The ‘Great Reset’ masterminded by the World Economic Forum is just corporatism by another name.
Writing for The Spectator US, Ben Sixsmith gets to grips with “the Great Reset” now being proposed by the World Economic Forum (“Davos”).
And yes, despite a name that sounds as if it were conjured up in some of conspiracism’s danker fever swamps, the Great Reset really exists:
“The World Economic Forum, which organizes the annual conference Davos, has launched an initiative called, yes, ‘the Great Reset’. It has its own website.”
Indeed it does.
But, after noting the involvement of “partners” such as Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, IKEA, Lockheed Martin, Ericsson and Deloitte, Sixsmith doubts whether the Great Reset can be seen, as some like to suggest (even allowing for a bit of hype) as “socialist Left Marxist” or a “global communist takeover plan.”
Fair enough, not least because the Great Reset is, in essence, corporatist, not communist. The participation of companies of the type that Sixsmith mentions is, in reality, the participation of certain members of their senior management, using shareholder funds for purposes that have nothing to do with the bottom line and everything to do with the wielding of power within a system akin to a concert, with the state — if not necessarily the government — acting as the conductor.
In the course of an article on the Great Reset I wrote last month, I described corporatism as:
[A] hydra-headed ideology with origins in the premodern, and a very mixed past — sometimes benignly (it influenced the formation of West Germany’s social market economy) and sometimes not (it was an important element in pre-war fascist theory.) The different forms corporatism has taken make it tricky to define with precision, but they share a common core: the conviction that society should be organized by and for its principal interest groups — let’s call them “stakeholders” — intermediated by, and ultimately subordinate to, the state. The individual does not get a look in.
Recently, one expression of corporatism, “stakeholder capitalism,” has won strong support on both sides of the Atlantic. This might be expected in Europe, but that it has been taken up by the Business Roundtable and many leading firms in the U.S. — allegedly a bastion of both free enterprise and democracy — is depressing. Looked at optimistically, the BRT and its C-suite cheerleaders are useful idiots. Looked at realistically, they are part of a managerial class grubbing for the power that flows from other people’s money.
Stakeholder capitalism rests on the notion that a company’s management owes a duty to more than its shareholders. It’s something that Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman, has been advocating for a long time. A key feature of the Great Reset is the idea that stakeholder capitalism should, one way or another, be adopted.
That would reduce a company’s shareholders to just another category of “stakeholder,” effectively transferring the power that capital should confer away from its owners and into the hands of those who administer it. They are then accountable to, well, it’s not quite clear whom. It’s not difficult to grasp why so many corporate bosses are enthused by stakeholder capitalism.
But stakeholder capitalism is a betrayal of democracy as well as of shareholders. The power it gives to managers is increasingly being used to support an agenda influenced by a cabal of activists, NGOs, representatives of the “international community,” and politicians too arrogant to go through the usual legislative process.
Sixsmith takes, in my view, too relaxed a view of what stakeholder capitalism is him. To him, it is “a concept so vague that Facebook, IBM, Lockheed Martin et cetera are free to interpret it quite as they wish.”
Approvingly, he cites Steve Dunning, writing for Forbes: “Firms can go on privately shoveling money to their shareholders and executives, while maintaining a public front of exquisite social sensitivity and exemplary altruism.”
But while removing one possible obstacle to shoveling money to executives (shareholders are a different matter) is a part of stakeholder capitalism’s appeal to managements (bonuses are easier to justify when targets are to grow, say, diversity rather than the share price), it is only one part of its attraction. Much of stakeholder capitalism’s appeal lies elsewhere, whether it is from the social approval that it can generate for a manager who uses his or her role in such a positive way, or in its ability to hand executives power, which they can wield, as noted above, with relatively little accountability now that their responsibility to shareholders has been so diluted.
I don’t disagree with the argument used by Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase — an extremely capable businessman, but also a corporatist’s corporatist — that there is need for a stimulus, and sooner rather than later, but there was something disconcerting about the language he used in a recent discussion on this topic:
U.S. politicians are behaving like children by not passing a new stimulus bill that could help Americans whose income has been wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic, JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said on Wednesday at a New York Times conference.
“This is childish behavior on the part of our politicians,” Dimon said about an impasse between Democrats and Republicans over how much additional spending should be authorized.
The two parties should split the difference between the amounts they want to devote to coronavirus relief, he said.
Dimon is entitled to give his opinion, but his tone was not that of a constituent or even a businessman battling for his shareholders, but of an oligarch.
Power is an intoxicant.
Writing for Time in (checks notes) an issue “produced in partnership with the World Economic Forum,” Dimon argued this:
Capitalism must be modified to do a better job of creating a healthier society, one that is more inclusive and creates more opportunity for more people. That means meaningful changes like rebuilding our education system and providing skills training, affordable health care policies, substantial infrastructure investment, and sensible immigration reform and climate policies. That’s just a start.
I am optimistic that this is possible as we enter a new decade. In August, more than 180 CEOs of leading U.S. companies signed the Business Roundtable’s new statement of corporate purpose, committing to creating economic opportunity for all of their stakeholders: customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders. It’s a call to action to do more for everyone who works for us, and society in general.
Many businesses are rethinking their role in society…
Well, the managers of many businesses may be rethinking what role ‘their’ businesses should play, but whether the shareholders, who own those businesses are doing the same thing may be a different question. What, for example, do the shareholders of JPMorgan Chase, who have, largely unwittingly, given Dimon a platform to undermine their rights, think of his pronouncements? And for someone who, on that occasion anyway, rather relished attacking (elected) politicians, Dimon sounded distinctly political, and in a way that suggested that he expected people to pay attention. Yet he has not been elected to any political office, and, as I far as I know, has no plans to be.
With the switch to a corporatist regime well under way, it’s easy to understand why he’d rather not run for office. In many respects it would not only be a demotion, but an undignified one. It’s a messy business, scrabbling around for votes. The politicians Dimon describes as “childish” are nothing of the sort. He may not like how they are behaving, but they are doing what they do because of their analysis of how various constituencies will react to the decisions they make, an analysis that the (unelected) Dimon has the luxury of not having to make. The conclusion they draw may lead to those politicians taking a stance with which Dimon (not unreasonably in this case) disagrees, but the disdain in which he appears to hold them can easily slide into a technocrat’s impatience with the inefficiency of democracy, an impatience felt by quite a few of those who have, over the course of history, succumbed to the corporatist temptation.
Sixsmith has read the dreary and appallingly-written COVID-19: The Great Reset (the book). Schwab is co-author along with Thierry Malleret, an economist and a member of the WEF team. Sixsmith notes, correctly at several levels, that “this is no Communist Manifesto. The Communist Manifesto was a bracing read.” Indeed, I can confirm that The Great Reset is not that.
Sixsmith explains that The Great Reset “considers a world after the pandemic,” a conceit he finds “audacious given that it was written less than six months after the virus had even appeared.” That is to be too easily impressed. Schwab has been peddling his stakeholder prescriptions for half a century. The pandemic is just the latest crisis on which he has hung them. Some of the book does indeed consist of predictions, but for the most part, these forecasts are just an updated, even more ambitious version of Schwab’s perennial wish list.
“If you read The Great Reset in anticipation of some kind of baroque manifesto for world tyranny,” warns Sixsmith, you will be disappointed. “There are no elaborate schemes for globe-spanning coup d’états and techtalitarianism.” The…