Monday, January 16, 2017

Dissonance at Davos

New York Times Dealbook column by Andrew Ross Sorkin today --

And yet missing from these high-minded conversations have been meaningful challengers or critics of the underlying theme that was seemingly stipulated from the birth of this event 46 years ago: Globalization has the potential to benefit everyone ... Dissenting voices like those of Mr. Trump and Mr. Farage have rarely been part of the discussion — though perhaps that will change. Theresa May, Britain’s new prime minister, will attend this year, as will some of Mr. Trump’s advisers.

The same column, this time last year --

If the World Economic Forum isn’t an opportunity to have an “international, global dialogue” about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, especially with its foreign minister in attendance, then what’s the point? After all, the forum’s stated purpose is to “improve the state of the world.” ... For several years at Davos, WikiLeaks dominated talk among policy experts and business leaders. Was Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, ever asked to address the forum? No. Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked millions of documents about electronic surveillance by the United States government, has taken part in several events by video from Russia, where he is exiled. But he has never been invited, either ... Certain subjects have been avoided. Until last year, for example, discussions that focused on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were not on the agenda, in part, because certain delegations from the Middle East and Eastern Europe objected to the topic. As for North Korea, the situation was perhaps untenable. The country’s participation at Davos would have made it difficult for someone like Mr. Biden and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain to attend without being criticized.

There's a subtle but revealing difference between the two diagnoses. Last year the complaint was that diplomacy was too dominant in determining who doesn't get invited, hence no North Korea or Julian Assange. This year it's that populists and globalization sceptics were absent for too long (but now Assange is not on the unvite list, despite being at the intersection of both trends).

Let's suppose this year's wave of populists attend for a couple of years and even that something like the Trade Deal Job Loss Simulator is added to this year's gimmick, the Refugee Flight Simulator. Will the Davos sphere be any closer to an understanding of the broader cultural and social dynamics within the middle class (as opposed to between the "middle class" and the 1 percent) that has driven political developments over the last year?

No comments: