The Stars Wars Generation Discovers the Global Economy

The rebels are back to take on yet another “evil” empire. Who plays Darth Vader this time around?

April 14, 2000

The rebels are back to take on yet another "evil" empire. Who plays Darth Vader this time around?

For many a young protester, the parallels between Star Wars, the science fiction movie from 1977, and their present-day fight for global justice are obvious. In George Lucas’ blockbuster — which spawned two sequels and, even more recently, a prequel — an alliance of humans and other oppressed creatures fight against imperialist forces in a galaxy far, far away. Fans of the movies speak with pride of the numerous times they have seen each episode.

Meanwhile, here in Washington, the IMF and the World Bank have been blamed for perpetrating untold evils on developing countries — exploiting impoverished workers, promoting child labor, destroying the environment and so on. In the language of Star Wars fans, they have been seduced by the dark side of the “Force”.

In the movie, of course, the Jedi Knights, who draw on the Force, are warned to resist the seductions of the dark side of this same force. Darth Vader, a former Jedi who turned to the dark side, works to advance the imperialist desires of an evil emperor.

According to the world view of the Star Wars generation, the World Bank and (especially) the IMF became victims of their own power to shape the economies of the developing world. The IMF earned its sordid reputation among the Star Wars generation by its high-handedness in dealing with the troubled Asian economies during the financial crisis of 1997. Its austerity programs were blamed for leaving thousands of Asians jobless and impoverished.

Now, to counteract the control the IMF has over emerging markets, the Star Wars generation has taken to the streets of Washington, D.C. — re-awakening a protest movement that may gather momentum similar to that of the 1960s. In the movie “the Alliance”, was led by Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, in real life the anti IMF movement is a loose confederation of trade unionists, environmentalists and political lefties — all bound together to fight the evil forces of globalization.

Yet try as we might, it is hard to imagine a mild-mannered and bookish economist like Stan Fischer — the IMF’s first deputy managing director and caretaker of the organization since Michel Camdessus retired — sitting in his office, desk cluttered with economic data, warning someone out there in the universe who is bold enough to disagree with his policy prescriptions not to “underestimate the power of the Force.”

Now, to counteract the control the IMF has over emerging markets, the Star Wars generation has taken to the streets of Washington, D.C. — re-awakening a protest movement that may gather momentum similar to that of the 1960s. In the movie “the Alliance”, was led by Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, in real life the anti IMF movement is a loose confederation of trade unionists, environmentalists and political lefties — all bound together to fight the evil forces of globalization.

Yet try as we might, it is hard to imagine a mild-mannered and bookish economist like Stan Fischer — the IMF’s first deputy managing director and caretaker of the organization since Michel Camdessus retired — sitting in his office, desk cluttered with economic data, warning someone out there in the universe who is bold enough to disagree with his policy prescriptions not to “underestimate the power of the Force.”