Davos Man, He Dead
The Credit Strategist - February 2024
After years of patiently listening and nodding their heads as so-called experts pontificated about their (mostly progressive) ideas about how to destroy the world at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, some attendees started pushing back this year. Perhaps the accumulated effects of the 2008-9 global financial crisis, the 2020 pandemic (and ensuing inflation explosion resulting from the bungled decision to shut down the global economy), a global immigration crisis, and two wars are finally starting to convince people that Davos Man is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Until now it was deemed impolitic to tell Davos Man that his ideas are precisely the opposite of what’s required to promote and sustain future freedom and prosperity. But this year, finally, several people including the Heritage Foundation’s Kevin Roberts, JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon and Argentina’s newly elected president Javier Milei decided enough was enough.
Mr. Roberts runs a conservative political group so his views were no surprise, but he didn’t pull any punches, saying, “The very reason I’m here at Davos is to explain to many people in this room and who are watching with all due respect – nothing personal – that you are part of the problem. Political elites tell the average people…that the reality is ‘x’ when in fact, reality is ‘y.’” Further, “[i]t’s laughable that you or anyone would describe Davos as protecting liberal democracy,” highlighting the fact that the progressive ideology promoted by Davos Man opposes free speech, racial equality, rational climate policy, and other tenets of classical liberalism. Prior to the conference, Mr. Roberts wrote: “The infamous hypocritical self-avowed Marxists, private-jet environmentalists, and genocide-adjacent humanitarians want to hear from Heritage Foundation how they can ‘rebuild trust’ with everyday Americans against whom they have weaponized their institutions.” He then tweeted: “My message to the self-appointed global elites: Your time is up.”
While it has long been clear to readers of this publication that there are fundamental deficiencies in the progressive project, the anti-human, antisemitic reaction to Hamas’s genocidal attack on Israel (whose key component was sexual violence against women) removed any doubt that progressivism is broken. Progressives like to talk about their personal “truths” (whatever that means but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt here). Well, they certainly exposed their “truths” after October 7th as antisemitic, misogynistic, anti-human and anti-freedom. And rather than realize they went too far, they have been doubling down ever since they came out in support of Hamas and in opposition to Israel’s right to defend itself against an enemy that intentionally embeds itself among allegedly innocent civilians in order to create the illusion that Israel’s self-defense is improper.
Progressivism wasn’t always this way. The movement originated in good faith measures to correct the sins of past inequality and racism (by which, by the way, Jews were also victimized), but it was pushed to extreme limits that caused it to negate itself and turn into its opposite. So instead of an enlightened, pro-freedom, pro-equality philosophy, progressivism became an unenlightened, anti-freedom, anti-equality program. That is why liberals today oppose free speech on university campuses, support reverse racial discrimination in the form of affirmative action admissions and corporate hiring, and promote redistributionist, pro-dependency economic policies that ultimately reinforce poverty and ignorance. These are precisely the policies that destroy freedom, slow economic growth, and most importantly harm the disadvantaged groups they purport to represent. These are the truths Mr. Roberts was trying to deliver to the Davos audience; he may not be invited back which would be a shame because he is trying to save Davos Man from himself.
Jamie Dimon was similarly blunt in criticizing the progressive religion of Davos. In an interview with CNBC at the conference, he delivered a message that contradicts the media’s narrative about Donald Trump and the Republican agenda, urging greater respect for Trump’s voters (to be clear, I do not support Trump’s candidacy): “But when people say MAGA, they’re actually looking at people voting for Trump and they think they’re voting – and they’re basically scapegoating them, that you are like him, but I don’t think they are voting for Trump because of his family values. If you look at it, just take a step back, be honest. He’s kind of right about NATO. Kind of right about immigration. He grew the economy quite well… Tax reform worked. He was right about some with China. I don’t like the things he said about Mexico, I don’t like – but he wasn’t wrong about some of these critical issues. And that’s why they’re voting for him.” They are also voting for him because they find progressive (woke) ideology not only offensive but absurd. The FAA actively seeking out “severely handicapped” people to work at an agency charged with protecting travelers’ safety? The Biden administration’s hiring policies that are openly discriminatory against non-minorities? Its attack on energy production? Forgiving student loans and rent payments long after the end of the pandemic? Allowing open borders while progressive California offers free healthcare and other benefits to illegal immigrants? People see these progressive policies as morally and intellectually bankrupt and contrary to a system that they thought was supposed to value hard work, self-reliance and independence and question what is happening in their country that has become unrecognizable to them. Even if one agrees with these policies, Mr. Dimon was making the point that disrespecting those who oppose them is unjustified.
Both Mr. Roberts and Mr. Dimon point to the lack of self-regard that characterizes progressives who clearly don’t care that their policies are self-contradictory, self-destructive and ineffective. While both American political parties are guilty of criminal negligence with regard to borrowing and spending America into oblivion (and many other lapses on things like immigration and gun control), progressives have taken their policies to extremes that many moderates can no longer support. The fact that Donald Trump is almost certain to be the Republican candidate for president and could return to the White House is overwhelming evidence of just how badly progressives damaged their own cause. That was Mr. Dimon’s message. Democrats should open their eyes before it is too late (it is already probably too late) and acknowledge that their policy agenda is poisonous and the biggest obstacle to electoral success.