Thursday 24 January 2013

The truth about Davos

Davos is here again – that’s Davos, a Swiss town that hosts the annual business leaders’ conference, not Davros, creator of the Daleks.

The Wall Street Journal is not normally the most anti-establishment of newspapers but it has published a revealing article about the conference and the organisation that hosts it, the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Some choice quotes:
The WEF says it is there to improve the world, but it is really there to exploit rich people’s need to feel important. It is driven not by achievement but by vanity.
Pride and ambition are monetized with equal brilliance on the revenue side. Simple membership for most Davos delegates is $50,000, plus a $19,000 conference fee. But that is only the first rung on the ladder. If you want to feel important even by Davos standards, you have to climb further. To gain access to industry peer events as an “industry associate,” $156,000 is the price. An “industry partnership,” which buys you two delegate spots, costs $263,000.
Scale those heights and another peak looms. Up in the thin air at Davos are the so-called “strategic partners,” who each pay $527,000. Strategic partners can send five participants—a CEO and his entourage, for instance.
Given that many top chief executives hold office for only three or four years, WEF membership is effectively a revolving door. By the time the novelty wears off and the CEO starts to see Davos as a very expensive cocktail party, he is out on his ear and replaced by a new guy who was frustrated for years about not being able to go.
Davos, in short, is magnificently seductive, a monument to man’s need for self-actualization. (And it is mostly men—women only make up 17% of the elite participants at Davos, though they are 60% of WEF staff.) But does it improve the state of the world? Hardly. When you consider the lifestyle of those taking part, starting with the private jets, it is really quite an achievement for them to keep their cognitive dissonance in check for the better part of a week.
Suddenly, those Liberal Democrat conference registration fees don’t seem so exorbitant. Come to think of it, Davros doesn’t seem so bad, either.

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