The politics of Siths and Smurfs

Darth and KerryA recent offhand comment over at The Corner describing someone as “slightly to the right of Darth Vader” promoted Jonah Goldberg to vigorously protest.

It’s an amusing read, not so much as a political statement but the amount of free time some people have to think about such significant issues.

Darth Vader grew up poor and oppressed ā€” a slave even! He was saved by a progressive organization which took him in out of a mixture of pity and affirmative action. … Corrupted by power, John Kerryesque arrogance, and other selfish motives, young Darth ā€” then going by his slave name Anakin ā€” embraced the Empire which sought to overturn the planet’s-rights system of the republic in favor of centralized planning. He then dedicated most of his career to enforcing a classically progressive, top-down socialism of the “one-best way,” breaking contracts with mining companies when it suited him. Late in life, when he realized the unintended consequences of central planning, he recanted. So maybe at the very end he was a neocon of sorts.

A neocon, huh? You may be right, Jonah:

vader again

Then again, Vader would fit in well with the Natural Law Party. He embodies much of their of platform, or at least the portions of the platform the party kept hidden.

The Natural Law Party is essentially the political arm of the Transcendental Meditation movement, led by the mighty, mighty Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Practitioners of this ancient art, including the NLP’s three-time presidential candidate John Hagelin, believe they can fly, become one with the universe and influence the actions of a great mass of people with a single thought.

What is interesting about such a silly debate – the politics of a fictional Sith Lord – is there is indeed such a debate. Politics and governmental structure underline much of the plot in the Star Wars saga. I’m not referring so much to the new movies as I am the old ones. I remember rewatching ANH in college and being struck by the screen time given to discussion on the political structure of the Empire:

TARKIN: The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I’ve just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.

TAGGE: That’s impossible! How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?

TARKIN: The regional governors now have direct control over territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this
battle station.

That’s the last time the word “Senate” appears in the script. When the revisionist money whore Lucas released the three prequels, politics did take a front seat, especially in Episode III. It is assumed by many that Lucas was taking a swipe at Bush, especially given Anakin’s line to Obi-Wan: “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy.” Lucas shrugged it off by droning on about how “he patterned his story after historical transformations from freedom to fascism.”

Yet Jonathan V. Last at the Weekly Standard didn’t get the memo. He argued back in 2002 that “The deep lesson of Star Wars is that the Empire is good”:

Make no mistake, as emperor, Palpatine is a dictator–but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet. It’s a dictatorship people can do business with. They collect taxes and patrol the skies. They try to stop organized crime (in the form of the smuggling rings run by the Hutts). The Empire has virtually no effect on the daily life of the average, law-abiding citizen.

Also, unlike the divine-right Jedi, the Empire is a meritocracy. The Empire runs academies throughout the galaxy (Han Solo begins his career at an Imperial academy), and those who show promise are promoted, often rapidly. In “The Empire Strikes Back” Captain Piett is quickly promoted to admiral when his predecessor “falls down on the job.”

It’s a interesting read … if you accept that such thoughts are worth exploring. If they do, do you also wonder how best to describe the political structure of, say, the Smurfs? Benelovent dictatorship via Papa Smurf? Caste system, under which Handy Smurf had not choice but to build? Or was Gargemel simply a metaphor to be rekindled in the light of Bush’s insistence to rule the world?

Actually, the correct answer is communist (Until playing with google just now I had no idea this debate existed):

But the Smurf society can also be seen as an anarchist economy where everyone produces goods and services according to its skills, without planification, and where harmony emerges from the complementarity and good will of all Smurfs. Papa Smurf being only in charge of organizing some important works that necessitates the collaboration of all Smurfs, for example large infrastructure works, or security activities. In that case it is more close to a utopian anarchist or libertarian society, or to a primitive community economy, than a society inspired by communism and planification.

Sad but true.

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