It’s common knowledge that Death Stars are wildly expensive weapons of mass destruction. What we didn’t know, until now, is that destroying two of them would bankrupt the Galactic Empire. Apparently Luke and his small band of Rebels didn’t crunch the numbers, either.
Like it or not, that’s the sobering conclusion of a new analysis of the economic fallout of the Death Stars’ destruction performed by financial engineering professor Zachary Feinstein. Feinstein’s paper, aptly titled “It’s a Trap: Emperor Palpatine’s Poison Pill,” can be read in its entirety on arXiv. Here’s the long and short of it.
Although others have worked out the cost of building a Death Star before, Feinstein decided to start from scratch, estimating the amount of steel and other raw materials required to build the planet-destroying weapon. After factoring in research and development, he arrived at a total cost of $419 quintillion dollars for both Galactic war machines.
That figure may sound mind-boggling, but we should remember that Emperor Palpatine had an entire Galactic Empire’s worth of assets at his disposal. Feinstein, for his part, was more interested in learning how the Imperial banking system would respond if the largest construction project in the Galaxy was suddenly destroyed. Popular Science explains his findings:
Following logic stitched together from prequels and Wookiepedia, we get a galactic banking sector with assets that are 60 percent of the gross galactic domestic product. [Feinstein calculates the Galactic GDP to be roughly $4.6 sextillion per year.]
Since these banks are likely heavily invested in the Empire itself and the Death Star specifically, the destruction of one Death Star by intergalactic terrorists and the collapse of the Empire following the destruction of the second, would devastate the galactic markets, and create a financial crisis on a truly massive scale.
Without significant cash on hand to bail out the crumbling financial system—and from the size and shape of Ackbar’s fleet I think it’s safe to assume the Rebels were operating on a shoestring—Feinstein concludes that the Alliance’s assault on Sith authority would have precipitated an economic disaster of “astronomical proportions.”
We can only assume the ever-scheming Palpatine is smiling from beyond the grave.
Top image: Lucasfilm