What Would Destroying The Death Stars Do To The Economy In The ‘Star Wars’ Universe?

When the Rebel Alliance took out the two Death Stars, first one (Star Wars IV: A New Hope ) and then the other (The Return of the Jedi), fans of the Star Wars universe probably cheered alongside Luke, Leia, Han, Wedge, Lando* and the rest of the gang. But what about the people living in the Empire — what would the destruction of those evil space stations — and thus, the fall of the Empire — have meant to the galactic economy?

Assistant professor of engineering at Washington University Zachary Feinstein recently published a study aptly titled, “It’s a Trap: Emperor Palpatine’s Poison Pill” [PDF] in which he hypothesizes that there would be a “catastrophic” economic crisis in the Star Wars universe brought on by the destruction of the two Death Stars.

Feinstein started by estimating how much it would’ve cost to build both Death Stars, basing his math on the most recently completed aircraft carrier in the American fleet. Comparing the price of $17.5 billion with the 100,000 metric tons used in the USS Gerald Ford, the price tag for Emperor Palpatine and his crew would’ve come in at about $193 quintillion for the first version and $419 quintillion for the second, and incomplete, Death Star.

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

He worked on the assumption that when the Empire went down, it still would’ve owed the banking sector 50% of the costs of building the first Death Star, as well as all the costs of constructing the second one. Banks would’ve been short more than $500 quintillion (20 zeroes if you write that out), and no one to turn to to collect on those loans… besides the new guys in charge, the Rebel Alliance.

The rebels would need financial reserves of at least 15% of the entire Galactic economy to bail out the banks and thus, avert a financial collapse, Feinstein calculated.

“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 a 30% 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 economic impact would be especially harsh due to how quickly the Death Stars fell, one after another: there’s only four years between the Battle of Yavin (Rest In Pieces, Death Star I) and the Battle of Endor (RIP, Death Star II).

“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.”

*Editor’s note: Lando Calrissian was only around for the second Death Star going boom, my mom wanted me to clarify.

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