Leaving Davos: Takeaways from the Congress of the Über-Elite

Populism is up, trust is down, hubris is holding steady

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Davos, that preening congress of the über-elite, is over. What are the takeaways from a conference some suggested--or hoped--had lost some cachet?

  • Trust in Governments, Corporations, and Banks Is Down, says The New York Times's Alison Smale. That's the "one takeaway."
  • Populism Is Up "The value of this alpine kaffeeklatsch," says The Washington Post's David Ignatius, "is that it can tell you when ideas have reached critical mass." The idea of "post-bubble" rules of the game, he notices, has reached critical mass.
  • Barney Frank Is a Populist Hero Ezra Klein latched onto the story of Rep. Frank (D-MA) telling the audience "I think almost every American here pays much less in taxes than you ought to ... I'm going to go back and try to raise the taxes of most of the people who attended here." Klein's response: "And this is why people love Barney Frank."
  • And Everyone Else Is Pretty Full of Malarkey Reuters's Felix Salmon recalls the moment he "developed a severe aversion" to a "Young Global Leader" and his plans for saving the world: "at exactly the time that he used the word 'platform' as a verb." Salmon puts it succinctly: "Hang out at Davos for long enough, and you become convinced that you're a special person who can make the world a better place and who indeed has a moral obligation to act thusly." So what's the problem with that?
[Davos] inculcates a mindset in its delegates where they're convinced that they're doing good (the oath is a prime example of this), and never stop to modestly wonder whether they're wrong. And that kind of mindset can be very destructive: if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then Davos is the road crew keeping it smooth and fast.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.