Economic Lessons from ‘Star Wars’ Planet Jakku

In “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”—which at this point I’m sure most of us have seen—we are exposed to some fundamental principles of economics. In this post I would like to examine three principles: supply and demand, economic relativity, and the destruction of value.

Supply and Demand

In the beginning of the movie we are introduced to Rey, a scavenger who, at the end of every day, turns in parts she has accumulated to a junk collector for packets of food.  The junk collector, Unkar Plutt, gives consideration to what is offered and provides food (number of packets) based upon what is presented. Unkar Plutt illustrates the principle of supply and demand because he tries to figure out if a part is useful for him to use or resell. This is best illustrated when Plutt offers tens and tens and tens of packets for the functioning droid (BB-8) that Rey shows up with one day. Despite seeing more packets of food than she ever could have imagined, Rey decided not to sell BB-8 for reasons not made explicitly known but which the audience could deduce. From this we can learn that some goods or services are more valuable than others. It is important to recognize when a market (even micro-markets like a one-to-one agreement) calls for a certain price based upon the demand.

Economic Value is Relative (One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure)

A few minutes into the movie, we discover that the First Order (the bad guys) is attempting to hunt down Finn (an ex-stormtrooper) and BB-8. Once they learn that they are at the Niima Outpost (where Rey works out of) an attack is made. In the chaos that ensues Finn recommends escaping out of a starship—one that is familiar to Star Wars fans. Rey, never having seen that starship fly, refers to it as a piece of junk and that they could quickly escape via a quad jumper. The quad jumper is blown up right before our eyes and they opt for the piece of junk starship.

Lo’ and behold, we discover that this is the Millennium Falcon! Yes, the one that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. This starship was a piece of junk to Rey because it seemed like it had no worth (and we do see that it was in need of repair), but to its rightful owner, the Falcon was like a long lost son. In the same way, we may believe that some things have hardly any value, but to the right person a good may be the avenue through which they create more wealth than we could have imagined.

Violence Destroys Value

In a number of instances on Jakku, the First Order destroys biological life and goods that had value (such as homes, tents, machinery, etc.). One of the sad realities of life is that violence, especially war, destroys value. This is not to say that war should not ever occur; we just need to be aware of its realities. As mentioned in the previous section, the quad jumper was destroyed. As a scavenger she depended upon that bike as her commuting vehicle to provide further economic value. Similarly, we have goods or services that have economic value. And whether these goods or services appreciate or depreciate in value we use them the best we can to create more value (wealth).

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