In the Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente explains why the great and the good at Davos are worried about the lumpenproles back home:
Forget APEC and the G20. Forget the climate-change summit. If you belong to the global elite, the only place that really counts is Davos – the yearly schmoozefest where central bankers and celebrities meet to network and exchange Big Thoughts. Where else can you party with both George Soros and Leonardo DiCaprio? When they invite you to Davos, you know you’ve arrived.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has arrived. This year he shared top billing with Mr. DiCaprio, the activist actor who has been nominated for an Oscar for being mauled by a bear. Everybody wants to get a load of the hottest star in politics. Besides, they need a break from the relentless doom and gloom.
But Davos Men aren’t like the rest of us. As Chrystia Freeland so memorably wrote in a famous 2011 piece in The Atlantic, they live increasingly in a world apart, “a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with” each other than with the folks back home. They live in gated communities and send their kids to private school. “The real community life of the 21st-century plutocracy occurs on the international conference circuit,” she wrote.
The gathering at the Swiss ski resort is as close as you can get to a pure meritocracy. All the people at Davos are the smartest people in the room. Like Mr. Trudeau, they are forward-looking and postnational. They believe that nationalist sentiment is a defect of the bitter clingers, who don’t understand that diversity (despite Cologne) is good for them. Unlike the bitter clingers, they are personally untouched by the seismic shifts underfoot. They’re on the winning side of change. Every year their lives get better and better.
But now, the bitter clingers are rising up, pitchforks at the ready. They are rallying behind Donald Trump – Trump! – in a massive rejection of every value a Davos Man holds dear. They’re convinced the elites have failed them. They blame the elites for the disruptions of globalization and technology that have stolen their jobs and their children’s futures.
They will never work at Google. And they’re mad as hell. They’ve lost all trust in the business and political and intellectual and celebrity class, jetting to their conferences 60,000 feet in the air. That includes the folks in Davos – the smartest people in the world, with no idea what to do.