This time last year, Justin Fox’s idea of a clever blog entry was a video of him skiing in Davos. This year, now that he’s absent from Davos and has a brand-new job at HBR, he’s writing about “the attraction of hybrids like continuous workout mortgages or regulatory hybrid securities”. Staying away from Davos can do wonders for your blog quality! You should read his blog entry, it’s really good — it talks about all the different ways in which debt can be made a bit more like equity, and asks why they haven’t really caught on.
Journalists love to talk to each other at parties, and Davos, being in many ways one big party, is covered with pockets of hacks gossiping away about off-the-record events. And one factoid which has emerged from the off-the-record fog is a story which will come as a great disappointment to many journalists hoping that paywalls will be the savior of their profession.
I like James Gibney’s evisceration of Davospeak:
Dr. Schwab and Company have made a handsome business out of enabling old-fashioned clubby capitalism by wrapping it in feel-good globoblather: “unprecedented multistakeholder, multimedia dialogue…look at all issues on the global agenda in a systemic, integrated and strategic way…intensify collaboration and develop innovative solutions…generate an unprecedented process of discussion and deliberation.” As George Orwell tellingly observed, “When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” The next time you hear “multistakeholder,” remember that, in Davos at least, corporations hold the biggest stake.
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.