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If you look at real life, being evil doesn't mean you can't rule a country well. Look at Hitler's Germany. When he came to power, the Weimar Republic was in meltdown with an already-runaway economy entering the Great Depression and unable to repay war indemnities since years ago. By the time Germany started taking back territories that were lost before the war, it was a leading industrial powerhouse in Europe and a world power once again.

As for Palpatine, once we see past his evil desire to eradicate the Jedi and keep the Sith in supreme power, he is ultimately still a head of state and head of government to the vastly non-Force-wielding majority of the galactic population, and has a desk job to attend to after a night of torturing Jedi younglings.

Are there any descriptions/reviews etc. in existing literature that describe how well the Empire fared under Emperor Palpatine? How did life differ, both good and bad, between the Republic and the Empire for the common galactic pleb when they aren't in the Empire's way nor stubbornly believing everything Imperial is evil? How far did the Empire succeed in remedying the failings of the Republic and how much did it lose/sacrifice in other aspects to achieve that progress?

I'd like to know how much of this has been mentioned, and what they are, and therefore what was simply not mentioned. Thanks!

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    I was going to invoke Godwin's Law and declare your question invalid by comparing the guy to Hitler, who is commonly considered the most evil person in history. But then I remember you're talking about Palpatine, who could easily be considered the most evil person in that history... – corsiKa Oct 21 '15 at 20:05
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    Anakin, are you and Palpatine an effective team? – BBlake Oct 21 '15 at 20:07
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    I'm sure the citizens of Alderaan would say Palpatine was not a good ruler. – Brandon Oct 22 '15 at 2:52
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    @Brandon What's Alderaan? I don't see it anywhere :D – Kevin Oct 22 '15 at 8:21
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    Hitler is the worst possible example of an "evil but effective" ruler. When he came to power, Germany may have been in a bad state - when he left power, Germany had literally ceased to exist. The entire second half of his administration was an economic disaster! (There's no evidence that he actually outpaced the recovery of the other major European economies in the first half, either.) – user36551 Oct 22 '15 at 22:21
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I've looked through the recent canon novels Tarkin and Lords of the Sith, which should provide us with a view of the Empire as seen by high-ranking Imperials who might know something about the Imperial economy and the state of various Imperial systems.

The Emperor himself thinks life for ordinary citizens isn't great, but not much different than the Republic:

Out there were people who wished him dead, others who envied his station, and still others who wished merely to be close enough to him to sate themselves on the crumbs he brushed aside. The thought of it was almost enough to transform his disgust to sadness for the plight of the ordinary. But the wretched practices of the Republic endured: corruption, decadence, the lust for prestige. A penthouse in an elite building, a position that opened doors anywhere in the Core, collections of priceless art, the finest foods, the most able servants … He never had need for any of it, even when a senator, even when Supreme Chancellor, and had subscribed to luxury only to satisfy juvenile fantasies and, of course, because it was expected of him.

Tarkin, p. 242

Most Imperial systems didn't complain about the transition from Republic to Empire, although there was some rebellion (just as there was with the Republic):

Since the consolidation of the Republic into the new Galactic Empire, pockets of chaos had appeared here and there. Most of the former Republic accepted the Empire without complaint, but there were many bands of resistance fighters and Separatist remnants lurking around the galaxy.

Lords of the Sith, p. 31

The Empire was expanding, indicating an adequate economy:

Constructed soon after the end of the war atop monads that had once made up the Republic’s strategic center, Naval Intelligence was a nexus for gathering and analyzing transmissions that poured in from across the ecumenopolis and from all sectors of the expanding Empire.

... As his Empire swelled, bringing more and more of the outer systems into its fold, so too would his power unfurl, until every being in the galaxy was held captive in his dark embrace.

Tarkin, p. 152, 242

And the Empire is in firm control of the galaxy:

Eight years after the Clone Wars ravaged the galaxy, the Republic is no more and the Empire is ascendant. The man who rules as Emperor is secretly a Sith Lord, and with his powerful apprentice, Darth Vader, and all the resources of his vast Imperial war machine, he has placed the galaxy solidly under his heel.

