Economics of Star Wars – Part 2: The Other 99%

January 25, 2014 – Yesterday’s article discussed the top 1% of the über-wealthy in the Star Wars universe. Today looks at the less-fortunate – the toilers, serfs and servants. A good subtitle might be:
“The Other 99%, and Why the Powerful Jedi are Poor as Dirt”

So let’s begin by stating the obvious:
Intelligence does not guarantee wealth. Many are the geniuses, inventors and creators who have died penniless: Nikola Tesla (inventor who gave us alternating current, radios and wireless technology); writer Edgar Allen Poe; painter Vincent van Gogh. They all died penniless or nearly destitute.

Desire does not guarantee wealth. Think Han Solo, our favorite rogue space-smuggler driven by profit and dodging a bounty on his head for unpaid debts. Despite his strong appetite for a quick profit, never does he amass super wealth like another smuggler, Jabba the Hutt.

Power does not guarantee wealth. If this were true, then surely the most powerful individuals in the Star Wars universe, the Jedi knights and masters, would have attained great wealth. But on screen, we see just the opposite:
Old Ben Kenobi living a hermetic life in the deserts of Tatooine; Master Jedi Yoda living a simple life of self-imposed exile in his modest mud-stone hut on Dagobah.

So why are the Jedi so property-averse? The answer is simple: They choose that course. The Jedi Code never elevates material pursuit above the values of knowledge, peace and service to others:

Jedi are the guardians of peace in the galaxy.
Jedi use their powers to defend and to protect.
Jedi respect all life, in any form.
Jedi serve others rather than ruling over them, for the good of the galaxy.
Jedi seek to improve themselves through knowledge and training.

As for the remainder of the 99% (patrons of the Mos Eisley cantina, the Rebel Alliance mechanics and pilots, storm troopers, Cloud City technocrats, Coruscant bureaucrats, and so on), I believe this quote is helpful:
“Everyone rises to their level of incompetence.” (Laurence J. Peter, U.S. educator and writer). Put another way, individuals, great and small, somehow “find” their place in a society and rise to a certain level of proficiency (and a certain level of wealth-accumulation), but no higher. Everyone and everything has a ceiling. It just happens to be much lower for some than for others.

Does this answer feel unsatisfactory, non-sensical and perhaps even a non-answer? Of course it does. Because the sad truth is that super-wealth-distribution is NOT a meritocracy. The One Percenters of Star Wars received their lucre through a genealogical lottery called inheritance (Queen Amidala, Princess Leia); or through outright thuggery and deception (Jabba the Hutt, the Emperor); or sometimes for no good apparent reason at all (Boss Nass).

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