Monday, July 26, 2010

Not Really A Monday Movie Post (But W/Jedi)

Not a Monday Movie Post, but since Seth Masket has been oddly silent in response to the recent libertarian attacks on the Jedi Order, I guess I'll have to be the one who responds.  It all started with a stray and presumably tongue-in-libertarian-cheek comment from Reason's Jesse Kline in an otherwise terrific post:
Although the Jedis did assist the Rebel Alliance in overthrowing a tyrannical emperor, it's clear that the Knights were originally set up to enforce the Galactic Senate's big government agenda.
Well.  With that, Dan Drezner went to town with an impassioned, er, discussion of the Jedi.  You certainly want to read it in full (I mean, if you're nerdy enough to still be reading this far; I'm assuming most of the sensible people are long gone).  Drezner focuses on what he sees as the Jedi's attempt to monopolize the Force:
Are the Jedi big government advocates?  That's unclear.  I think it would be more accurate to describe them as cartelistic --  they refuse to permit a free market in learning the ways of the Force. Just as clearly, their anti-competitive policies weakened their own productivity, given the fact that they were unable to detect a Sith Lord walking around right under their noses for over a decade.  

His emphasis, but really, isn't it everyone's emphasis?  He goes on...make sure you read the P.S.

OK, my turn.  As much as I'd like to spend my time poking fun at typical libertarian assumptions about markets and Homo Liberal, which they assume are the only form of humanity and the only form of commerce, I'll stick with something closer to home: political institutions.  The Galactic Republic?  We have a unicameral legislature, and as far as we can see each planet gets one vote.*  The Republic appears to be pretty much absent in the internal affairs of the planets.  The only policies it considers that we know of are war and trade negotiations.  Within either (presumably) core planets such as Naboo, or peripherals ones such as Tatooine, the central government appeared to have little if any presence or authority.  What does that sound like to you?   You got it -- it's the Articles of Confederation.  Sure, they call their legislature a Senate, but there doesn't actually seem to be anything very Senate-like about it (just as there's nothing very Senate-like about the United States Senate under the Constitution).  Moreover, the crisis that Palpatine creates and uses to spark the wars that eventually lead to Empire is a crisis of weak government, not strong: it's about trade disputes within the Republic!

There's also some stuff about bureaucrats "really" running things in the Republic, but since our only evidence for that is that Palpatine said it as part of his manipulation of Amidala (and therefore it has less than a 50/50 chance of actually being true), I'll have to pass on the opportunity to talk about  how important it is to have politicians, and not civil servants, in charge.  But it is.  Although preferably, not Sith politicians.  You don't really want that. 

I do have to get one shot in...Drezner complains about "Beyond George Lucas' rather bigoted portrayal of anything involving commerce."  Really?  Who's the most likable character in the Star Wars movies?  OK, not counting R2D2.  Isn't it Han Solo, galactic smuggler, pirate, and all-around scoundrel?  Sure, Solo eventually realizes that there's more to life than money, but that doesn't mean he's not fond of money, and we're certainly fond of him.  I don't see it, at all.  Presumably we don't like the greedy Watto, but he's a bad guy because of his slaves, not because he's a businessman.  (I suppose Jabba the Hut is a bad guy, but everyone likes him, right?).  Perhaps Drezner is thinking of the Trade Federation.  That's a mistake!  The Trade Federation aren't actually the Bad Guys of the Clone Wars; the only Bad Guy of the Clone Wars is Palpatine. 

You want a commerce-hater?  That's Star Trek, the Next Generation, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard, scourge of the Ferengi and 20th century businessmen.  Star Wars?  Sure, a strong and inexplicable bias against death sticks, but, er, um....

Where was I?  I can't remember.  I wanna go home and rethink my life.

*I'm afraid I know that from Star Wars, The Clone Wars.  Think of me what you will, but no spoilers, please: I'm four or five episodes behind.

(UPDATE:  Don't miss Adam Serwer's comments.  And I apparently shamed Seth into playing).


  1. Hutt traffics in (sex?) slaves so there's another reason he's a bad guy. Boba Fett's a bad guy: he's an independent contractor and the reason for his badness is that he'll accept contracts from anyone. OTOH, everyone loves him. The Trade Federation is bad but it's bad because it prevents trade via a blockade.

    I'm not sure SW really has a coherent ideological agenda regarding trade.

  2. I always had the impression that Lucas basically stole the intergalactic government/commerce trappings straight from Dune, without actually thinking through how it actually works or what it means. And I think Herbert was pretty clearly a libertarian capitalist trying to portray the evils of big government structures, govt-supported oligarchy, etc. etc.

    As for TNG, my only question is what fun is a poker game in a world without money? (Although my real question is, how can you allow an empath into the game?)

  3. This dispute becomes much clearer when you realize the values of the original trilogy have virtually nothing to do with the prequels -- something very easy to see, if hard to accept for the die hard fan.

    In the original, yes Han Solo is the most likeable character (though, in the original-original, he shoots a Jabba henchman in cold blood), but when we get to [i]The Phantom Menace[/i], every rep of "commerce" is either the Trade Federation (cowardly, and disturbingly reminiscent of Asian sterotypes), or the slave dealers of Tatooine.

  4. You pulled me back in, Jon. My post is here.

    Meanwhile, responding to Anonymous, Solo doesn't really shoot Greedo in cold blood, even in the original rendition. Greedo has a pistol pointed at Solo and several times says he's going to kill him. With a halfway decent lawyer, Solo could have gotten off on self-defense.

  5. This made my day. Thanks.

  6. "I can't believe [the Phantom Menace] was Senate redistricting."
    -Lisa Simpson

    Dave H

  7. Three Dave/Davids in comments on one post? Cool.

    DSB: I always thought it was Asimov's galactic republic/empire. Perhaps not.

    As for Deanna Troi in a poker game...yeah, I'm not really all that worried about her superpowers. I believe she's about to sense that she's lost all her chips, again.

  8. This argument has been amusing me for the last few days or so. I do not believe that either classification is appropriate for the Jedi Order. They cannot be libertarians or big government liberals because Mace Windu proposes the equivalent of a junta in Revenge of the Sith. That is, until order could be restored, of course. I think the best designation would be that of Classical Liberalism. Classical liberalism does advocate small government, but the Jedi seem to not have a preference of political system as long as it conforms to the Jedi's primary goals for universe kind and I imagine they would want as little intrusion into everyday life as possible. I do think they are in favor of free and fair trade as that helps prevent conflicts

  9. They cannot be libertarians or big government liberals because Mace Windu proposes the equivalent of a junta in Revenge of the Sith.

    Still labeling Mace as the scapegoat of the Jedi, I see. It was Ki-Adi Mundi who first made the proposal, not Mace.


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