Lords of the Sith, p. 4

Former Separatist worlds did not fare well (partly as a deliberate punishment by the Empire). For example, the Imperial ambassador to Murkhana indicates that life on the planet there isn't good (although Coruscant, the Imperial capital, is doing well):

[Tarkin] wasn’t surprised to see that most of the city’s charred, devastated buildings had yet to be demolished. Facing sanctions, the local government had not been able to grow the economy, and the substantially reduced population had been forced to rely on black marketeers for goods and resources.

...

“Maybe you two [Tarkin and Vader] haven’t noticed, but Murkhana isn’t Coruscant. The population here hates me. I sometimes think Murkhana hates me. I’m held responsible for every Imperial tax increase and every minor change to the legal system.

Tarkin, p. 107, 118

(Imperial tax increases aren't surprising -- someone has to pay for those Death Stars.)

Other worlds, such as Ryloth, were exploited. This improved the Imperial economy in some sense and improved the lives of those who benefited from the exploitation, though of course it made life worse for the exploited and encouraged rebellion from them. Some of the exploited people could better their lives by collaborating with the Empire:

The sight of Imperial ships sometimes upset the natives. So he left the day-to-day policing of the city to a Twi’lek security force, made up of Twi’leks co-opted by better living conditions and pay to enforce Imperial rule against their own people.

Lords of the Sith, p. 43

This description of Ryloth actually sounds quite similar to the Nazi occupation of Europe during World War II.


Summary

Compared to the Republic, the Empire is characterized as more orderly (due to a more authoritative government and military) with society more stratified due to increased use of slavery. The Imperial economy appears to be about the same as the Republic, and corruption has endured since the era of the Republic. There are pockets of rebellion against the Empire, but the Republic was torn apart by separatists, too (granted, with some help from the Sith).

Overall, Palpatine was an effective ruler in the sense that the economy remained stable, the Empire was able to expand, and most systems accepted Imperial rule without a fight. Palpatine was not effective in the sense that he had to use slavery and tax increases to fund the Empire, but he had no problem with such practices and did not care to avoid them anyway.

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    An expanding empire is not indicating a healthy economy, more than often, as history shows, the expansion is an attempt to compensate the economic problems by subduing new sources of income. – Holger Oct 22 '15 at 8:38
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    @Holger That's why I said it indicated an "adequate" economy. – Null Oct 22 '15 at 13:05
  • Wait a minute - why does the Empire have an Ambassador to one of its own planets? Murkhana, if it is being taxed, is an Imperial planet and should have a Governor. That's as bad as the elected Queen. – Oldcat Oct 22 '15 at 21:26
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    @DVK Simply because I've read and own Tarkin and Lords of the Sith, but I haven't read nor do I own A New Dawn. – Null Jan 15 '16 at 17:15
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    @Null - it's nowhere as good as "Kenobi" -also from Miller - but worth checking out. Definitely better than the later Disney-published.... {failing at non-expletive descriptions} like "Aftermath" or "Luke can't get a gf". And it has way more material to use for this answer :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 15 '16 at 18:29
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All we know for sure is that Palpatine stayed in power for about 35 years (15 as Chancellor, 20 as Emperor). If he was incompetent, he wouldn't have lasted anywhere near that long, so he must have been doing some things right.

The fact that the Senate and bureaucracy of the Galactic Republic remained in place, for about 20 years after Palpatine became Emperor, indicates a degree of continuity. During this period, administration probably carried on much as it had before.

The one location we've observed in the films during both Republic and Empire is Tattooine. The change of government doesn't seem to have made much difference there; it remained a poor, backward planet controlled by the Hutt gangsters. The Empire was cracking down on smugglers and making life difficult for Han Solo, but doesn't seem to have interfered much with conditions on the ground.

To sum up, life probably wasn't very different for the typical citizen of the Empire, unless you were a suspected member of the Rebel Alliance.

