In recent years, the Star Wars franchise has become a pillar of popular culture. The movies, the games, and the action figures have all added to the planet-wide craze. This is nothing new as this is the third trilogy that takes place in the Star Wars universe – people have gone through all of this before. The only difference is the level of hype that is surrounding Star Wars right now, and most of that hype is because of social media and our addiction to it. But pop culture is not the only thing influenced by Star Wars. Many scientists today have chosen their profession based on their love for Star Wars. And one of the most iconic, and most debated topics in the Star Wars community is the Death Star. So, it is only normal that someone took the time to calculate what the exact cost of building one may be.
Just by looking at it, people might immediately see that a Death Star is an economic catastrophe just waiting to happen. And not only that, the Death Star is a weapon of mass destruction, and it has no other possible use than to conquer entire planets and galaxies. Galactic-scale war crimes are the only thing that can come out of manufacturing a super weapon of this scale. But if that was not bad enough, the cost is so exuberant that our entire galaxy might collapse due to the mortgage necessary to fund the manufacturing of a Death Star.
If we learned anything during the films from the original trilogy, a Death Star is highly impractical. It is slow to maneuver and easy to destroy. But as devastating on the Republic budget as it was to build, its destruction hurts even more. Just the materials alone that went into its production cost a fortune. In order to determine how large that fortune is, professor Zachary Feinstein from Washington University decided to take a long hard look at the financial systems in place in a galaxy far, far away. His work, appropriately named “It’s a Trap: Emperor Palpatine’s Poison Pill” gives us a detailed look into every possible question related to building a Death Star, as well as everything before, during and after its production. It is a must-read for Star Wars geeks and financial nerds alike.
As it was a threat to any planet standing in its way, the Death Star was an even bigger threat to financial stability within the Galactic Empire. Professor Feinstein estimated the amount of steel used in the production of the Death Star in order to determine the cost of raw materials used. Then he used an air carrier as a reference point and extrapolated the costs of non-steel components to the scale of the Death Star. By doing this he came to the lowest possible cost for building the Death Star. And the result? Factoring in the materials and the size of the project, Feinstein came to the conclusion that it cost the Empire a staggering $193 Quintillion. Using some creative math, he also determined that the Empire’s GDP was somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.5 Sextillion per year.
After that, he decided to calculate the financial impact of destroying this behemoth. Since banks have a vested interest in the Empire and the Death Star, the fact that it was destroyed by domestic/intergalactic terrorists and was soon followed by the fall of the Empire itself, this all but destroyed galactic markets and started a financial crisis that puts any of the ones we had on Earth to shame, and by quite a margin.
Sadly, unless the Rebel Alliance had enormous cash reserves, leaving the Death Star alone made much more financial sense for overall stability within the galaxy far, far away than destroying it. As cruel as the Empire might have been, people were probably better of as is.