“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has officially hit U.S. theaters as of Dec. 18, and fans of the science fiction franchise are lining up for the big screen returns of Luke, Leia, and Han.
Although fans will likely rejoice over “Episode VII,” experts are nerding out over the film’s release for other reasons. Namely, they want to know what happened to the “galaxy far, far away” after the end of “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.”
At the end of the film, which was released in 1983 and predated the “prequels” by about two decades, the Rebel Alliance managed to defeat the evil Galactic Empire, which included villains Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine.
But Zachary Feinstein, assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis, says that the galaxy’s economy must have also been in shambles at the end of the film.
Feinstein published a case study titled “It’s a Trap: Emperor Palpatine’s Poison Pill,” wherein he assesses the economy and applies some financial risk analysis the in the “Star Wars” universe. He even went as far as establishing the “Gross Galactic Product,” similar to the real-world GDP.
Ultimately, he concluded that the Rebel Alliance would have had to bail out the Imperial banking sector to prevent the galactic economy from a total collapse — similar to real-life bailouts provided to banks by the United States government.
“This project was really about modeling the size of the Galactic economy and banking sector,” Feinstein told Phys.org. “Once I had that, I simply applied my research on measuring financial systemic risk to determine the required bailout.”
For most Americans, the term bailout brings to mind the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which gave $250 billion to banking institutions and helped the feds purchase various debts — including mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and more — from lenders.
Yet in the “Star Wars” universe, the bailout could have reached even more epic proportions, said Feinstein.
Both Death Stars were destroyed at the end of “Return of the Jedi,” which Feinstein estimated cost a staggering combined $612 quintillion. The bailout for the Imperial financial sector would have had to be worth at least 15 to 20% of the entire Galactic economy’s resources, which he estimated at a whopping $4.6 sextillion.
This could also be the result of poor financial planning for the Empire, as research shows that 30% of businesses fail due to a lack of balanced or managerial experience. Typically, these companies have poor credit granting practices, expand too quickly, or don’t borrow an adequate amount of money, which might explain why the Empire took so long to “awaken” after “Episode VI.”
Feinstein also argued that the destruction of the Empire would have resulted in a 30% drop in the size of the overall economy overnight — more than four combined years of losses from the Great Depression in the United States. That’s pretty grim, Feinstein said, for the average Imperial citizen.
“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 [was] too late,” Feinstein said. “It may be that the Force is awakening 30 years after the events of Episode VI because of the economic forces at play.”