The release of Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens has brought the cultural phenomenon which is Star Wars back to the forefront of everyone’s minds. Particularly, with the inclusion of the original trilogy’s main characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo in the new film, fans are viewing the first trilogy again in preparation for watching The Force Awakens. Of course, one of the main “characters” from those films is not a human or even an alien, but the “ultimate power in the universe,” the Death Star (actually, “Death Stars” since two were created). Although the movies don’t really address the issue, exploring the economics behind the Death Star makes an interesting thought experiment. How did the Empire pay for it? The only possible answer is that the Death Star was the most massive government defense contract in galactic history. However, if Bitcoin had been the galactic currency in Star Wars, could the construction of the Death Star – and the damage it caused – have been prevented?
It has been estimated that the two Death Stars required a staggering 675 quintillion Imperial Credits (assuming a standard conversion ratio of 1 Credit=.62 USD) to construct. The only way any government – real or fantasy – could afford such a contract would be through loose monetary policy, i.e., increasing the supply of Imperial Credits to unprecedented levels. This truth exposes one of the key flaws of the Old Republic: it also used a fiat currency, in order to advance its own (admittedly more benign) agenda. After all, the Imperial Credit was just the continuation of the Republic Credit, which existed before the rise of Emperor Palpatine. If Bitcoin had been the coin of the Old Republic, perhaps the Empire would have not conquered, built the Death Star, and struck fear in the hearts of millions of citizens throughout the galaxy.
Welfare Spending by the Old Republic Lays the Groundwork
Historically, every government-issued currency has been abused by those in power for one of two reasons – welfare (to keep people dependent on those in power) and warfare (to extend the reach of those in power). Although most people look fondly at the Old Republic, it must have spent huge sums on public works projects, such as the city planet Coruscant and the upkeep of the Jedis. As with all massive spending projects, these would have required the creation of more and more fiat Credits to maintain the status quo. In any universe, such vast public works programs make most citizens complacent and reliant on the government. As a result, citizens of the Republic offered little resistance when an evil leader such as Palpatine rose to power.
Welfare Spending Becomes Warfare Spending Under Palpatine
The establishment of the Empire meant that the focus of government spending shifted from public works to warfare. Growing armies of clones might be fast and inexpensive, but they still have to be fed and housed. So how did Palpatine pay for all of this? The Empire must have had to ramp up its money-printing soon after Palpatine’s rise to power, dwarfing currency creation during the Old Republic (see chart). The maintenance of massive numbers of Stormtroopers, the brutal administration of the far-flung Empire, and most especially the creation of the Death Star required vast expenditures. Something like Bitcoin would have been anathema to Palpatine; he knew that his plans would never come to fruition if he couldn’t control the currency. His ability to create money on a whim would allow him to wield power ruthlessly for decades.
Bitcoin Starves the Imperial Beast
Clearly, if the Old Republic had embraced Bitcoin, the citizenry would have been less dependent on the government dole, and there would have been no clear path for the rise of the Empire and the creation of the Death Star. With a controlled money supply, government projects – whether Republic or Imperial – would not have become so far-reaching. Without the centuries-old mechanism for simply creating Credits out of thin air, there would have been no rise of Palpatine, no Death Stars, and perhaps even no need for those “Guardians of Peace and Justice,” the Jedis, interfering in everyone’s lives (and producing such mass murderers as Darth Vader). When you shut off the money-creation spigot for those in power, you end up giving power to everyone. Perhaps in The Force Awakens or another sequel, we’ll see the New Republic wising up and embracing a decentralized cryptocurrency like Bitcoin as the galactic currency.
What do you think? Would the Old Republic’s embrace of Bitcoin have prevented the rise of Palpatine and the construction of the Death Star? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of starwars.com