May The Cuts In Capital Gains Taxes Be With You

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up

P.M. Jaworski:

It is difficult to argue with the claims of long-form census supporters that the long form of the census is really important and vital (although we’ve given it a shot — see here for the latest in a series of posts entitled “WS on the census”). For example, how else can we find out how many people are Jedi knights?

According to the 2001 census, 21,000 Canadians listed “Jedi knight” as their religion. Dmitri Soudas, communications director for the prime minister’s office, made prominent reference to this fact in an email to the press gallery:

21,000 Canadians registered Jedi knight as a religion in the 2001 census.

Religion is asked every 10 years.

We made the 40-page long form voluntary because government should not threaten prosecution or jail time to force Canadians to divulge unnecessary private and personal information.

Canadians don’t want the government at their doorstep at 10 o’clock at night while they may be doing something in their bedroom, like reading, because government wants to know how many bedrooms they have.

The Ignatieff Liberals promise to force all Canadians to answer personal and intrusive questions about their private lives under threat of jail, fine, or both.

We’re not sure if Canadians want the government to show up on someone’s doorstep at 10 at night, but we are fairly certain that no government official wants to mess with a competent Jedi knight, especially if the knight has succumbed to the dark side of the force.

This is unfortunately the case for Canadian Hayden Christensen, whose Jedi name is Anakin Skywalker. Christensen is one of the three or four most significant adherents to Jedi knightry.

In spite of the significance of this Canadian to the faith, and in spite of Canada being, on January 12, 2009, the first country in the world to recognize the Order of the Jedi Inc. as a federally incorporated non-profit religious entity, Canada did not lead the world in Jedis.

According to 2001 census reports from the English-speaking world, England and Wales led the world in absolute terms, with over 390,000 (0.8%) Jedis. “The 2001 census reveals that 390,000 people across England and Wales are devoted followers of the Jedi ‘faith,'” the BBC reported in 2003.

England also has the distinction of having elected a Jedi Member of Parliament. Jamie Reed, then-newly-elected Labour Party MP, commented on the proposed Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill by saying, “as the first Jedi Member of this place, I look forward to the protection under the law that will be provided to me by the Bill.”

Canada also lagged behind Australia, with over 70,000 (0.37%) Jedis in 2001. In May of 2001, the Australian Board of Statistics released a press release to the media on the topic of Jedis. “If your belief system is “Jedi” then answer as such on the census form. But if you would normally answer Anglican or Jewish or Buddhist or something else to the question “what is your religion?” and for the census you answer “Jedi” then this may impact on social services provision if enough people do the same,” read the press release.

The honour of most Jedis on a per capita basis goes to New Zealand, with over 53,000 adherents, making up 1.5 per cent of the population, second only to “Christian” at 58.9 per cent (“No Religion” accounted for 28.9 per cent, with 6.9 per cent objecting to the question).

Membership in the Jedi Church is not restricted to English-speaking humans from Earth. “The Jedi Church recognises that there is one all powerful force that binds all things in the universe together, and accepts all races and species from all over the universe as potential members of the religion,” explains the official website of the Jedi Church.

Jesse Kline at Reason:

Much like in this country, Canadians are required to fill out a census form every five years. A randomly selected group of people, however, are given a long-form census with invasive questions about personal relationships, work and migration histories, and family background, among other things. While I wouldn’t have thought that making such questions voluntary would be all that controversial, a surprising number of people are up in arms over the proposal.

Many groups are worried that a voluntary census would hamper the government’s ability to collect reliable data, which is then acquired by these groups at prices far below market value. Yet, considering that in 2001, 21,000 Canadians listed their religion as Jedi Knight, it would appear as though collecting information under the threat of coercion doesn’t work very well either. Census data from other countries also shows that the world’s Jedi population is growing. But as many European countries move to eliminate the census altogether, Canadian Jedis are up in arms.

Although the Jedis did assist the Rebel Alliance in overthrowing a tyrannical emperor, it’s clear that the Knights were originally set up to enforce the Galactic Senate’s big government agenda. Not to be outdone, the empire continues its assault on private property. Security cameras in Long Island caught Darth Vader holding up a bank yesterday morning. If only police in Long Island had census data showing the names and addresses of the local Jedi population, they might have an easier time apprehending the dark lord. And the circle is now complete.

