Friday, February 29, 2008

Star Wars, statism, and freedom

Over the last month or so, we've watched all six episodes of Star Wars. Of course, Tonia and I had seen the first three (that were released) as youngsters, but not the last three. (We don't get out to see movies much anymore!) Beyond general interest, our oldest three boys have thoroughly enjoyed the Legos Star Wars video games (when we visit my wife's parents) and were quite interested to see the films.

In Episodes 4-6, freedom-- and in particular, freedom from the (nearly) omnipotent and evil State-- is, of course, a prevalent theme. But threats to freedom of that sort are common to movies-- good vs. evil, opportunities for rescue and redemption, etc. So, it didn't strike me as being noteworthy.

But in seeing Episodes 1-3 recently, it is clear that the (potential) evils of the State are intentionally fleshed out by George Lucas in significant detail-- beyond plot device to philosophical statement.

The tension in Episode 1 derives from trade protectionism and the desire to use force to prevent mutually beneficial trade. Of course, war is a prominent theme. More broadly, the initiation of force is largely condemned within the Jedi code-- something that rightfully excites Libertarians. (Lucas does leave it unclear whether he views "final" uses of force as legitimate-- for example, when Mace Windu plans to finish off a "defenseless" Chancellor Palpatine at the end of their battle.) Finally, the theoretical and practical flaws of democracy are highlighted alongside the even graver dangers of dictatorship.

And then there's the killer line from Padme: "So this is how liberty dies...with thunderous applause."


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