A Bolder Thrust at Davos


I mildly dissed Davos and the folks there in my last post. Today I read a longer and far more pointed screed by Umair Haque. I have just started reading his new book, The New Capitalist Manifesto. Haque criticizes the Davos "process" as representing a form of corporatism that has failed to produce its promised prosperity. While he does not refer to sustainability explicitly, his arguments point to essentially the same set of underlying issues I do. I appreciate his fearlessness. I am always amazed that the Harvard Business Press hosts his blog.

Here's just a small sample from this column, titled, "Ten Things You're Not Allowed to Say at Davos."

Consider me gagged and muffled. I confess: I wrote a long-winded, thoroughly boring, hopelessly cliched critique of Davos this year, like anyone under the age of 35 facing a future bleaker than the dark side of Pluto, probably should. And then I junked it. Why? Well, this year, Davos is back with a bang — and it's simply not in good taste to call it a vulgar, loutish spectacle of Ponziconomics.

Hence, instead, I'll humbly submit for your perusal a quick and dirty list of ten things you're probably not allowed to say at Davos — but that if rebooting prosperity is what really care about, you should be.

I'll add just one of these ten items.

#7. Moral vacuums tend to empower the amoral. Self-explanatory: take a look at these accounts of bankers vigorously defending what at this point my pet hamster knows is basically indefensible. It's like a self-parody — except it's not. Economists aren't exactly renowned for having a moral compass, yet without one, it's impossible to take on the fundamentally ethical challenge of rebooting prosperity.

He's not afraid to suggest that revolutions are needed. With my techie roots still attached to the Earth, I fall short, calling only for a transformation. The words are different, but both of us are clear about replacing the current institutions and the norms and beliefs on which they are based with a new set. He focuses primary on the economic world. I concentrate on the modern vision of the individual and on complexity. We intersect in many places especially the place that homo economicus holds in the economic machine. I encourage you to read the whole column. I note in these closing few paragraphs that he, as I wrote a few days ago, recognizes that the future is not a game to win or lose. Obama, please take note.

Our best chance to heal our broken world might just be a series of revolutions — economic, industrial, social, political — that each starts with tinier awakenings — personal, professional, ethical, intellectual.

Hence, here's my hunch: creating a better future's going to take what it's always taken. And that's not powwows concerned with "winning," because the future isn't a game.

It's going to take small steps towards rediscovering the timeless lessons of mattering; whose value isn't just denominated in today's dollars and cents — but whose worth is measured in meaning.