Congress Center Davos

Event Report: Rebuilding Trust - The 2024 Davos Agenda

The World Economic Forum's Four Themes Seek To Rebuild Trust

The 54th annual convening at Davos brings 2700 delegates from over 130 countries to officially attend the World Economic Forum’s event.  Meanwhile, an additional 5000 individuals join events around Davos in a series of programing known as UnDavos.  This year’s official Davos proceedings center on four main themes:

  1. Achieving Security and Cooperation in a Fractured World.  The forum hopes to find ways to deal with security crises and stem fragmentation of societies.
  2. Creating Growth and Jobs for a New Era.  Leaders seek win-win-win partnerships with government, business, and civil society to craft new economic frameworks that benefit more stakeholders.
  3. Artificial Intelligence as a Driving Force for the Economy and Society.  More disruptive and exponential in impact than the Internet, the conveners want to harness artificial intelligence as a force for good in all aspects of society, economy, and technology.
  4. A Long-Term Strategy for Climate, Nature and Energy.  Members hope to develop long-term systemic approaches to address climate through carbon reduction while improving inclusive access to food, water, and energy.

Self-Inflicted Crises Dominated 2023

By all means, 2023 was a very difficult transition for many global economies, enterprises, and individuals.  Many of us wished for a return to pre 2019 conditions, but were severely disappointed.   More importantly, the year continued a series of five self-inflicted crises that global leaders had to address and overcome (see Figure 1): 

Figure 1. The Confluence of Crises

A diagram of a diagram of the difference between inflation and inflation

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Source: Constellation Research, Inc.

  1. Inflation.  Over stimulus by governments drove goods inflation while supply chain issues exacerbated prices which led to union actions that compounded wage increases.  Pernicious wage inflation could impact global growth rates. Instead of addressing the root cause of high energy costs by increasing choices and supply, leaders imposed more costly ESG requirements forcing citizens to choose between food or energy.
  2. Interest rates.  Monetary policy met fiscal constraints and central banks used interest rate increases as a blunt tool to combat inflation at the expense of economic expansion. Lower energy costs and less fiscal stimulus would have created a more market driven option in driving down interest rates
  3. Inventory.  Supply chains felt constraints from post-pandemic logistics along with a shift in inflation and interest rates as the world sought deglobalization as a means to mitigate geo-political risk.  Inventory shortages increased inflation and kept prices high.  Labor strife added to woes in logistics and supply chain networks.
  4. Infection.  Work from home policies led to a flight from urban dense cores to suburban spaces.  This enabled dense urban cores to continue their deterioration in public safety as shop owners faced declining business and mass transit ridership plummeted. Reopening mania created revenge spending demand for luxury goods and experiences.  Meanwhile lockdowns reduced childhood learning rates.
  5. Invasion. Wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and kinetic war threats in the South China Sea and Persian Gulf continue to add to the sense of a heightened global insecurity.  Armed conflicts and cyberattacks have impacted the general populaces psyche and a feeling that governments have failed to protect them. The lack of a strong benevolent super-power keeping peace through strength and savvy foreign policy has led to this decline.

Five Dominant Narratives Espoused By Elites Hinder The Rebuilding Of Trust

This convergence of these self-inflicted crises and globally enabled chaos could be attributed to the lack of leadership among the “Davos Set” to listen to and act upon the concerns of the general public by actually addressing the root causes of trust.   In fact, the Davos Agenda versus Public Trust has been the crux of the issue In the growing lack of trust in institutions and continues to exacerbate the divide among the general populace and the “elites”.

