Moral Relativism on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”

If you watch the Clone Wars or haven’t seen Episodes II and III of the Star Wars there are some spoilers below.  Fair warning.

I love to watch the Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars with my son each week.  The series tells the story about what happens between Episode II of the Star Wars movies and Episode III, when Anakin Skywalker turns to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader.

In a recent episode, the Republic is defending a planet that’s on the fence between Republic protection (the “good guys”) and Separatists (the “bad guys”).  In the fight, they discover a large animal that was thought to be extinct, the Zillo Beast.  The Zillo Beast appears to be the last of its kind and its body is covered with impenetrable armor (perhaps to be used to cover the Death Star?).

The inhabitants of the Zillo beast’s planet want it dead because they know the harm it can cause.  Mace Windu, a Jedi master (good guy), doesn’t want to kill the beast.  He wants to take it somewhere it can live freely.  His defense is based in principle – it’s not right to kill a creature for no reason.

The Chancellor (official head of the Republic government and secretly calling the shots of the Separatists in order to consolidate power into a dictatorship) wants the creature to figure out the secrets of its armor.  However, once the beast becomes to be too much of a burden to keep alive, the Chancellor orders its death.

Anakin’s wife, Padme, a Senator in the government and ally of Windu wants the creature’s life spared, asks for Anakin’s support during discussions with the Chancellor and is disappointed when Anakin doesn’t give it.  Anakin explains, “you have to admit, the Chancellor makes some good points.”

This is a clever bit of writing.

This episode showcases the difference in the mindsets that lead to the eventual consolidation of power and dictator rule.   The Chancellor has no principles except the ones he makes up on the fly to achieve his desired ends.

He wants the armor to help him “end the war” (i.e. consolidate power) and whatever harm caused to an innocent creature is a cost that’s worth it for the greater good.  He takes a utilitarian approach to assessing the cost-benefit of the situation.

Anakin, who will eventually become the Chancellor’s henchman in the dictator-led Empire, accepts the greater good argument and doesn’t have any qualms about principles like his wife and fellow Jedi.

Lesson: Beware the moral relativists.   Look, we all rationalize to some extent, even the good Jedis.  But, there are lines (principles) that some won’t cross and others will as long as there is a relative argument for it.  Watch out for those guys, because at some point you might find that you are the cost that is worth the benefit.

Warren Buffett is finding that out right now.  Warren Buffett was Democrat supporter in 2008.  I wonder if he regrets his decision?  From today’s Wall Street Journal, Berkshire Presses Lawmakers to Roll Back Proposed Curbs, Avoiding Potential Hit.  Buffett, billionaire, estate tax supporter, business philosopher and down-to-Earth-guy wants some special provisions in the financial regulation bill to save him some dough.

The White House has been trying to kill the Berkshire provision on the grounds that it would weaken the government’s ability to regulate the enormous market for derivatives.

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