We love Star Wars primarily for space battles and lightsaber fights between brave Jedi and sly Sith. However, like in any fictional universe with carefully thought-out lore, there are no unshaped details in the galaxy far, far away. This includes the economy and cash turnover. In fact, the most popular unit of money in Star Wars is essentially a prototype of cryptocurrency. We are going to explore the reasons why.
As we know from iconic episodes of the franchise, the economy of the Star Wars universe is based on the work of contractors of all kinds, whether legal or not. They are engineers, pilots, scavengers, smugglers, guns-for-hire, bounty hunters, you name them. Their fragile shoulders (or what they have instead of shoulders) hold all the burden of goods and money relationships.
Effective money cycling in such an environment requires a currency with specific features — unified and suitable for any type of operation. As with cryptos, credits are available to settle payments for both private individuals and giant corporations. The language of credit is understood by any intelligent race inhabiting any of these worlds, be it wookie or twi’leks.
Some planets did not accept credits because they wanted to make payments in “real” money. We observe a similar situation in different regions of our planet — but it is improving. Countries with the most conservative approach, such as Russia, are working to bring this market out of the shadows. To date, Singapore and Switzerland have made the most progress in this direction.
Credits come in two different forms — Republican credit chips and Imperial ingots. Chips are small enough to carry with you and made of silver or gold, depending on the value. Ingots look similar to a U.S. dollar, except that they are rectangular bars of gold and silver.
Unlike cash, credits were not considered physical currency. Ingots and chips were not the currency itself, but some kind of debit cards. They contained information about the account and the balance of funds. Credits may contain different amounts of money, but any credit chip has its limit.
Credits are a completely digital currency, but like cryptocurrencies, they can be transferred to your partner in physical form. We often see Star Wars characters carrying handfuls of these chips and smugglers transporting them literally in crates. In the same manner, you can carry a bunch of flash drives with different cryptocurrency wallets, so no one can tell how much money you have in your pocket.
The InterGalactic Banking Clan (IBC) was a huge organization behind the issue of credits. However, it was impossible to apply significant control over every monetary operation in the Galaxy. Jabba Hutt, the head of one of the most serious organized crime groups, used only credits and was rolling huge sums of money. His demise wasn’t the state’s regulatory bodies, but the Skywalker family.
Anonymity is also often cited in the real world as the main reason for the popularity of cryptocurrencies among all sorts of criminals. Transaction participants cannot be traced, so one can just as well order a pizza or pay a hired goon.
And though this is a serious image drawback, we should not forget that cash was and still remains the dirtiest form of money. It’s the same motif one can notice in ‘Star Wars’. Remember the case from ‘The Phantom Menace’: Watto refused to accept credits from Qui-Gon who tried to pay for spare parts, trusting only genuine cash.
The InterGalactic Banking Clan openly transferred its troops and technologies to the Confederation. At the same time, it was neutral in the economic sphere and conduct banking operations even for warring factions.
The degree of cryptocurrency independence is even higher, for there is no supervisory body behind it. Of course, the process of crypto issuing is a little bit more complicated than with credits. The IBC could simply take and mint ingots or chips for a planet in need. Cryptocurrencies have a scalability problem, but devs are already on it.
Is it truly a proto-crypto?
Of course, intergalactic coins have fundamental inconsistencies with cryptocurrencies — from the semi-physical embodiment to the centralized organ behind its issue. However, the galaxy far-far away, though torn apart by feuds, remains a high-tech world. So we may well see how credits give way to a fully digital currency, or muuns introduce a blockchain-based technology.
In the meantime, may the force be with you!