No 1577 Posted by fw, January 26, 2016
It’s easy to mock Davos – so I will. It’s the annual schmooze fest where rich white men debate inequality and diversity. Where fleets of carbon-gushing private jets fly in philanthropists to pontificate about climate change. Where the world’s biggest corporations earnestly set out footling [trivial] “strategies” and “action plans” to give the impression they’re addressing the social and environmental problems that they caused in the first place…. In “More Human”, I described a world run by an ‘insular ruling elite’. Davos is its purest expression. It should be impossible for CEOs and presidents to meet ‘everyone that matters’ because, well, everyone should matter. So let’s not only mock Davos when it comes around. Let’s use it as the impetus for radical democratization: to put the levers of power in everyone’s hands, not just a few thousand in an Alpine resort.” —Steve Hilton, The Guardian
Having been to Davos once himself, for a World Economic Forum (WEF) ‘schmooze’, David Cameron’s ex-director of strategy, Steve Hilton, knows what of he speaks. In this scalding piece on WEF 2016, he rails against the ‘system’, the ‘causes’, ‘gullible businesses’, the ‘racket’, the ‘people who go there’ – well, you get the picture.
Speaking of the ‘people who go there’, one hopes that the Davos ‘system’ did not corrupt PM Trudeau and Trade Minister Freeland, who were seen trading loonies for US$ and euros with the “crème de la crème” of WEF 2016. Is it more than just a coincidence that, shortly after returning from Davos, Minister Freeland announced that Canada would sign the TPP? Who knows? Had she been there for more than just a few days, she might have returned to announce Canada’s ratification of the TPP — he said, tongue in cheek.
Picking up from a related recent post, Is a stealth global coup d’état of democracy a real and present danger? : Nick Buxton unveils evidence that gatherings such as the WEF at Davos are the future of global governance, below is a repost of Hilton’s delicious exposé of what goes on at WEF in Davos, Switzerland: the added subheadings and text highlighting are mine. Alternatively, read his original article as it appeared in The Guardian.
The midwinter boondoggle up an alp demonstrates exactly what has gone wrong with the world
Mocking the World Economic Forum is a no-brainer – there are so many targets to ridicule
Davos has just finished. You know, the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. What, didn’t you get your invitation? Oh dear, looks like you don’t really matter. Sorry about that.
It’s easy to mock Davos – so I will. It’s the annual schmooze fest where rich white men debate inequality and diversity. Where fleets of carbon-gushing private jets fly in philanthropists to pontificate about climate change. Where the world’s biggest corporations earnestly set out footling [trivial] “strategies” and “action plans” to give the impression they’re addressing the social and environmental problems that they caused in the first place.
Davos’ vapid slogan is a good place to start – “Committed to improving the state of the world” – And who’s world is that?
You could go one step further than mockery and work up a decent amount of hostility towards Davos. For example: how can we take seriously its utterly vapid slogan – “committed to improving the state of the world” – when for years the organizers refused to countenance any discussion of gay rights or transgender issues in order to suck up to rich Arab countries that shoved fat fees into the pockets of Klaus Schwab (the rather dodgy impresario of the whole baleful enterprise, a kind of Sepp Blatter of corporatism) and his cronies?
It’s time to move beyond mockery and hostility to – OUTRAGE!
But I think it’s time we went beyond mockery, further than hostility. I think we should be outraged by Davos. We should condemn it, oppose it, blow the whole thing up. I don’t mean literally, of course. After all, some of my oldest and dearest friends are regular attendees. Not to mention my wife.
Don’t blame the people at Davos – It’s the system – We should be tough on Davos as the worst kind of racket
It’s nothing personal. It’s not the fault of the people there (not the fault of most of them, anyway). It’s the system that’s to blame – and that’s what we should attack. Yes: we should be tough on Davos, but more importantly, tough on the causes of Davos. Tough on Davos means discouraging people from being there. It’s the worst kind of racket: everyone goes because everyone else goes.
It’s time to increase the social costs for attendees, with protests, boycotts, and public shaming
Well, we should break the spell by massively increasing the costs of attending. I don’t mean the financial costs – they’re already astronomical for gullible businesses that pay a fortune to share a fondue with Shimon Peres or George Clooney or whomever. I mean the social costs. There should be protests, boycotts, public shaming of brands that buy into Davos. If you’re a business, attending Davos should be as damaging to your reputation as running a sweatshop with child labour.
Hilton hates Davos because “it represents everything that is wrong with the world”
At this point, I should probably acknowledge that I have been to Davos. And just to pre-empt some smart aleck bringing it up on Twitter, yes, it’s true that on the one occasion I went, I was manhandled and nearly arrested for walking on the road. But the authoritarianism of the Swiss police really isn’t the reason I hate Davos. I hate Davos because it represents almost – note I’m not being too sweeping here! – everything that is wrong with the world. The clue lies in what those who go actually say about it. They all give you some version of the same script: “Yes, I know it’s terrible… of course the whole thing is kind of embarrassing… everyone knows Klaus Schwab is a pompous sleazebag… but the thing is, Davos is so efficient. You can see so many useful people in one go.”
Davos represents “the concentration of economic and political power today” – everything that is wrong with the world
There you have it: the reason Davos is so grotesque is not the event itself or the people who go there. It’s the underlying cause. Davos reveals, with devastating clarity, the concentration of economic and political power today. The fact that business and political leaders can, over the space of a couple of days, meet “everyone who matters” is exactly what’s wrong with it and with the world.
It’s morally wrong that a handful of finance companies control so much of the global economy
It’s wrong that a handful of finance companies control so much of the global economy that they, their regulators and central bankers can hang out with each other so easily.
It’s morally wrong that so much political power is so concentrated in one place, so accessible to corporate elites
It’s wrong that political power is so centralised that businesses can go to Davos and do deals with heads of government. It’s wrong that media giants (new or old) are courted for their massive global reach.
Davos should be a call to arms to break up this concentration of corporate power and political access
Davos should be a call to arms to break up big companies that abuse their market power and political access to keep competitors down and out. We should champion real entrepreneurs, not grey corporate bureaucrats.
Davos is the purest expression of a world run by an “insular ruling elite”
In More Human, I described a world run by an “insular ruling elite”. Davos is its purest expression. It should be impossible for CEOs and presidents to meet “‘everyone that matters” because, well, everyone should matter. So let’s not only mock Davos when it comes around.
Now is the time for radical democratization to transfer the levers of power from the few to the many
Let’s use it as the impetus for radical democratization: to put the levers of power in everyone’s hands, not just a few thousand in an Alpine resort.
Steve Hilton is CEO of Crowdpac, a political fundraising and ratings site, and David Cameron’s ex-director of strategy
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