Tatooine and the Empire

There’s an interesting thought experiment about the Star Wars universe that the Empire wasn’t really the evil it was portrayed to be.

When you look at what the Empire could have offered to a world like Tatooine, which was ruled by warlords, drug cartels, and rife with slavery, the Empire looks less cartoonishly evil. After all, the Empire offered rule of law, economic development, and a somewhat meritocratic system of social lifts.

That’s why I’d like to see an Extended Universe book that shows a world positively transformed by the Empire: local crime syndicates dismantled, corruption rooted out, and the local population embracing education and industry.

None of the alternatives to the Empire look all that appealing as they quickly devolve into chaos and local wars. And exploring this in a fantasy universe, would mirror why fascist movements have such wide-spread support in many places in our real universe: it’s better than any of the locally available alternatives.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because of Nayib Bukele, who has made El Salvador into a livable place. He’s just won 85% of the vote for a second term, which is likely an accurate reflection of his popularity. The NYT tells us why:

Mr. Bukele’s unparalleled rise comes down to a single factor: El Salvador’s stunning crime drop. Since he took office in 2019, intentional homicide rates have decreased from 38 per 100,000 in that year to 7.8 in 2022, well below the Latin American average of 16.4 for the same year.

The crackdown Mr. Bukele has led on organized crime has all but dismantled the infamous street gangs that terrorized the population for decades.

The rest of the article is a hit piece explaining why Bukele is actually bad. The Economist ran a similar piece, so it’s not just the NYTs generally abysmal reporting.

And the argument has an allure: big police operations are always messy and have excesses; undoubtably, innocent men are sitting in El Salvadoran jails.

But a lot of innocent men, women, and children died at the hands of gangs. Extortion rackets made economic livelihood impossible. It’s a price that the overwhelming majority of people in El Salvador are willing to pay.

Western journalism muddles cause and effect. The liberal societies of Western Europe are the result of stability, strong trust in institutions, and prosperity. In short, you can start at the top of Maslow’s pyramid. And it’s telling to see the vitriol directed towards any non-Western leader that tries to build a prosperous, stable state.

Going back to my original point, I’d like to see some fantasy based on the periphery of society where the bad guys” are actually the good guys and the supposed romantic heroes are a mix of self-serving mercenaries and their useful idiots.