Daniel Drezner:

I must say, I find Jesse’s lack of faith disturbing.  Based on the Star Wars films, we know very little about the Galactic Senate’s pre-Phantom Menace agenda, but we do know that Chancellor Valorum is a pretty weak leader.  We also know Palpatine’s designs.  Upon becoming chancellor, he vows to put down the separatists, raises a Grand Army of the Republic, stays in power well beyond the expected number of years/terms, and finally reorganizes the Republic into the First Galactic Empire.  That’s as big of a big government agenda as you’re going to get.

Are the Jedi big government advocates?  That’s unclear.  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.

So, were the Jedi perfect agents of liberty?  No, probably not.  But neither were they handmaidens to the greatest concentration of state power in galactic history.

P.S.  Beyond George Lucas’ rather bigoted portrayal of anything involving commerce, another source of libertarian resentment against the Jedi might be their lack of respect for property rights.  If the Force is an energy field created by all living things, then why the hell to the Jedi get to exploit it without compensating the creatures who create it in the first place?  If you think about the Jedi as the Guardians of the Republic, this might sound absurd.  Replace “Guardians of the Republic” with “rapacious strip-miners of primordial energy,” however, and suddenly they don’t look so good.  At least the Sith stay small in number, so the externality problem is kept to a minimum.

And now Max Fisher has another round-up.

Adam Serwer at The American Prospect:

In sticking to a small government/good big government/bad dichotomy, Drezner and Walker are missing the fact 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.

Sure it’s easy to see Palpatine soliciting advice from John Yoo, but it’s not like his ultimate goal in conquering the galaxy was passing Social Security or health-insurance reform. If the Galactic Republic had been assembled with a strong but accountable executive that had control of a standing volunteer army with a monopoly on force, the trade dispute on Naboo would never have escalated into a full-scale war, the corporate entities that formed the separatists would have found it more difficult to raise armies, and Palpatine would have had a harder time pushing the Republic toward dictatorship — at the very least because the security and stability of the galaxy wouldn’t have been entrusted to a cloistered religious elite vulnerable to resentment and bigotry. Palpatine’s plot against the Jedi would never have worked had he not managed to, in Nixonian fashion, exploit resentment against a supposedly monastic order living a life of luxury in their giant palace in the middle of the Galactic Capitol — and if they hadn’t been replaced by a clone army with no emotional or social ties to the population.

Jonathan Bernstein:

OK, my turn.  As much as I’d like to spend my time poking fun at typical libertarian assumptions about markets and Homo Liberal, which they assume are the only form of humanity and the only form of commerce, I’ll stick with something closer to home: political institutions.  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’s also some stuff about bureaucrats “really” running things in the Republic, but since our only evidence for that is that Palpatine said it as part of his manipulation of Amidala (and therefore it has less than a 50/50 chance of actually being true), I’ll have to pass on the opportunity to talk about  how important it is to have politicians, and not civil servants, in charge.  But it is.  Although preferably, not Sith politicians.  You don’t really want that.

I do have to get one shot in…Drezner complains about “Beyond George Lucas’ rather bigoted portrayal of anything involving commerce.”  Really?  Who’s the most likable character in the Star Wars movies?  OK, not counting R2D2.  Isn’t it Han Solo, galactic smuggler, pirate, and all-around scoundrel?  Sure, Solo eventually realizes that there’s more to life than money, but that doesn’t mean he’s not fond of money, and we’re certainly fond of him.  I don’t see it, at all.  Presumably we don’t like the greedy Watto, but he’s a bad guy because of his slaves, not because he’s a businessman.  (I suppose Jabba the Hut is a bad guy, but everyone likes him, right?).  Perhaps Drezner is thinking of the Trade Federation.  That’s a mistake!  The Trade Federation aren’t actually the Bad Guys of the Clone Wars; the only Bad Guy of the Clone Wars is Palpatine.

You want a commerce-hater?  That’s Star Trek, the Next Generation, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard, scourge of the Ferengi and 20th century businessmen.  Star Wars?  Sure, a strong and inexplicable bias against death sticks, but, er, um….

Where was I?  I can’t remember.  I wanna go home and rethink my life.

Seth Masket:

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?

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