Delegating the Dark Side of the Force

With Cass Sunstein working on a book about Star Wars and the new movie soon to drop, I thought I’d take the bait and write about the constitution of the First Galactic Empire.

If we use constitution in the British sense to describe the way in which a government works, then the most interesting feature of the Empire is its decentralized structure and breathtaking delegations of power. This is established early on in Episode Four, following the dissolution of the  Senate and (presumably) the end of Jar Jar Binks’s career.

In response to the dissolution, one of the Death Star officers asks, “How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?” Grand Moff Tarkin replies, “The regional governors now have direct control over their territories.”  (I would think that governors would also have a bureaucracy, but anyway.). The power of these imperial governors was nothing, though, compared to the authority delegated to the Grand Moff himself, who could destroy entire planets without the need for consultation.  No wonder the commander of the Second Death Star is shocked in Episode Six when he learns that the Emperor conducting an inspection (“The Emperor is coming here?”)  After all, he never does anything in person.

Yet there were costs to an administrative design that placed so much trust in subordinates.  First, Darth Vader was free to hand the plans to the Death Star to the rebels with disastrous consequences.  Second, the commander chosen to lead an entire legion of the Empire’s best troops was incompetent and defeated by a bunch of teddy bears.  Third, the Empire only narrowly avoided a succession crisis, as it was not clear whether Vader or the Grand Moff was second-in-command (arguably Tarkin ordered Vader to release a choke-hold on his colleague and Vader complied (“As you wish.”).

Of course, centralized evil empires also have flaws.  See Sauron v. Frodo, 56 M.E. 875 (3rd Age, Mordor).


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5 Responses

  1. Mike Stern says:

    Can hardly wait for Bart and Shag to debate whether Darth Vader is a progressive or a Tea Party Republican.