The Davos Question

Welcome to the 2017 version of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos. This meeting has been going on in various forms since 1971, when it was known as the European Management Forum, but today it is known for its over-the-top excess. Two years ago, it was reported that 1700 private jets flew into Davos for the meeting to discuss global warming. This is not the kind of headline that WEF’s founder, Klaus Schultz, desires because while the Davos annual meeting in is known for its parties, famous people, and even the skiing, but Shultz wants the meeting to be known for the high-minded exchange of ideas, and not just any ideas, but globalist ideas.

While Davos has had a good run pursuing globalism, the mood in 2017 is less optimistic as there has been unprecedented pushback in the form of “populism,” which is more properly though of as “nationalism.” This essay is about trying to understand the tensions between these two perspectives, the globalist and nationalist. The globalist perspective goes back to the beginning of modern international relations (IR) after the beginning of World War I with the advent of the Carnegie Endowment for International Affairs, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the League of Nations, all of which were allied to further the worthy if elusive goal of ending war. There is a traditional tension within IR between the study of war and economics, between guns and butter. Pacifists concentrate on economics to help avoid war.

In its modern form, the WEF concentrates on a palate of issues that extend far beyond economics: (1) 4th industrial revolution, (2) responsive / responsible leadership, (3) global collaboration, (4) building positive identities (Soros), (5) fixing market capitalism, and (6) restoring economic growth. Beyond that this years WEF annual meeting will feature advocates for basic income, borderless migration, and women’s equality. A first this year will be the attendance of China’s president, Xi Jinping, who will be attending as an advocate of globalism. Seeing how China has taken such a lead as a world trading power, it has a vested interest in reducing national borders and nationalism. 

But the conspicuous consumption at Davos and the virtue signaling of the WEF serve to detract from the fundamental question of who is paying for all this? The WEF sells memberships, and the higher the level of membership, the better the access. The WEF webpage is understandably coy about the cost of membership, but let’s just say that if you have to ask you can’t afford it and the WEF  does pretty well.

One might gain some insight into how WEF by looking at how the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) or Clinton Foundation is funded. Why is that? That is, why might the two organizations be considered similar? CGI notably features a similar palette of policy concerns. They are concerned about women’s issues, homosexual rights, wealth inequality, economic opportunity, and migration. In other word, CGI advocates the standard set of politically correct issues of the international political establishment.

However, the sources of GCI’s funding, being an American institution, is easier to determine than WEF’s. GGI’s funding comes from multiple countries including Saudi Arabia, who donated over $10 million, the Ukraine, which has donated millions, and Lebanese-Nigerian developer who donated more than $5 million dollars. Other significant donors to CGI include the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Brunei, and Algeria. These are not countries that are noted for their notably progressive policies. In fact, these countries are often noted for their repression of women, intolerance towards gays, persecution of journalists, and corruption of their institutions.

So why do such countries give so much money to the Clinton Foundation? Bill and Hillary Clinton contend that CGI is a charity, that those who contribute do so because of the good work the Clintons do, and that anyone who questions CGI is opposed to charity and good works. This is of course highly suspect as Hillary Clinton was the US Secretary of State and a candidate for the US Presidency while CGI was collecting funds. In fact, Hillary Clinton made a range of ethically questionable policy decisions as Secretary of State that were described by Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash, the reporting of which was rewarded with endless denials and counter-accusations by Hillary’s campaign. Schweizer describes possibly influenced decisions made in Kazakhstan, Russia, India, Africa, Columbia, Haiti, as well as the global banks. Any one of those policy decisions that looks like shady deals might be able to be explained away, but in an international environment in which relationships are essentially transactional, the Clintons’ overall pattern reveals a disturbing pattern of behavior.

Examining the sources of the Clinton Foundation’s stated goals, its funding sources, and the decisions Hillary Clinton made as Secretary of State and those she might have made as president of the United States reveals a significant disconnect that has been noted by other investigative journalists and inadequately explained by political operatives. Because the idea that foreign governments are giving “extra” money to the Clintons to do work is very, very implausible, it therefore appears that the donors are getting something in return that is being hidden by the laudable goals so visible on the Clinton Foundation‘s website.

In conclusion, it is worth considering if the combination of WEF’s well-advertised good works and intentions combined with the sky-high entrance fees needed to attend and participate in the annual meeting at Davos, which is so similar to the Clinton Foundation, results in similar transactions that its participants would prefer to be hidden. Clearly Davos has invested over forty years of effort into a meeting that has a quality of participant and status that those with the money find it valuable to attend. But what might be available that is of sufficient value to be traded? Rich countries have assets that are immensely valuable, and several of Secretary of State Clinton’s shady deals allowed foreigners granted access those assets so long as the donation to the Clinton Foundation was large enough. The globalism advocated by WEF involves a similar commitment to the reduction of sovereignty. This reduction goes under the name of globalism, which by definition involves a diminution of sovereignty and national borders. Because there are good reasons for sovereignty and borders, the WEF’s advocacy of globalism has resulted in a reaction they call “populism” but could also be called “nationalism.” The WEF says that the populist reaction should be listened to, but whether it will be remains to be seen.

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