David Frum

01.28.13

World to Davos: Will You Admit You Screwed Up?

Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola takes part in a session of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013 on January 25, 2013 at the Swiss resort of Davos. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images ()

My latest at CNN: the global elite gather in Davos.

The world of punditry is divided into two groups: those who attend the World Economic Forum at Davos and those who mock the World Economic Forum at Davos. (There's a subgroup that both attends and mocks, but it's tiny.)

Yet Davos is important, whether you attend or no. (I don't.) And if Ian Bremmer is right, this year something genuinely encouraging may be happening at the grand global gathering of business leaders, politicians and big-thinking academics.

"As the world struggles to bolster its resilience against economic and political uncertainty, the key risk is the increasing vulnerability of elites. We're seeing leaders of all kinds, in the developed and developing world, in politics as well as business and media, answering to constituents who grow more dissatisfied... and information-rich. Look at the riots in India over the recent rape scandal, the U.S. Congress' abysmal approval ratings or the phone hacking scandal at News Corp. Corruption, special interests or a lack of transparency will spell trouble for leaders."

Bremmer, a brilliant analyst of the global economy, is a regular Davos participant. He's recording his impressions of the 2013 conference in a diary for the Huffington Post.

If he's perceiving elite anxiety, one can only say: finally.

"What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass." So snarked Queen Victoria's first prime minister, Lord Melbourne.

He might have been talking about the euro. Or the securitization of the U.S. mortgage market. Or the British government's attempt to restore prosperity through budget austerity. Or. Or. Or. Over the past decade and a half, we've seen one horrendous economic decision after another made, not by voters in democracies, but by people who owed their power to their claims of superior knowledge. Together, they have plunged us into a decade and a half of disasters, culminating in a global financial crisis triggered by new credit instruments that were advertised as ending financial crises once and for all.

Yet by and large, these leaders have escaped public accountability or even criticism over the past six years of global crisis. The people who designed the euro continue to run the European Central Bank. The people who wrecked the American banking system walked away with multimillion-dollar severance packages. We all know that life's not fair. But this unfair?

Read the rest at CNN.