How to give a Davos opening address
Nicolas Sarkozy gave a rather predictable speech to kick off the World Economic Forum today. He started out with fiery populism, talking about how “without state intervention, the world would have imploded”, and how globalization had created, pre-crisis, “a world where everything was given over to capital, and nothing to labor, in which the entrepreneur gave way to the speculator”. But then, after bashing excessive pay packages and warning of dire consequences if Davos Man didn’t change his ways, he spent most of his speech becoming vaguer and vaguer, devolving into standard Davos platitudes, and talking — as all Davos speakers do — about being bold and tackling poverty and changing the world and so on and so forth. By the time it was all over, he had proposed absolutely nothing concrete, and the assembled plutocrats were happy to give him a loud ovation.
I suspect that what we saw with Sarkozy is Davos 2010 in a nutshell: while seeming to make a decisive break from the past, in reality it’s just more of the same. Sarkozy will fly back to Paris convinced that he confronted the delegates with harsh new realities; the delegates themselves, meanwhile, will feel that they belong to the future rather than the past and that they’re part of the solution rather than being part of the problem.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must dash. I’ve been invited to a fondue dinner being thrown by JP Morgan. I’m sure that no one there will feel in the slightest bit threatened by Sarkozy’s pro-forma rhetoric.