When the Rebel Alliance destroyed two Death Stars in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, it appeared to herald a new era of freedom for a galaxy that had been living under the tyranny of the Empire.
But according to an academic paper published Tuesday, the demolition of the planet-sized space stations would have had a disastrous effect on the fictional sci-fi universe — namely triggering "an economic depression of astronomical proportions."
The paper entitled "It's a Trap: Emperor Palpatine's Poison Pill" was written by Zachary Feinstein, a financial engineering professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
Feinstein worked on the assumption that at the time of its defeat the Empire would still have owed the banking sector 50 percent of the costs of building the first Death Star — and the entire costs of constructing the second.
This would leave the banks with a shortfall of more than $500 quintillion (if that sounds a lot, it is: the figure has 20 zeros). With the Empire gone, so the theory goes, there would be no one to pay the banks back on these universe-sized loans.
Feinstein calculated that the Rebel Alliance would need financial reserves of at least 15 percent of the Galactic economy to bail out the banks and avoid financial catastrophe.
"Given that the Rebel Alliance is the 'scrappy underdog,' without the resources to build multiple moon-sized space stations, this is a sum they do not have," Feinstein wrote. "Without such funds at the ready, it likely the Galactic economy would enter an economic depression of astronomical proportions."
While Feinstein's 10-page mini-thesis appears meticulously well-researched, trailers for the forthcoming "Star Wars" movie suggest that the writers decided against focusing its plot on the complexities of the banking sector. Which is probably for the best.