There is no better example of social and economic policy discussion as an idle pastime for the rich than the World Economic Forum at Davos. These guys make the millionaire schmoozers at the Aspen Ideas Festival look like short-order cooks. Last year I made fun of Davos for tiptoeing nervously around the issue of growing income inequality (a New York Times article had argued convincingly, but without any actual examples, that inequality was a hot topic at that year’s meeting). This year Davos isn’t even tiptoeing. Ian Bremmer, who chairs Davos’s Global Agenda Council on Geopolitical Risk, reports in the Huffington Post that the unifying theme this year at Davos is, yes, “the increasing vulnerability of elites.” Keep in mind as you read what follows that Bremmer is not a parodist:
We're seeing leaders of all kinds, in the developed and developing world, in politics as well as business and media, answering to constituents who grow more dissatisfied... and information-rich. Look at the riots in India over the recent rape scandal, the U.S. Congress' abysmal approval ratings, or the phone hacking scandal at News Corp. Corruption, special interests, or a lack of transparency will spell trouble for leaders. The same goes for a widening gap between rich and poor.
Okay, I lied. There is some discussion going on there, apparently, about income inequality. But if I’m reading Bremmer right, Davos sees inequality mainly as a problem bearing down on elites. The blighters simply won’t shut up about living in mud huts (or enduring weak rape laws, a dysfunctional legislature, corporate malfeasance, etc.) while the rest of us hit the slopes. Can’t they see I’m trying to have a civilized conversation on this chairlift line with Jamie Dimon about resilient dynamism?
Honestly, if Davos is going to turn itself into a pity party about the terrible plight of elites, I’d just as soon these plutocrats gave up their political-economy hobby and went back to yachting.