Star Wars

The Politics of Star Wars

In honor of Star Wars Day, a roundup of links to my writings and talks on the politics of one of the world's most popular science fiction franchises.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Today is Star Wars Day! In honor of this exciting event from a galaxy far, far away, here are some links to various writings and speeches I have done on the politics of one of the world's most popular science fiction franchises:

Rogue One and the Politics of Star Wars (my take on political themes in the best Star Wars movie since the original trilogy). This is probably my personal favorite among my Star Wars-related pieces. Among other things, it discusses why it's important to think about what the Rebels are fighting for, as well as what they are against, and why why, they, like many of the American Founding Fathers, are "simultaneously freedom fighters and slave owners."

The Politics of the Last Jedi (the politics of the most recent Star Wars movie)

Star Wars, Science Fiction, and the Constitution (an analysis of Cass Sunstein's well-known book The World According to Star Wars).

The World According to Star Wars (video of Cato Institute panel on Cass Sunstein's book of the same name, featuring the author and commentary by Michael Cannon (Cato Institute) and myself.

The Politics of Star Wars (audio of my December 2015 Libertarianism.org podcast on the politics of the Star Wars franchise—produced just before the release of The Force Awakens, so it only covers the development of the franchise up to just before that point).

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  1. In before someone else says that “Alderaan was a legitimate military target.”

    Also, Rose Tico is a idiot.

    1. Well that’s silly! I doubt Darth Vader or Emperor Platitude cared about justifying their choice of targets.

      1. Actually, it was Grand Moff Tarkin who made the call, given the authority to do so by the Emperor.

        I don’t actually believe that it was a legitimate military target…I was trolling. However, very persuasive cases have been made that Alderaan was no different than say, the firebombing of Tokyo or the bombing of Dresden. I just have to remind myself that the Empire is supposed to be space Nazis. Then again, in the original trilogy the rebels were supposed to be like the Viet Cong, a group just as bad.

        1. It was selected for the terror it creates. This is the Nazis rounding up 10 or 30 citizens to kill for every soldier the resistance killed. It is a well-known psychological thing — if you want to stamp out a behavior in a population, punish not just the perpetrators, but also those that allow it to happen. This is also why it is a war crime.

          Tarkin even states he would “prefer another target…a military target?” then blows it up anyway to “be an effective demonstration”…of what will happen to worlds that resist.

          Terrorism writ large.

          Firebombings and nukes were to destroy industry. The attacked are under no obligation to take increased deaths to save coincidental casualties on the other side. Send your child in to fight and die to save their civilians while fighting their military if you like. Maybe they’ll die from a bullet produced by a civilian you didn’t wanna kill, and rest happy your son is dead so the mother of that worker in a nearby house can live.

          1. ‘Tarkin even states he would ‘prefer another target…a military target?’

            No. actually, he doesn’t.
            He suggests Princess Leia might.
            He doesn’t know that Alderaan is a major sponsor of the Alliance.

    2. I find your lack of faith disturbing.

    3. “We had to destroy Alderaan in order to save it.”

  2. I must say, most of the Rebellion is near-humans, not humans. Most of the Galaxy was near-human. Also, the Rebellion was started largely by humans. Later on, alien species that rebelled were harshly put down, enough so they couldn’t rebel again. Near-humans weren’t treated the same.

    1. Regarding droids, the Alliance was far more tolerant of individualist droids than the Empire. In Legends progress was made on their legal rights but in Disney Canon it seems they didn’t have enough time.

    2. Allow me to be a troll.

      After using the Windows operating system for many years, I am convinced that discrimination against artificial life is not only justified, it is a moral imperative.

      1. So, you would punish others for your own mistakes, and call it “moral”?

        Trollish, indeed.

  3. The link to “Star Wars, Science Fiction, and the Constitution” doesn’t seem to work.

  4. Star Wars is fantasy, not science fiction.

  5. Of course the people on this site take the side of a bunch of heavily-armed religious cultists who tried to overthrow the democratically-elected leader of the Republic just because he was a member of a different religion, including an attempt to execute an unarmed prisoner without trial.

    1. I give you credit, Bigoted Right-Wing Mini-Me: You correctly pegged Prof. Volokh as a guy who would ban someone for making fun of conservatives but has no objection to your impersonation of me. You appear to know right-wing polemicists better than I do; I genuinely would have expected Prof. Volokh to go the other way in each case.

      I guess I have much to learn about right-wingers’ ethics, practices, and policies.

      Carry on, Mini-Me.

