Star Wars and the Austrian School: A Brief Overview

This article was originally published by Young Americans for Liberty

Star Wars and the Austrian SchoolStar Wars is unquestionably a brilliant saga that touches the hearts of many through its incorporation of timeless literary archetypes and humanist themes.  Adventure, love, loss, spirituality, good vs. evil, and the triumph of the human (and humanoid) spirit…

Yet there are other characteristics standing out that demand attention and respect, such as the saga’s inclusion of patterns of history (great wars and economic or political disasters) and of the interactions and exchanges of societies and individuals.  One could practically point to passages from Mises’ Human Action or Theory and History while watching any given Star Wars episode!

Everyone knows the basic storyline that spans six episodes and numerous television and novel tie-ins.  A once prosperous and peaceful republic decays over time from corruption and then war.  Victory over secessionists in a great galactic war only serves to undermine the Republic’s ideals of liberty and hastens its demise and overt reorganization into the Galactic Empire.  Following two decades of imperial rule and repression, a guerrilla army dedicated to reestablishing the Republic and maintaining its founding principles of liberty fights a lengthy campaign, pursuing only the help of willing parties, eventually destroying the Empire and restoring republican democracy to the galaxy.

While the whole republican democracy vs. imperial rule theme is incredibly broad and universal, there are a number of factors that tug on the heart strings of any Austrian economists.  The saga begins with the Trade Federation, involved in a dispute over taxing trade routes, launching a blockade of the planet Naboo.  This is unquestionably an aggressive action inflicted on a sovereign people for the purpose of maintaining protectionist taxes and other economic interventionism—a crime not only against a sovereign people but also a violation of the free market.

Throughout the Clone Wars, part of the C.I.S. (Separatist) war effort is paid for by Trade Federation revenues, as well as profits generated by the Intergalactic Banking Clan (secretly controlled by the emperor-to-be Palpatine).  Can anyone say Intergalactic Federal Reserve?  At the same time, the Republic’s war effort is paid for by inflation by its own central bank, and probably also by raising taxes on Republic member worlds.

The end of the Clone Wars is met the rise of the Empire and Darth Vader—warnings of what happens when great leaders and great societies sacrifice their principles under an end-justifies-the-means mentality and invariably become what they originally set out to fight against.  In order to carry out the Wilsonian fantasy of “making the world [err, galaxy] safe for democracy” the Republic had to become an Empire, a threshold from which there was no return.

Then comes the Rebel Alliance, a coalition resembling that of thirteen autonomous states during the American Revolutionary War, fighting the Empire so that the Republic and its Constitution could be restored.  This Republic would be one that respects individual rights and the self-determination of worlds.  What did the Rebels give to the galaxy? “A republic, if you can keep it” (Benjamin Franklin).

Across the journey the audience is introduced to fascinating commercial centers.  Two such places, radically different from each other, are Coruscant and Tatooine.  Corsuscant and its booming skyscrapers represent the hustle and bustle of Wall Street, while the desert spaceports of Tatooine are a haven for the black market—some would call the black market the free market.  Whatever drugs, technology, equipment, and other goods are off the market where the Republic  rigidly enforces its prohibitionist and protectionist laws can easily be obtained in the unregulated bazaars of Tatooine—for the right price of course.  There’s a whole galaxy thriving with exchanges and movement and all sorts of human and humanoid action to explore!

Let this serve as an introduction to a series of glimpses into the Star Wars universe through the eyes of an Austrian economist.  Feel free to come along for the ride, and may the Force be with you.

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Image edited by Zach Foster. Background taken from a U.S. government photo and in the public domain.