The meeting of the most powerful in the world in Davos has meanwhile also become a hotbed of conspiracy theories. Partly abstruse, but the intensive review shows that there are a few truths behind some of the criticism of the World Economic Forum. Which “Davos Men” are particularly criticized?

Whoever shuts himself off has something to hide. It’s more of a cliché than valid truth, but for many, the setting of Davos doesn’t exactly inspire confidence: a small mountain town that’s cordoned off for an event where only a select few are allowed to attend. This week, the powerful will meet there again to discuss the great problems of the world.

The World Economic Forum has been around since 1971 and it has always produced a lot of news. What is new is that there are now three types of reports that pelt everyone who is not up there on the mountain: the reports from independent journalists, who are present in droves and closely involved with what is being discussed there . Secondly, there are statements by critics that are by no means lying, but are driven by interests and are therefore not objectively independent. And thirdly, there are the conspiracy theories, which have developed in enormous numbers and force in recent years.

For many people, Davos is the center of evil, a projection surface for all sorts of fantasies that get millions going. A few examples: When the statement is made in Davos that in the future cars will be shared more frequently in the sense of the so-called sharing economy, then it follows that the World Economic Forum wants to ban private cars.

The father of Davos founder Klaus Schwab became Adolf Hitler’s confidant, for which there is no evidence whatsoever. And when the local police officers have a patch on their jackets, the legend arises that the World Economic Forum has its own police force, a state within a state. It really started with stories during the hot Corona phase, including the claim that Davos was planning to only send food to vaccinated people.

This is of course strong stuff. And you have to separate this from the justified criticism of the forum and the behavior of regular participants. Renowned journalist Peter S. Goodman is someone who has dealt with this like no other. His book “Davos Man” caused a worldwide sensation. Goodman works for the New York Times and has won various awards. His 500-page tome is a single indictment of entrepreneurs going in and out of Davos.

However, the term “Davos Man” did not come from him. Political scientist Samuel Huntington popularized it in 2004. He used it to describe people who became so rich through globalization and who adapted so much to the rules of the globalized world that they were basically no longer rooted in any country. But they met in Davos.

Goodman took a close look at some of these people. Jeff Bezos, for example, who plays badly with his company Amazon competitors and imposes low wages and harsh working conditions on his employees. A man who preaches sustainability and travels space for fun.

Beautiful words, appearance and reality are very different for these billionaires. This also applies to Larry Fink. The head of Blackrock likes to deny other companies and their bosses a sense of responsibility, but does not waive a penny of debt write-offs for broke countries. After reading the book, one may also doubt whether his funds are actually as environmentally friendly as Blackrock claims.

The Men of Davos: How a Small Group of Billionaires Rule the World

Blackstone also gets to hear from Goodman – namely his boss Stephen Schwarzman. The private equity group is posting soaring profits from housing developments while millions are struggling to pay rent. The health service providers would also act in a morally extremely questionable manner. Then there’s Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce. A guy who loudly advocates for social justice and stakeholder capitalism on Mondays and tricks his corporate tax bill to zero on Tuesdays. Or Jamie Dimon, head of bank JPMorgan Chase, who campaigned for tax cuts in 2018 while drawing $31 million in salaries.

Goodman writes, “The Davos Men capitalize on the plight of others, buying up real estate, stocks and company shares at bargain prices, and cleverly using their lobbying and power to funnel massive, tax-financed bailouts into their accounts.” This “Billionaire Class” is now “separated from the rest of humanity”. The author may have formulated the behavior of the Davos Man companies very pointedly, with all the price gouging, anti-competitive behavior and lobbying – it is not wrong.

Goodman rails against the injustice of wealth concentration among billionaires at the expense of the vast majority of the world’s population. And it upsets him that they give to charitable philanthropists instead of paying a decent amount of taxes – ideally in democratic countries. The billionaires are not puppet players in a large-scale conspiracy. They just take advantage of the gaps that politics leaves them: “The Davos Man only takes advantage of the fact that our system of government suffers from discord and dysfunction – and the commandments of state violence no longer work.”

The Davos Man’s trick is to pretend that there is only one alternative, either to accept globalization as we have been experiencing it for decades, “or to smash everything to pieces in a ludicrous manner.” This representation is not only wrong, but dangerous: “The alternatives are not that either Steve Schwartzman is allowed to exploit the American health system or that we have to do without a health system altogether. We are allowed to continue shopping on Amazon while demanding that employees continue to be paid if they are ill,” writes Goodman.

Goodman nails these billionaires to the wall and blames them for the vast majority of capitalism’s weaknesses. Here’s the rub: it’s not the system itself that causes injustice, the growing gap between rich and poor. It’s the behavior of a few and that they can coordinate in places like Davos.

This begs the question: if Davos didn’t exist, would these billionaires exercise their power elsewhere? Probably yes. If people like that want to network, they will. And it is also true that such practices existed for a good 50 years before the World Economic Forum was founded.

*The article “The nasty rumors about the mysterious “Men from Davos”” is published by WirtschaftsKurier. Contact the person responsible here.