Star Wars, The US Constition, and the Dangers of Not Rewriting When Necessary

Cass Sunstein’s book — The World According to Star Wars — is a must for Star Wars fans who are also interested in behavioural economics/law/public policy which is probably a surprisingly big intersection. I must confess to not seeing the appeal of Star Wars. (I’m not too cool for Star Wars — I’m a Star Trek person. I find Star Wars badly written, stereotypical, and which cheats by using magic to drive the key plot points). Sunstein definitely did the project because he loves it. To be honest given his stint in government and excellent academic work if anyone deserves a self-indulgent project it is him. This one holds insights buried throughout the text. Sometimes they are well hidden but interesting if you spot them.

Perhaps the most interesting relates to a key issue in the US law/politics. I’m in no way qualified to speak about it but as an academic that never stops me. To get there Sunstein describes how the Star Wars trilogies came about — the unfurling of the story over time. He makes it clear that the ending was not know when the story started. The most obvious example being the blossoming romance between Luke and Leia in the original movie. Then suddenly it turns out that they are brother and sister and Leia says she “knew it all along”. This seems highly unbelievable given her actions.

What is the point of all this? Sunstein suggests that even if we have a basic idea where things are going (as did George Lucas writing Star Wars) it doesn’t mean all the details are fleshed out. You shouldn’t trust everything that is said afterwards about planning. Even in the unlikely event that Lucas is trying to be truthful when talking about the creation of Star Wars, rather than creating an origin story, he must be confused given he contradicts himself.

What does this mean for big battles in the US? Sunstein discusses the intent of the US’ founding fathers. Some argue for a more literal interpretation of the US constitution. Sunstein, I think, convincingly argues why that doesn’t make sense. If George Lucas didn’t think through the Star Wars plot but it evolved to (some) people’s satisfaction, there is little reason to think the founding father’s could have come up with a coherent plan for the US constitution. Stories, and constitutions, are better when they have a bit of flexibility to respond to the times.

Here is the end of, probably, my only post on the US constitution. Lets hope its development over time has left it better written than Star Wars.

Read: Cass Sunstein (2016) The World According to Star Wars, HarperCollins

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