The rich and powerful at Davos debated capitalism today with a defense that invoked Winston Churchill’s famous dictum on democracy. “Democracy,” Churchill told the House of Commons, “is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Carlyle Group Managing Director David Rubenstein suggested in his historical comparison is that capitalism is not perfect but it’s the best we’ve got.

While the Time Davos panel, entitled “Is 20th century capitalism failing 21st century society?” acknowledged a desire to reduce inequality, there was a shrug of resignation about the way forward and an absence of solutions.

Indeed, one business member of the panel, pressed by a question from the audience, acknowledged there was only so much they could fix in a 90-minute panel. That may go to the heart of the World Economic Forum annual meeting itself: while it admirably raises the attention of complex issues by debating them with the media world watching, it can’t be expected to resolve them in this snow-capped Swiss town.

And it couldn’t in a forum like this which was, as Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen grumbled, a “battle of nostalgia.”