Jedi Knights Are Like the Taliban

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Three political commentators have followed up on the earlier debate about the politics of Star Wars, in which other political commentators alternatively argued that Jedi Knights are socialist, libertarian, or centrist. Here are the latest mid-afternoon musings on this important subject, with one commentator reaching the inevitable conclusion that Jedi knights are a lot like the Taliban.

  • It's About Checks and Balances  The American Prospect's Adam Serwer argues that "the real problem with the Galactic Republic was the type of government."
Sure, it's fair to say that the Galactic Republic was large, but it was a completely decentralized institution, responsible mostly for facilitating trade, moderating disputes and maintaining a standard currency. They had no standing military and a weak chief executive, which is precisely how Palpatine took over in the first place. If anything, Palpatine's ability to manipulate the initial dispute between Naboo and the Trade Federation into a full-on conflict is an example of what happens when government doesn't have the ability to ensure the market remains free and fair.
  • It's About the Articles of Confederation  Liberal blogger Jonathan Bernstein makes the case that Star Wars is about the struggle between states' rights versus strong federal government:
The Galactic Republic? We have a unicameral legislature, and as far as we can see each planet gets one vote. The Republic appears to be pretty much absent in the internal affairs of the planets. The only policies it considers that we know of are war and trade negotiations. Within either (presumably) core planets such as Naboo, or peripherals ones such as Tatooine, the central government appeared to have little if any presence or authority. What does that sound like to you? You got it -- it's the Articles of Confederation. Sure, they call their legislature a Senate, but there doesn't actually seem to be anything very Senate-like about it (just as there's nothing very Senate-like about the United States Senate under the Constitution). Moreover, the crisis that Palpatine creates and uses to spark the wars that eventually lead to Empire is a crisis of weak government, not strong: it's about trade disputes within the Republic!
There are no great analogues for the Jedi in modern American society.  They are a secretive, powerful religious sect contracted by the Republic to do vital governing tasks that include policing and diplomacy.  Perhaps the Knights Templar were similar in some ways, although I don't think the Knights had any real authority within European society.  Their jurisdiction was the Holy Land.  In some ways, the Jedi sound more like the Taliban than anything we've got going in the U.S.
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