      1. Not fooling anyone.

  6. I don’t get the fascination with treating the lore of Star Wars or Star Trek as anything beyond fantasy let alone a serious topic worthy of analysis for its ‘implications’. They’re both pretty rubbish universes that probably look nothing like what actual real life societies would evolve into either technically or philosophically. Its like analyzing the influence that Plato’s Allegory of the Cave has on Teletubbies. The closest you can get is calling them for what political vehicles they are which is obviously socialist utopianism for Star Trek and genY SJWism for the new Star Wars.

    There’s countless far…far better franchises out there that are more rigorously thought out and are far more fun to break down if you’re not so hopelessly lazy that you can look beyond the biggest mainstream blockbusters. Even lotr has a ton of interesting systematically designed backstory.

    1. Politics is downstream of culture, and pop culture is how many people make sense of the world. How many times was Trump compared to Voldemort? Countless.

    2. I’m thinking that one reason for promoting Star Wars Day (aside from making money for Disney) is do deflect attention away from what May 4th might otherwise be most associated with, remembering what happened on that date in 1970 at Kent State University.

      1. Maybe if Star Wars had happened a decade earlier, campus nerds woud have been inside bitching and moaning about political and war parallels instead of actually being outside trying to do something about it!

    3. The original Star Trek was very much sci-fi. It was about exploring far-out ideas in science with a popular audience. They even used NASA consultants and, later, Asimov to keep things grounded in theoretically plausible reality.

      Also, the idea that a post-scarcity society is a allegory for socialism is stupid. That doesn’t even make sense. It’s an affirmation that science and technology really can and do make life better. This is one of the core themes of Star Trek.

      1. The problem with Star Trek isn’t the idea of post scarcity. Its the absurd notion that people would maintain 9-5 jobs and conventional 20th century collectivist social structures in the face of it. Rottenberry did allow for some ‘changes’ but superficial ones and he makes it clear he’s trapped in conventional thinking specifically the thinking of 20th century leftwingers who believe history is a straight line march to an eternal utopia where everybody is a content and homogeneous little worker bee for the State just cuz. As it stands Harry Potter or LOTR would make for accurate picture of the human condition. .

        1. To the extend that Star Trek is about the human condition, it is about rising above the human condition, not depicting it.

          “We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands, but we can stop it! We can admit that we’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes… knowing that we won’t kill today.” – Kirk to Anan 7 TOS : A Taste of Armageddon

          1. “Fire phasers” — Kirk to Sulu, “Balance of Terror” (and a dozen others).

      2. “The original Star Trek was very much sci-fi”

        Some was, some wasn’t. Depended on the writer of the particular episode. For example, there’s the “law of parallel evolution”, that gave TOS an episode set in the alien Roman planet, and Yangs and Comms. By next Gen, they’d largely surrendered the pretense of being SF. They just through whatever vaguely sciency-sounding words together, whether the combination made any real sense or not. The pinnacle of this was “The Next Phase”.

  7. “one of the world’s most popular science fiction franchises”

    You mean, now that Isaac Asimov is dead?

    1. How does his death affect the status of Star Wars?

    2. Asimov was awesome!

      1. But his lasting impact on mass-market entertainment is slight. He caught a major plot oversight in the novelization of Fantastic Voyage. And the made a movie out of one of his books, that had nothing to do with the original book’s stories.

  8. I do find the politics of Star Wars interesting, mostly because of how misplaced the sentiments towards the Old Galactic Republic were.

    The Sith Overthrow basically replaced the Old Republic’s Industrial Corporatism with Militant Despotism. While the Empire was worse, it probably wasn’t noticeably so for most of the Galaxy.

    The Jedi were largely the enforcers of the Republic’s interests operating under the mast of law and order is the same thing as righteousness, probably putting work in to justify the ongoing funding of the order as a quasi state religion. Yes, the Separatists were astroturfed by the Sith, but its’ not like their gripes with the Galactic core worlds weren’t legitimate.

  9. Poe got them all killed. If he had followed orders, things would have turned out much better.

    I see no obvious evidence that the Empire or First Order is more oppressive than the Republic. The Republic tolerated mass poverty and slavery (of humans, not just droids).

    I don’t see why anyone except the elite would care who was in power. They are all corrupt and power seeking.

    Rogue One was ridiculous. 1/2 the movie was running around a battlefield flipping giant manual switches, reminiscent of a Halo campaign.

  10. “I am altering the deal, pray I don’t alter it any further.” Chief Justice Vader, rewriting COTUS.

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