Casey and Kenny on How Liberty Dies in a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Star Wars, Democratic Decay, and Weak Executives @Caseyco231 @dkennytcd

Conor Casey, University of Liverpool School of Law & Social Justice, and David Kenny, Trinity College Dublin School of LW, are publishing How Liberty Dies in a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Star Wars, Democratic Decay, and Weak Executives in Law & Literature (2022). Here is the abstract.

In this article we argue that the story of Star Wars has much to tell us about perennial questions of constitutional design. The series offers a rich cinematic exploration of some of the most pressing real-life issues of politics and constitutionalism and is, we suggest, a fruitful source of insight for issues of constitutional design and regulation.

This article proceeds in three parts. In Part I, we sketch the political context which grounds our analysis, tracing the of the constitutional institutions of the Galactic Republic, and its rapid decline and fall as documented across the prequel trilogy. In Part II, we outline the existing contributions commentators have made in respect of Star Wars and its lessons for constitutional design and regulation—the problem with the concentration of government power in one person and the risks posed to political systems by excessive delegation of authority to the executive branch. We then introduce three more nuanced lessons that we think the films offer: the ‘Publius paradox’; the hollowness of legalism; and the dangers of confusion at the apex of power. In Part III, with detailed analysis of the films, we show how the Star Wars saga clearly illustrates these lessons: that a constitutionally weak executive, rather than a strong one, can be a cause of democratic decay and autocracy, as it proves incapable of meeting the demands of governance; that commitment to and obsession with law is not per se any bulwark against autocracy; and that unclear lines of constitutional authority pose a huge risk at times of strain and crisis. We argue that the constitutional problem Star Wars illustrates is more subtle and more important than the dominant accounts suggest: that under concentration of power creates the risk of overconcentration of power. If we fear the decay of democracy into autocracy and wish to respond to it, we must be careful not to excessively limit or diffuse power. If we do, and begin to see constitutionalism as solely or primarily a means of restraining government, we may limit government so much that we cause the very problem we seek to prevent.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.