Why Davos Is Disney World for Dorks

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
Jan. 24 2013 3:59 PM

Disney World for Dorks

The world’s elite come to Davos each year to network—and say nothing in particular. What I saw with my little orange badge.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev addresses a session of the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in the Swiss resort of Davos on January 23, 2013.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev addresses a session of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 23, 2013

Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images.

DAVOS, Switzerland—I started falling asleep only three hours into the World Economic Forum.

Klaus Schwab, the impresario behind the WEF, had just officially opened the group’s annual meeting, which brings 2,500 politicians, CEOs, and academics to this ski town in Switzerland each January. The theme for 2013 meeting, which runs through Saturday, is Resilient Dynamism.

Klaus kept trying to explain what those words mean, and he kept failing, perhaps because they sound like nothing so much as an expensive new makeup brand for middle-aged women: Resilient Dynamism. Because your smile is priceless!


Then it was Christine Lagarde’s turn. Lagarde must use Resilient Dynamism. Her skin looks great. She is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and is one of the most powerful people in the world. She began to tell us what she’s against and what she’s for.

She is against climate change.

She is in favor of economic growth.

She is against income inequality.

She is in favor of social media, or thinks it’s unstoppable, or something.

She is against financial gamesmanship and forum shopping. I don’t think she’s referring to the mall at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas; I can’t be sure.

She is in favor of long-term thinking.

She is against too much debt.

She is in favor of women’s rights … and presumably puppies.

At this point, I had to force my eyes open before I started to drool on myself. I will be resilient, I told myself. I will be dynamic. I will stay awake.

Remember the most boring freshman-year bull session you ever had? Lagarde seemed determined to recreate that, all by her lonesome. She made Tom Friedman, the patron saint of Davos, sound like an original thinker. And she couldn’t even pepper her speech with “humanizing” anecdotes like Friedman does: I was talking to a cab driver in Bangalore, a caddy in Buenos Aires, a fisherman in Ulan Bator, a teenage beauty queen in Riyadh, a double-amputee Iraq veteran in San Antonio—no, strike that last. Friedman would never talk to an American soldier. Too depressing.

But the real problem with Lagarde’s speech was substantive, not stylistic. Every idea she proposed falls into the category of Who could be against that? Who could be against long-term thinking? Who could be against women? Who could be against ideas that have nothing to do with the real-world choices that politicians—and the rest of us—face every day? Climate change might be disastrous, but does that mean we want carbon taxes that raise the price of a gallon of heating oil to $10? And how exactly will those taxes affect economic growth?

Lagarde had nothing specific to say about which ideas she thinks are most important—much less what compromises might be required, much less which specific countries, companies, or people might have to suffer to reach those compromises. Her speech was worse than tiresome. It was almost Orwellian in its vacuity. By its end, I couldn’t tell if the head of the International Monetary Fund was as stupid as she seemed or merely pretending to be stupid because she believes we have no right to hear what she really thinks. I am not sure which would be worse.

Welcome to Davos.

*                                  *                                  *



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.