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    Mostly true, but there was a lot more slavery in the Empire, too. – Null Oct 21 '15 at 14:15
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    There was also a lot more species-ism. – Rogue Jedi Oct 21 '15 at 14:19
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    Tattooine is a bad example. Of course, a planet being out of control of the Republic isn’t affected by the Republic’s government changes. – Holger Oct 22 '15 at 8:41
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    @Holger: Maybe, but (restricting ourselves to the films) it's the only example we have. The point is that during the events of Ep4, the Empire clearly has some sort of authority on Tattooine, but it doesn't seem to have made much difference to everyday life. – Royal Canadian Bandit Oct 22 '15 at 9:15
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    The North Korean government has remained in the same family for longer than that, but it'd hardly qualify a effective government. – CodesInChaos Oct 23 '15 at 12:16
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How did the random galactic pleb do under Palpatine?

enter image description here

Not very good.

He diverted mass amounts of public monies into building super weapons. Weapons who's only purpose was to terrorize the population of the Empire. If "massive super weapon of death and fear" was his favorite long term super project, what do you think that says about his day-to-day management?

Think about it, why would he need super weapons to keep his people in line if things were going well? Things have to get really, really, bad before people start to rebel. And things have to get much, much worse than that before you resort to mass murder to keep them in check.

Don't forget, when the Chancellor declared himself Emperor, he was met with an incredible standing ovation. With his new powers he instantly ended a war that had been going on for a decade. That could only have massively helped his public image.

And he didn't force a coup. There wasn't an ousted government that would naturally become rebels. There wasn't really any symbol for the disaffected to rally around. IOW, there isn't any indication that there would be a large rebellion right from the beginning.

Yet, 20 years later, he is facing an organized, large scale rebellion. One does not go from standing ovations to fighting off rebels in 20 years because you've run the empire well. One does not go from standing ovations to fighting off rebels in 20 years because you've run the empire poorly.

Only massive scale oppression can account for such a strong turn of popular opinion.

Consider: The US congress has had approval ratings of less than 10% for about 20 years. And there is absolutely no rebellion. Not even an inkling of one. How much worse did Palpatine have to make things to make the US congress seem good in comparison?

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    Is there any reason to assume that the empires super weapons was a noticable drain on the imperial economy? While a death star represents a huge investment in absolute terms the empire would be well past a Kardeshev type II civilisation, and it should represent a small investment in relative terms. – Taemyr Oct 23 '15 at 8:19
5

I'll let George Lucas himself answer. His ghost writer, sorry.

Palpatine wasn't much of a ruler. Apparently, people hardly noticed him.

Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massiveorgans of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic.
Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.
Having exterminated through treachery and deception the Jedi Knights, guardians of justice in the galaxy, the Imperial governors and bureaucrats prepared to institute a reign of terror among the disheartened worlds of the galaxy. Many used the Imperial forces and the name of the increasingly isolated Emperor to further their own personal ambitions.

From the prologue to the Star Wars novelization.

Of course, later in the same book we find out that the emperor has the power to dissolve the Imperial Senate at the flick of his wrist, so he's not as helpless as he wanted us to believe... ;)

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    That's his deliberate public perception, but obviously he was not "controlled" by assistants and boot-lickers. This explains that the Empire was harsh (which we already know) but says nothing about the stability or economic success of subject systems (which, as I understand, is the point of the question). -1 – Null Oct 21 '15 at 13:59
  • Oh, OK, I added a snippet of extra info. That better? – Mr Lister Oct 21 '15 at 14:08
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    @MrLister: This is contradicted by the prequels (in which the Republic has a Chancellor, not a President). Also, the writing in the Episode IV novelization is so freakin' awful I think it's likely Lucas did it himself, a ghostwriter would have turned out a better product. – Royal Canadian Bandit Oct 21 '15 at 14:14
  • I still don't see anything about the life of the "common galactic pleb", the Empire's success in fixing the Republic's problems, etc. – Null Oct 21 '15 at 14:14
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit WRT the ghost writing, it's an established fact that the Star Wars novel (back when it was called Star Wars, not Episode IV or A New Hope) was written by Alan Dean Foster rather than George Lucas himself who it was credited to. – Mr Lister Oct 21 '15 at 15:15

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