Image of death star on black background with text "Star Wars"

The Real Cost of the Death Star


I don’t know if you’ve read any Star Wars related economics articles before… but they’re almost always dumb.


And here’s a good example of that dumbness…

The Death Star would cost $7.8 octillion a day to run

The British energy supplier Ovo has put some very well-spent hours into a comprehensive calculation of the operating costs of the Death Star, which will return to the spotlight in the December 16th movie Rogue One. They conclude that operating the planet-destroying starbase would cost 6.2 octillion British pounds, or $7.8 octillion, per day—that’s $7,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.


The article is wrong on almost every single count.


First off… let’s talk energy…

But what really gets you is that darn laser, which would need a power source three million times more powerful than the sun to recharge, at a cost of nearly $8 octillion a pop.

Energy in the Star Wars universe is an unknown. Star Wars is not an in-depth universe like The Wheel of Time series or Tolkien where even mundane details are mentioned. Star Wars is story driven.

And if you’ll remember in that story… all kinds of species can travel among the stars. They move massive amounts of people and goods across the vastness of the galaxy. Just doing that would take more energy than we can possibly imagine.

The reality is that energy in the Star Wars universe would have nearly no direct cost. The real costs would be in materials and labor. And since we do not know what materials were used to make the energy necessary or the labor costs… trying to create a dollar figure is just simply absurd.

There is not enough information.


The Empirical Problem…

You might think there’d be hope on the income side of the calculation, which Ovo didn’t tackle. Sure, $7.7 octillion is a lot of dollars for those of us confined to a single planet. But according to this expert Quora source, the Galactic Empire at its peak controlled 1.5 million core worlds and 69 million colonies, all knit together through a centrally-planned economy.

But even assuming all 70 million of those worlds are as productive as today’s Earth, their total annual output would still only be about 5-to-the-21st-power dollars, or a measly half-sextillion. The shortfall only gets worse when you limit the Imperial tax rate to a draconian-but-plausible 50%, and the Death Star’s share of the Imperial budget to the neighborhood of 70%—you’ve still got to pay for all those starships, after all. And we’re still not even touching the thing’s absurd up-front costs, previously estimated at $852 quadrillion.

The literal resources required to make the Death Star would be nearly meaningless. Think about it… the special materials necessary to make something so massive and complex are irrelevant when you control millions of worlds, moons, and asteroids.

An example of the bounty that awaits us among the stars… in the real world, not the Star Wars universe, just a single platinum rich asteroid could worth over $5 trillion if captured and mined.

That is just a single asteroid.

And assuming that all planets in the empire have equivalent economic development to earth is beyond absurd. Humanity can’t even get their asses to Mars.

Just the development of solar system travel would revolutionize the global economy let alone interstellar travel. We’d need immense amounts of resources, energy, and labor compared to what we currently have. Our world economy would be revolutionized. Just the beginning of the US Space program in the 1960’s is thought to have created over $180 billion in economic activity.

And while it’s shown frequently that planets in the Star Wars universe are sparsely populated… It makes little difference. Even a planet of a few thousand would have a technological level of development so astoundingly high compared to our own that any kind of economic comparison would be absurd.


Which is a good word to end this article with… absurd. This whole thought of creating a dollar figure for the cost of the death star is absolutely absurd. We do not have enough information to do something like that… Star Wars does not contain that much detail.

Have I sufficiently ruined the fun 😐

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Steve Zissou

Steve Zissou - a pen name. But who cares. Jordan works too.

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