Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The politics of the Jedi

I was trying to avoid posting about Drezner's post on the Jedi, but then Bernstein goaded me.  I crumble under that kind of pressure.

Anyway, Drezner is trying to categorize the Jedi Order politically.  Are they libertarians or big government liberals?  As he says,
I think it would be more accurate to describe them as cartelistic -- they refuse to permit a free market in learning the ways of the Force. After all, the Jedi Council's initial inclination is not to train Anakin Skywalker despite his obvious talents, using some BS about fear as a cover. Only when Qui-Gon threatens to go rogue do they relent. The Council does not inform the Senate that their ability to detect the force has been compromised. They're reluctant to expand their assigned tasks -- they're keepers of the peace, not soldiers. Just as clearly, their anti-competitive policies weakened their own productivity, given the fact that they were unable to detect a Sith Lord walking around right under their noses for over a decade. [Emphasis in original]
I think his categorization is accurate, although I'd hasten to point out that the Jedi Council's original decision not to train Anakin was, in retrospect, the right call.  So there's something to be said for elitism.

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.

Politically, it's really hard to categorize the Jedi, or the Galactic Republic in general, because Lucas gives us so few policy issues to work with.  The Republic turns a blind eye to slavery, not so much because they like slavery but because they just largely ignore what goes on on the Outer Rim planets.  That's not so much liberal or conservative as weak.  It's also largely unable to resolve a trade dispute among its own members.  Bernstein's analogy to the Articles of Confederation is spot on.  But the Jedi don't really seem to take positions on any of this stuff.

Update: Welcome Atlantic Wire readers!  Wait, I'm a libertarian?  How will I tell my children, Rand and Galt?


marc said...

They're hiding something. Thankfully, there's Wookieleaks:

Rhombus said...

This argument has been amusing me for the last few days or so. I do not believe that either classification is appropriate for the Jedi Order. They cannot be libertarians or big government liberals because Mace Windu proposes the equivalent of a junta in Revenge of the Sith. That is, until order could be restored, of course. I think the best designation would be that of Classical Liberalism. Classical liberalism does advocate small government, but the Jedi seem to not have a preference of political system as long as it conforms to the Jedi's primary goals for universe kind and I imagine they would want as little intrusion into everyday life as possible. I do think they are in favor of free and fair trade as that helps prevent conflicts