Monday, March 01, 2004

WHAT I'M READING TODAY: POOR, MISUNDERSTOOD DAVOS MAN


Included with my issue of Foreign Policy magazine this month is a highly glossy report on the highlights of the 2004 World Economic Forum in Davos, Swizerland. (Unfortunately, I have yet to find a link to the report online--will try to post one later).

Davos is about as close as one can imagine to the mythical capatilist cabal where the rich and powerful meet to plot the course of the world. As even Samuel Huntington says, "Davos people control virtually all international institutions, many of the world’s governments, and the bulk of the world’s economic and military capabilities." It was at Davos, by some accounts, where Mexican president Carlos Salinas first approached Bush I Administration's Trade Representative, Carla Hills, about negotiating NAFTA. (More on Davos here).

This report is, of course, Davos' attempt to put a positive spin on this clandestine assembly of the world's 2,000-some leading ruling elites. In Davospeak, for example, off-shore outsourcing of jobs translates into "worldsourcing" (yes, it is "here to stay" and moreover "you haven't seen anything yet"). Unremarkable in most respects, the report belies the backroom deals and hotel lobby hob-nobbing and rather endeavors to convey Davos' soft face with glossy photos of celebrities like Quincy Jones and Peter Gabriel, and tries to establish the legitimacy of the Davos regime neatly crafted message of compassion, vision, and--dare I say--resolve on the key issues in the world today: terrorism and security, AIDS, environmentalism, and so on.

What is telling in the report, however, is how Davos responds to what it views as the criticism of its detractors:

"To hear some tell it, participants in Davos share similar educational, intellectual, and professional backgrounds, interests and values, and weild enormous influence and power...other critics see...the forum as a corporate cabal where business fat cats and government bigwigs cut dark deals at the expense of the poor."

Charges to which Davos wholly unrepentantly responds:

"All of these critiques contain at least a grain of truth. So, too, does the charge that an organization that talks about promoting transparency and redressing inequality is in fact opaque and aimed at the very rich. But while Davos has its faults and flaws, it cannot be dismissed."

In other words, yes, Davos is the annual convention for the political party of the world's ruling class, and they're not about change any of that. Pardon me for not feeling assuaged.

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