Davos is the common name and the annual meeting place of the World Economic Forum, an organization beloved by New World Order conspiracy theorists (for what good conspiracy isn't run in very public settings).  The World Economic Forum is an organization of the world's economic and political elite.  Their annual meeting is a major networking event, but those who go, should they be able to wade through the seas of caviar and champagne, will also be treated to seminars where the WEF discusses the various stones they are currently finding in their shoes.

This year at their January meeting, the topic of global economic inequality came up.  One may wonder why it is only coming up now, since vastly increasing economic inequality has been rumored for a long time.  But Davos is now concerned, because it seems that this inequality has been producing certain troubling political events like Brexit and Donald Trump.  When economic inequality starts manifesting itself in political movements against globalization (that succeed), the WEF starts to pay attention.  So the newsworthy seminars this year focused on what to do about this dangerous new mosquito.

There were three options offered (aside from the option of ignoring it, which they can no longer do).  Since inequality is the problem, the solution is to reduce it.  From the point of view of the WEF, inequality should be reduced by companies (and governments) giving more of their share of the big pie to workers via 1) taxes or 2) voluntary means like profit sharing schemes.  The third option, which is the one most talked about in the news and, to be honest, mocked, was that the great companies should work harder to simply make the pie bigger, since a bigger pie would mean more apples or something for all and yet not necessitate anyone at the top reducing their share.  If the size of the pie is the real problem, then how could the pie be made larger?  Obviously, to keep globalization intact, deregulation immediately springs to mind.  For

the key to reinvigorating the middle class was to “create a favorable environment for making money.” He touted in particular the “animal spirits” unleashed by stripping away regulations.

(I have to admit here that I simply love the phrase "animal spirits" of capitalism, which to me sums up what capitalism is all about perfectly.  I love it so much I'd almost like to marry it and produce a litter of little capitalist memes).

It absolutely makes sense that the WEF would look for solutions that require as little input from them as possible.  The WEF characterizes our current age as a “new Renaissance” and this annoyance of nationalist and populist movements in the industrialized countries, movements that want to attack globalization itself, fly in the face of the fact that globalization has produced massive wealth and development and done so rather quickly.  The fact that it has especially done so for a relative few and produced astonishing gaps between the rich and the poor (one speaker noted that the top 8 people in the world economic order control as much wealth as the bottom half, which no doubt caused many people's heads to turn wondering who the other 7 people were) is beside the point.

But it is in fact the point, perhaps not so much because these political movements threaten globalization (good luck with that) but because these movements represent the people at the bottom starting to turn their anger into political power.  For the one thing that Davos didn't discuss was the possibility that the bottom 95 percent get a larger share of the political as well as the economic pie.  The person talking about the animal spirits of capitalism was perhaps most revealing in talking about regulation, because regulation is one of the ways that politics intrudes on capitalism and makes capitalism more than just about the unfettered flow of money.  It's only in economic textbooks that capitalism exists separate from politics, classes, and tangible people and like it or not, if people are not going to benefit from the economy, they are going to demand to benefit by politics.

unagidon is a contributing editor to Commonweal.

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