Davos’s Great Failure

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Davos’s Great Failure

While the richest talk, the poor continue to beg, and the world economy spins out of control.

Well, it’s all over for another year. Representatives of the world’s richest nations, financial and banking houses and corporations meeting in Davos, Switzerland, for their annual talkfest on the global economy, wound up the World Economic Forum on Sunday.

What is most surprising is how this erudite conclave of the most powerful brains involved directly in business, politics, banking, finance and economics attracted so little media attention in the world’s largest national economy, the United States. This is all the more amazing considering the recent great upheavals within that economy and the repercussions that are still being felt around the world.

One would have expected two things from this year’s annual World Economic Forum: first, an energetic approach to agreeing on how to solve the globe’s current financial and economic conundrum; and second, that world media attention would be rooted to the alpine village of Davos, hanging on every word so as to give some indication of hope for the future world economy.

Sadly, anyone having such expectations would be disappointed.

On the penultimate day of the forum, under the headline “UN chief says rich world is failing poor nations,” Deutsche Welle reported (January 26):

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown challenged business leaders to renew development commitments aimed at halving poverty in the developing world by 2015. Brown also called for reforms to the World Bank and the United Nations which he said were not equipped to cope with many of the challenges of our modern world. Earlier Ban Ki-moon accused rich nations of failing the world’s poor and called for a doubling of efforts to fight global poverty. Rock star activist Bono, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates as well as the UN chief have put issues like malaria eradication, poverty relief and climate change on this year’s Davos agenda.

Of course, had the Davos crowd met previous commitments to halving global poverty, the UN secretary general would not have felt prompted to reissue the challenge to the delegates this year. But the conference—at which attendees ingested copious quantities of what one journalist termed “fine wine and overwhelming portions of fondue”—hardly provided an atmosphere of restraint amid the season of global financial panic sweeping the world.

To understand Davos 2008, we need a little history.

What began as a meeting of around 400 senior managers from assorted business enterprises in Europe back in 1971 has swollen to an annual bash of over 2,500 representatives of government, corporate leaders and their support staff, journalists and various other hangers-on descending on the traditional meeting site, the Swiss alpine resort of Davos.

Originally billed as the European Management Forum, a creation of Klaus Schwab, then a business professor at the University of Geneva, Davos has since morphed into more of a political affair, now known as the annual World Economic Forum. Inevitably, once the politicians and spin merchants jumped on the bandwagon, the agenda changed to embrace the more fashionable fads and topics of the moment.

Interviewed by the Financial Times, Klaus Schwab stressed that “the meeting, ultimately, is not a place for implementation. ‘I always insist the Forum is not a decision-making body. The wef is a body that enlightens people, that helps them to make better-informed decisions. The rest is up to them’” (January 25).

In other words, it’s all about talk rather than action.

To be brutally frank, it appears from all reports that Davos has devolved into being an annual talkfest for the rich where deals are cut and politically correct platitudes are trotted out for the benefit of a banal media enclave in a party atmosphere. Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor grows with each passing Davos season.

As to the partying, the Financial Times’s Gideon Rachman supplied some snippets to evoke the atmosphere:

McKinsey always have a good bash, largely because they bring back the same New York soul band year after year …. By midnight the dance floor is packed with ceos and bankers strutting their stuff. It is not a pretty sight. Every now and then, one of the backing singers leaps into the crowd and dances with whichever sweaty hedge-fund manager is closest to hand …. Tonight’s hot ticket is the Google party—also at the Belvedere.

Taking time out to get moderately serious amid all the partying, journalist Rachman interviewed Pakistan’s President Musharraf. After that effort, he reported:

I badly needed a drink—which was fortunate, since it was the wine-tasting next. Davos, it appears, is rather embarrassed by my favorite event, and so underplays it. The motto of the World Economic Forum is “committed to improving the state of the world,” so guzzling first-growth clarets doesn’t quite fit the picture. So the tasting was hidden away in the program under the blandly uninformative title, “Tradition versus Innovation” …. The Screaming Eagle is now selling for about $2,000 a bottle. By drinking it, I think we showed that we are committed to improving the state of the world—perhaps by removing over-priced wine from the face of the Earth.

One has to assume that Rachman may be trying to, in his own peculiar journalistic way, demonstrate the paradox between consuming such richness, surrounded with such profligacy, amid the general, teetering economic state of the world.

To the well-heeled broker or corporate mogul, Rachman’s attempt at humor may appeal. It would be interesting to obtain the opinion of a refugee from Darfur, or Rift Valley Kenyan, the site of bloody conflicts that appear to have been largely avoided at Davos, notwithstanding the fact that all the principal movers and shakers who are empowered to do something about them, or their underlings, were all there together in that alpine playground.

But then again, it would have been pointless. For the wef’s own creator styles it as all about talk rather than action.

From the tone of Rachman’s report, it seems Davos has descended into a typical bacchanal of the rich fiddling while the world economically burns. Don’t these hacks even read the headlines from their own rags? Isn’t the world facing somewhat of a global economic and financial crisis, or have we missed something here?

