crappy, crappy ideas. Why yes, centering the movie around a child is a great idea! Sure, let's find a child who has no acting ability whatsoever! And the racist stereotypes? Sir, your ideas are flawless!

For anyone who doubts this, I offer Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as incontrovertible evidence of Lucas' suckitude dragging down all he touches.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:03 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


To Darth Vader,

CC: Emperor Palpatine

While our department's previous memo about renaming the Death Star was met with a most unfortunate response, we, as the propaganda, marketing and fizzy beverages division of the Empire feel it is necessary to point out another naming issue that has been brought to our attention.

It has come to our attention that promotional materials have been printed up for the new "Star Destroyers." While we are certain that this is an accurate description of the capabilities of these ships, we think that many citizens may have trouble with the idea of their tax dollars being spent to eliminate the constellations and harm the bold science of astrology in general.

As such, we felt it necessary to come up with an alternate names for this signs of the Empire's Strength. Here are a few names we came up with after a month of brainstorming: Star Re-locator, Space Triangle, and Maurice.

We look forward to using this memo as a chance to dialog with you over new name solutions for these ships. Maybe Orcas of the Stars, that's a name, right?

Please contact us at your earliest convenience, unless you're displeased, in which case you should Force Choke Eugene V. because he doesn't have a family, and we're pretty sure he spends most of the day view pr0n.

Peace Out,

The Imperial Propaganda, Marketing and Fizzy Beverages Division
posted by drezdn at 9:20 PM on April 29, 2011


I alway thought it was supposed to be Star "Destroyer", like the ship. They even looked more naval than space-shippy.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 5:35 AM on April 30, 2011


I alway thought it was supposed to be Star "Destroyer", like the ship. They even looked more naval than space-shippy.

The Imperial Propaganda, Marketing and Fizzy Beverages Division has considered this, but feels that there's no need to give the impression that we need giant ships of war when we're pretty sure the rebellion consists of a teddy bear, some fish people, a wimpy rat hunter and some short circuiting robots.
posted by drezdn at 6:06 AM on April 30, 2011


You see, when we are confronted with something so abjectly awful, like the prequels, we want to believe the best of people, not the horrible, plain-as-day-truth, and you're trying to give Lucas some sort of credit by believing the films actually have depth, even so little depth as to accomodate drive-time radio level politics.

You must learn to see and except movies as they are, not as you wish them to be.

Sure, I would have done the prequels differently, but Lucas is, well, Lucas and he has a pretty clear vision of how he wants things to be. I can't agree with that vision, but once one turns off the inner critic and just tries to enjoy them for what they are, then the movies appear much better.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:01 AM on April 30, 2011


Brandon Blatcher, I tried to watch the prequel movies just a little over a year ago, hoping my love for the "Clone Wars" series would help me find a few kernels of enjoyment from them; I hoped that the intervening years would have lessened my disinterest in the films, and I would be able to derive some pleasure from them; but alas: it was not to be. The sheer awfulness of the prequel trilogy overwhelmed me like a tidal wave.

Now, I like a lot of bad movies. I watch stilted, cheesy, badly scripted movies on a regular basis, and I really enjoy them (Bucket of Blood; Star Crash; Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, sans commentary). But I can't enjoy the prequels. They are not only bad, but they are boring and not fun.

Really, they suck.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:03 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


In order to continue justifying the expenditures on the military, there has to be a credible threat somewhere...and let's face it, the Rebels, able to field an attack force of some twenty stunt fighters at the Battle of Yavin, isn't really a threat

Son, we live in a galaxy that has Death Stars, and those Death Stars have to be guarded by men with blasters. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Binks?
I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly sense a disturbance in.
You weep for Kit Fisto and you curse the Stormtroopers.
You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Fisto's death, while tragic, probably saved lives.
And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.
You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about on luxurious sail barges you want me on that Death Star.
You need me on that Death Star! We use words like "armor", "clone", "loyalty".
We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending the Emperor. You use them as a sad devotion to an ancient religion.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very terror and fear that I provide, and then questions whenever I destroy a planet to terrorize the galaxy.
I would rather you just said "May the force be with you," and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a blaster, and stand a post or ride unstable hoverbikes at pointlessly high speed through a forest. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

I've always been interested what Luke's friends (other than Biggs) thought.
You text your buddy Luke: "DOOD, LTS GO 2 TSCH STTN AND PCK UP SM PWR CNVRTRS"
He texts back: "BE THR AFTR I FNSH MY CHRS"
A few months later you're watching CNN and he's blown up an aircraft carrier with the religious nut homeless vet who lived outside of town and some smuggler connected to the cartels.
That kind of chaos and uncertainty isn't good for any economic system.
Plus - slaves exist before the Empire. So it wasn't that benevolent a system (economically speaking) beforehand.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:04 PM on April 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


« Older The Washington Post has invited Donald Trump as it...  |  Grandmothers are agitated to t... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments