“I am your father, and you owe me $193 quintillion.”
That’s what Darth Vader might have said to Luke Skywalker in their epic confrontation in “Empire Strikes Back,” given the astronomical cost of building the Death Star that Luke blew up in Episode IV.
The number comes from calculations carried out by Zachary Feinstein, an assistant professor of financial engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. Feinstein created an economic model for the construction and destruction of the two Death Stars by using the costs involved in building the aircraft supercarrier USS Gerald Ford as a baseline.
He concluded that building the first Death Star would have cost the equivalent of $193 quintillion. That’s $193 billion times a million, or $193,000,000,000,000,000,000.
The second Death Star, being larger, would have cost even more — $419 quintillion.
The second Death Star's destruction would have triggered a galactic debt crisis that would have required a $900-quintillion bailout.
Now you may be thinking, an Empire that collects taxes from an entire galaxy can surely afford this.
But no. Even with an estimated “gross galactic product” of $4.6 sextillion (you don’t even want to see how many zeroes come after that number), the Empire would largely have to have borrowed the quintillions needed to build the Death Stars, Feinstein concludes.
So when Darth Vader warned Grand Moff Tarkin not to be “too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed,” he might have been thinking of the monthly payments.
A debt burden that big could cause a serious disturbance in the Force, should something go wrong. Like, for instance, the destruction of the Death Star by some rebel scum.
So when the rebels destroyed the second, and more expensive, Death Star in "Return of the Jedi," they would have prompted the crumbling Empire to default on $515.5 quintillion in government bonds, Feinstein estimates, which would pretty much destroy the galactic financial system overnight.
That's because, as Feinstein tells us in his study, the galactic financial system is “created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”
Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, economic terrorists.
“The most surprising result was how large the economic collapse could be,” Feinstein told the Daily Mail.
“Without a bailout, there was a non-negligible chance of over 30 per cent drop in the size of the galactic economy overnight —larger than the losses from the Great Depression over 4 years (from peak to trough).”
The study estimates the Rebel Alliance would have to arrange a bailout of massive proportions, even in galactic terms — amounting to 15 to 20 per cent of gross galactic product, or as much as $900 quintillion.
Probably not the economic news the rebels were looking for.
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