Here’s a 2016 headline for you: “Let’s make attending Davos as shameful as running a sweatshop.” Same year: “Davos’ attempt to improve the world is one of the truly great jokes.” 2017: “Davos is a joke.” 2015: “Does Davos actually do anything?”
The sideshow this year will be Trump vs. impeachment (but in another country!) and Trump vs. Greta, and 119 billionaires will attend. Could you imagine if a Bond villain could actually figure out how to mess with a conference like this? Damn!
But seriously, the problem with stuff like Davos — or any gathering of rich, influential people, to be honest — is that it becomes about networking and schmoozing and problems at their level, like how different indexes and markets are performing. Most people in the world have no access to Amazon stock; they struggle with day-to-day issues around health, food, and access to a semi-quality job. Billionaires do not struggle with these things, and yet we expect they can save us because of their resources.
In one way, that’s true — more resources should equal more saving of others. But to actually become a billionaire, your personal psychology is so much different than a “normal” person that it’s almost like an alien species. Google a little bit around rich people vs. poor people relationships. Here’s one hit: “Why do the super rich dislike the poor so much?”
I can answer that question for you pretty cleanly, actually: it’s called “virtue-signaling.” Many people with wealth and resources, even if they got lucky or were handed those dollars, feel as if they worked tirelessly for them. They virtue-signal that “anyone could do this.”
Now, could a mother of four in Cleveland with two menial jobs become Jeff Bezos? Theoretically, yes. And you can also argue “Well, why did she have four kids?” I get it. But is the chance greater that she will continue to struggle as opposed to being Jeff Bezos? Yes. The chance is greater on that side of the ledger.
This is the whole discussion, in America at least, of “The American Dream.” I would not call said dream dead, but is the format different? Yes siree.
So, should we expect a bunch of rich people who think entirely differently than us and arrive at these events via private plane to suddenly start thinking about all the rest of us and save the world for us? It would be nice, but if it hasn’t happened yet, why would it suddenly happen at a conference where a 70-something world leader will hurl insults at a 17 year-old girl and the media will report on it breathlessly?
We solve these problems at the community level, best we solve them at all. I don’t think billionaires are coming to save the common man. If anything, I think billionaires are a “policy error.” There’s no real reason for anyone to be that wealthy. I disagree with the narrative that the rich get rich on the backs of the poor — some do, yes, like slumlords or those who run factories that barely pay living wage — but I don’t think anyone needs $50B in net worth. Like, how many Teslas does one man truly need?
While we’re on this topic: CEO pledge is also a joke.
And finally: I’ve read dozens of articles in the last month where CEOs report “not understanding” how hard it is for their employees to make ends meet on the salaries they are given. This will not change anytime soon — CEOs like to re-invest in the business and in shareholders, not pay employees. But the sheer fact they don’t even realize why it would be a challenge? Haha. That just shows how wide the disconnect really is.
Davos, away with thee.