To give an idea of the cost of this annual alpine chat room, Andrew Ross Sorkin reports in the New York Times:

Merely to be eligible for an invitation, a corporate leader must pay an annual fee of 42,500 Swiss francs, or nearly $39,000. On top of that, he or she has to pay an additional $20,000 or so to attend the conference. (That’s just the cost of admission—private planes, limousines and fancy ski outfits are, of course, extra.) And what if business executives want to get invited to some private sessions for industry leaders? The annual cost for that is close to $230,000. The tab rises to about $412,000 (450,000 Swiss francs) if you want to be counted among the conference’s strategic sponsors and bring a delegation of up to five along for the fun.

And all this at a time when multiple trillions of dollars have been peeled out of the global economy over the past few months. It’s hardly an example to the rest of the world of responsible behavior in a time of crisis.

But that’s the problem.

It seems that some of the leading delegates at Davos are having difficulty admitting that the world does, in fact, face an economic, let alone geopolitical, crisis.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a remarkable utopionist statement to Davos delegates in her opening address to the forum. She unbelievably declared to one and all, “The U.S. economy is resilient, its structure is sound, and its long-term economic fundamentals are healthy.” She also said, “America has no permanent enemies; it can be friends with any country that shares its values and believes that diplomacy can make a world where enemies become friends” (World Economic Forum, January 23).

A more diametrically opposed view of reality would be hard to imagine!

Yet, reality is really not part of the Davos equation. Rice was simply playing to the gallery. As the Telegraph put it, “Davos is nothing if not optimistic” (January 19).

Division among the ranks, largely between bankers and businessmen, was at large in Davos. “Bankers meeting at the Swiss ski resort of Davos said there are increasing risks of a global recession, while manufacturers countered that they have yet to feel the effect of it in their businesses” (Bloomberg, January 28). When bankers and businessmen cannot even agree on the state of the world economy, that simply creates a crisis of global leadership.

Davos closed with a call for that leadership crisis to be addressed. “The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2008 has closed with a call by business, government and civil society leaders for a new brand of collaborative and innovative leadership to address the challenges of globalization, particularly the pressing problems of conflict, terrorism, climate change and water conservation” (World Economic Forum, January 27).

As the ancient prophecies declare, “Where there is no vision, the people perish …” (Proverbs 29:18); “O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (Isaiah 3:12).

The fact is, despite the obvious positions of power of these global corporate and political leaders—despite the tremendous concentration of wealth they represent, despite celebrity status—vision has never been a strong suit of the Davos crowd.

In the lead-up to the Davos forum, the Telegraph headlined a question, “Is Davos Our Last Resort?” The accompanying article observed, The World Economic Forum is the event which sets the tone for the year in politico-economic circles ….” In this context, the Telegraph quoted the chairman of Lazard International, Ken Costa, as observing that “The small voice of concern over credit last year has grown into a crescendo following the excesses that emerged …. We will be asking: How did it happen, how was it not foreseen, and could it happen again?” (January 19).

Indeed, how come the erudite gathering of the most powerful voices within the global economy, meeting just 12 months ago, failed to sound alarm bells at the overblown credit binge that exploded into the subprime mortgage meltdown later the same year? Instead, the main topic of Davos 2007 was, believe it or not, global warming!

TheTrumpet.com has been warning for years of a real-estate crash. By the same token, we don’t buy the global warming hoax! So what’s the difference between the pontificating of the great of the world gathered in a Swiss alpine village for a forum that has a price tag of millions of dollars attached to it, and a handful of writers supporting one man trumpeting a singular warning message?

Why could we see that which the “best and the brightest,” the rich and the powerful, could not see?

The answer is simple: vision! Plain, unadulterated, revelatory VISION!

But that vision is not of us. It is a vision that is given by a higher Source, the ultimate Visionary of all, the great God of the universe! It is a vision of which no human is capable, save by linking with the mind of the Creator and sustainer of the universe, who has given to man “the more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19). He is the one who declares of Himself that He prophesies “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10).

That’s why we have such tremendous confidence in the future that will follow the increasingly disordered state of the world.

We know the outcome!

The high and the mighty, the rich and the famous may well scoff at that declaration of faith.

But it’s the reality that underpins this work, built on a tangible faith that enables us to freely give the truth that we have been given, full of the vision of a future shining brilliant with real hope!

It’s a hope of which Davos—despite its credo, “improving the state of the world”—could never begin to dream. It’s the vision that explains why man exists, why this Earth spins on its axis and why its resources rest in so few hands. It explains why rich and poor, why wars, why famine, why pestilence and the horrors of great catastrophe. It’s the vision that alone opens to mankind the ultimate solution for all problems.

Request your own free copy of our book The Incredible Human Potential, and begin to grasp the sheer wonder of that great universal vision, and put it to work in your life immediately. You will never regret that you did.