By Nicholas Haberling
The Imperium of Man encompasses much of the known Milky Way galaxy. Its borders are in a constant state of flux and for that reason it’s impossible to create an accurate assessment of its economy, much less the state of its military or other indicators of prosperity. This is an intentional part of the design of Warhammer 40K which for our purposes is slightly frustrating, but I’m sure it adds more depth to the in-game universe. Luckily for us there are a few stable indicators of the size of the Imperium that allow us to estimate humanity’s Gross Domestic Product as well as see how far they’ve fallen.
The first step to find the Imperium’s GDP is finding humanity’s population. There are roughly one million human-settled planets in the Imperium’s control with varying classifications and populations. The largest of these worlds are the Hive Worlds. Hive Worlds are described as such, “With each hive housing between 10 to 100 billion people and 5 to 20 hives per planet, the sheer number of Imperial citizens on a Hive World is staggering” There are currently 32,380 Hive Worlds in the Imperium. The best way to find an average of citizens per Hive World was to take the average population of known Hive Worlds. Unfortunately most of the Hive Worlds listed on the Warhammer 40K Wiki site did not meet the criteria above so our sample is small. Regardless, the average Hive World would have 258 billion people.
Just among the Hive Worlds the Imperium has a population of 8.354 quadrillion citizens. To find the population of those who reside on the Imperium’s other 967,620 we simply multiplied those worlds by Earth’s current population. The idea behind this is that the Imperium has worlds with fewer than ten million individuals as well as those with tens of billions. Our current population seemed like an acceptable middle ground between these two extremes. With that in mind the rest of the Imperium’s population would be 7.355 quadrillion. This brings the Imperium population to a total of 15.7 quadrillion citizens.
From here finding the Imperium's GDP was a straightforward matter. We took the Imperium's population and divided it by Earth's to get the equivalent of 2,066,647 Earths residing within the Imperium. From there we simply took the most recent Gross World Product (Purchasing Power Parity) estimate from the CIA World Factbook and multiplied it by the number of Earths. Under these assumptions the Imperium has a GDP of 303.64 quintillion dollars.
Next we needed to see how far the Imperium has fallen since humanity’s golden age of technology. For this we went back to our historical GDP per capita estimates mentioned in Part III. We are going to assume that the Imperium of Man’s current GDP is representative of the former Roman province’s GDP PPP average of 426.43 in the year 1000 AD. This would mean humanity’s peak GDP during the golden age of technology would be representative of the Roman GDP PPP of 620 in the year 150 AD. Since there is a 45% difference between these two numbers we can assume the Imperium of Man’s GDP would need to increase another 45% to reach a golden age GDP level of 441.48 quintillion dollars
So how can the Imperium of Man reach the peak economic levels of the golden age? Our solution is relatively simple: freedom of information. While Dark Ages may be brought upon a population for a number of reasons, a factor that may prolong them is the knowledge lost during the onset of a Dark Age. A major problem the Imperium of Man faces is losing the ability to produce and replace weapons of war. They don’t lack the materials to build these weapons but have instead lost the schematics and techniques over time. In fact, Space Marines, precious military units that should be at the forefront of the Imperium’s fight against Chaos, must sometimes be diverted to search for these relics. If the Imperium is to survive into the next millennium it must diversify its information centers and give more planetary governors the ability to produce weapons of war. If action isn’t taken soon the Emperor’s light on Holy Terra may fade and doom all of humanity.
This brings our examination of the Imperium of Man to a close. Over the past four weeks we have examined the nature of a Dark Age, the historical economic ramifications of its onset, and created a decent idea of the Imperium’s GDP. Next week we will take our first step into a new series.