Davos and the Holy Grail of Equity

It seems that the participants of the World Economic Forum (WEF) got Davos and Camelot wrong. After days of talk and rants, they set out on their quest for the holy grail of global equity and carbon neutrality. Along the way, they vow to slay the disinformation dragons. All of this will be celebrated by certified vocalists.

If this sounds like a scene from Monty Python and the Holy GrailYou are partly right. Like the knights of Monty Python, they try to fool us as well as themselves. Silent King Arthur on horseback while his servant pounded coconut shells; Al Gore flies to Switzerland while researching the dangers of climate change.

Most importantly, the Davos attendees appeal to the misguided who believe they really know the path to global resilience, prosperity, and fairness. However, these self-proclaimed leaders are walking a very familiar path: the road to serfdom.

“clear and present danger”

Among the dragons they fight is freedom of speech. The World Economic Forum panel “The Clear and Present Danger of Disinformation” focused on a critical question: “How can the public, regulators and social media companies best collaborate to tackle disinformation, as information pollution spreads with unprecedented speed and scale?” In this framework, “pollution” includes the words toxic in addition to smoke. One might even sniff out a bad idea.

The panel was chaired by Brian Stelter, formerly of CNN and now at Harvard. It included Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton and Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, a magazine publisher New York timeswhich published the 1619 Project despite the errors pointed out by fact-checkers.

One would think that Matt Tibi is the best member of the committee currency In revealing how the FBI pressured Twitter to spread disinformation. But the Elite seem to have been inspired by a Monty Python scenario, in which authors devour knights who dare criticize them (Sir Robin is no longer “brave” but “escaped”) during a blizzard.

To be fair, Sulzberger expressed great concern about the state of the “information ecosystem” and the way distrust of news sources leads to the disintegration of society and a move away from pluralism that puts democracy at risk.

Phrases like “fake news,” he said, evoke periods of oppression, such as Nazi Germany. Moreover, the community agreed on “how toxic the information ecosystem is.” Fixing it “will require a real sustained effort from the platforms, from political leaders, business leaders, and consumers themselves to reject it.”

However, associating President Trump with the Nazis through one of his favorite phrases not only “poisons” the conversation but reminds us of his irony. New York timesEarly support for Hitler and Stalin in the 1930s. It’s hard to take Sulzberger’s claim of dealing with a toxic “ecosystem” seriously.

However, like all of the other Knights of Davos, he has answers. The solutions are to educate young readers about trustworthy sources of news and for platforms to “distinguish and continually upscale trustworthy sources of information… until that is done, we must assume that these environments are fundamentally poisoned”.

“The way forward”

The Davos crowd thinks they can make such judgments about what is trustworthy because they are anointed (or “extraterrestrial,” if one of them is John Kerry). Falling prey to what F.A. Hayek called “murderous vanity,” they assume they can diagnose the world’s problems and plan a better course.

In his closing remarks, “The Way Forward”, Borg Binde told panelists on stage that he felt “we are very aligned”. Over the past five days, “progress has been made in scaling climate ambition, driving more equitable growth, and unlocking the benefits of leading technologies.” Furthermore, “By working together in this way, we can shape a more collaborative future.”

However, in mapping out the “way forward,” the elite assume that the authorities did not vote for them. Those invited to Davos may feel as special as Arthur felt because Excalibur was bestowed upon him by the Lady of the Lake. But the people of our world are no more kind to self-appointed leaders than they do in a Monty Python movie. As a peasant said to King Arthur, “You can’t expect to be exercised The supreme executive authority Just “because some watery vitriol threw a sword at you!”

Moreover, the results of such a “collaborative future” are questionable. Having established a round table of knights, Arthur and his crew set off in search of the Holy Grail. In a castle, they encounter a man who defies their questions: “Mind your own business.” Outrageous idea!

Assaulted by the Flying Cows, Arthur’s knights retreat, but return with the Trojan Hare, who is taken to the castle. They feel their cause is just, but are unable to enter the castle due to poor planning: they forgot to put the soldiers in the hare.

It’s funny in the movie, but not so funny when we think of participants at the World Economic Forum urging cooperation between independent companies and governments. How many failures in planning will happen? At what point do their good intentions lead to tyranny? Have we not learned anything from the pandemic, when government overreach led to economic, health and educational disasters?

Destination serfdom

These are the kinds of problems F.A. Hayek tackles The path to serfdom, which traces how the good intentions of central planners lead to disaster. When planners “dispense with the forces that have produced unexpected results” and replace them with a “collective and” conscious” directing of all social forces toward deliberately chosen goals, they run into problems.

First, explains Hayek, planners who attempt to make judgments on the basis of “fairness” discover that “nothing is less than a complete system of values ​​in which for every need of every individual or group there is a definite place necessary to provide an answer.” Planners must have powers “to make and enforce decisions in circumstances which cannot be foreseen and on principles which cannot be stated in general form”. In fact, they should have practically unlimited powers: “The command economy must be run on more or less dictatorial lines.”

The result, notes Hayek, is moral corruption: “Just as the democratic statesman planning economic life will soon be faced with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans, so authoritarian dictators will soon have to choose between flouting public morals and failure.” And this moral corruption, along with the corruption of language, seeps into all levels of society.

But supporters say the Davos elite are different. They are trying to bring prosperity to all and save the planet.

If this is true, why would the participants include the leader of a country that has an ethnic minority, the Uighurs, in what is essentially a concentration camp? Does “justice” mean similar concentration camps everywhere? Will China submit the plans?

Davos, like Camelot in Monty Python, is an ideal portrayed by people unwilling to acknowledge the unintended consequences of their knightly mistake. At the end of Monty Python Holy GrailHowever, the Knights are turned away from their police film. While playing a knight, an actor accidentally slays a scholar who was talking about the legend of King Arthur. How much damage can the elites do in Davos?

Instead of looking for solutions from the World Economic Forum, we should look to the wisdom of Hayek and the others who founded the Mont Pelerin Association. As they knew, the best path forward was not to seek the Holy Grail of fairness, but the open road to freedom. Let’s take it.

Caroline Brechers

Caroline Brechers

Dr. Caroline Brechers is Professor of English at Saint Lawrence University. Caroline has a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia with a major in eighteenth-century British literature. Recent publications include Women’s Writings in the Eighteenth Century, “Memoirs of a Scandal” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and articles in Aphra Behn Online and the International Journal of Pluralistic Education and Economics.

She was most recently the Adam Smith Scholar at the Liberty Fund, and her current research focuses on Adam Smith and literature. She teaches courses on fairy tales, eighteenth-century British literature, and Jane Austen.

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