From an objective point of view, this lack of trust stems from these root causes:

  1. A Belief That The Expert Classes Know Best.  The notion of elites making decisions for the rest of the world and academic experts deciding policies without public input has eroded faith and public trust over the past decade.  Time after time, the public has seen how the expert class lacks the pragmatic skills to govern and positively impact their lives.  The pandemic showed how inept and detrimental the expert class could be.  Children were deprived of schooling in long and unnecessary lockdowns.  Small businesses were shut down and destroyed while big businesses were given exemptions.  Vaccinations were forced upon a populace instead of giving them free will and choice to decide.  Individuals were fired for upholding their personal beliefs and freedoms.
  2. The Great Reset Is Needed To Create A New World Order.  As part of the Davos Manifesto, elites felt that by influencing business leaders, the political class, and academia with the World Economic Forum’s point of view, they can craft a better society through forced polices upon the rest of the world.  These elites champion forced scarcity due to climate change, global interests over local interest, big pharma vs independent medicine, technology to control others instead of technology to enable individual freedom, forcing a global competitive level playing field instead of enabling market based innovation.  This reset was designed to attack countries who have outperformed the rest of the world.
  3. The Assault On Free Markets And Democracy As Evil Ideologies.  Corruption by the elites in liberal western democracies adds to the narrative that free market capitalism and democracy have created failed models.  The failed models stem from the lack of accountability for performance by the ruling class to uphold the original values each institution was founded upon.  From two-tiered justice systems to two-tiered healthcare, society sees how money, power, and greed have corrupted efficient markets and systems. 

    Leaders in liberal western democracies have bought votes from the populace with promises of free housing, education, healthcare while seeking contributions from business with free tax breaks, trade deals, and laws that benefit the few. At the same time, these same leaders use the prospect and delivery of more regulation to take over greater control of individual freedoms and obfuscate the efficiency of free markets. The calls for stakeholder capitalism have only proven to lead to disasters at companies who forget that their purpose is to address shareholders and have led to losses and backlash by the general public.

  4. Continued False Narratives of Inequality And Forced DEI.  The push to harness support for failed policies prays on creating class warfare and tribalism.  This ideology pushes a notion of cultures divided by oppressors and oppressed.  The continued division by superficial diversity (e.g. skin color, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin) enables the pitting of one group over another while root cause issues are ignored.  In these models, success is not rewarded but instead attacked.

    Cries for equity have resulted in more inequity and injustice as small minorities inflict tyranny on silent majorities and often helpless majorities.  When shop owners cannot defend their property from looting and biased district attorneys protect the criminals at the expense of victims, society finds the world turned upside down.  DEI has ruined many young adults dreams to pursue educational opportunities at “elite” institutions and has prevented the promotions of hard working individuals who believe in meritocracy.  Instead of creating systems that enable conditions for all types of individual to have equal opportunities, the short-term fantasy for equal outcomes without hard work has added to overall inequity and anger.

  5. Hypocrisy In Do As I Say Not As I Do.  From leaders breaking their own quarantine rules during the pandemic to elected leaders getting away with corruption by special interests, the general public sees how laws are no longer fairly and equally applied.  Laws must be applied equally to all or else systems will break and society will have chosen winners and losers.  Add to the rise of misinformation campaigns and the destruction of objective journalism, these twin forces exacerbate the divided conversations among societies and continue the perception and reality of hypocrisy among elites.

The Bottom Line: Rebuilding Trust Must Move From Words To Actions

Trust is the ultimate currency.  Institutions in public service, higher education, media, business, and society must uphold to higher standards of transparency and trust. Rebuilding trust requires a commitment to reward integrity and punish those who do not uphold the values required for a trusted society.  Application of rules must be uniform and fair. Leaders must deliver on dynamic leadership while balancing responsible and responsive approaches. 

Good leaders will anticipate and deliver on the needs of the majority while listening and advocating for the voices of the minority to create a culture of optimistic abundance not a culture of forced scarcity.  Rebuilding trust is not lip service nor a mantra for a corporate campaign.  Rebuilding trust requires a shared commitment and sacrifice to achieve a win-win win among all stakeholders.

Trust will be earned by actions, as actions speak louder than words. Trust will be restored and elevated when individual rights are protected, meritocracy is rewarded, justice is equally applied to all, checks and balances are in place, accountability is expected, and rule-breakers will be appropriately punished.

Trust will return when the elites abide by the same rules as everyone else.

Your POV

Do you see WEF as a force of good or evil? Can trust be restored by the elites or is this a fantasy?  What do you hope to get out of Davos?

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