Davos Man. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images
Organizers of the World Economic Forum in Davos, which concluded its four-day conference today (26 May), kept its annual gathering of global elites a venue for solving the world’s problems. that claim should always be viewed with suspicion, said new York Times Economic correspondent Peter Goodman. After a global pandemic, massive economic shocks, and the outbreak of war in Europe, “it sounds ridiculous now.”
Goodman is the author of Davos Man: How the Billionaires Gave the World, He describes the book, published earlier this year, as a safaris of the world’s most powerful people, and Davos as the watering hole where they congregate. Davos, he said, is “a platform for billionaires who rally around themselves to convince themselves that they are good people.”
For the past 30 years, Davos has worked hard to present itself as promoting creative action. But according to Goodman, it is using that cloak of virtue to effectively cancel out the greatest mechanism of doing good: the redistribution of wealth. That’s why Dutch historian Rutger Brennan caused such a stir in 2019 when he dared to speak the T-word in a session about how to solve global inequality. “It’s like I’m at a firefighting convention and no one is allowed to talk about water,” Bregman said then. “Just stop talking about philanthropy and start talking about taxes.”
As the global population grows increasingly frustrated with the expanding divide between the wealthy and the disadvantaged – a gap that has only widened during the pandemic – it is harder and harder to see Davos’ sincere sentiments as anything more than a wide public outcry. This year’s conference – held in May and not its customary January due to Covid – made fewer headlines and received less attention than previous editions.
But the end of relevance will not mean the end of Davos, Goodman said. At its core, Davos is an opportunity for billionaires, heads of state and CEOs to meet, wheel and deal, and make money.
“The real meaning of Davos has nothing to do with vows and vows,” he said. “This is the place to do business.”