After Adrian Monck had decamped from poorly-paid academic life to well-heeled employment in charge of Public Affairs for the World Economic Forum he once gently chided me for an intemperate, exasperated comment I had made about the Forum’s annual talkfest. In retrospect, I think I was reacting to the infuriating smugness of journalists (and bloggers) who were really just flaunting their entree into such an exclusive club — much as sports reporters might flaunt a ticket to the dining room at Augusta National during the Masters. But because I take Adrian seriously, I started paying more attention to what goes on in Davos. So I was intrigued to find that he has started blogging again with this thoughtful post. “Davos”, he writes.
“is an independently-minded mountain community, steeped in Switzerland’s direct democratic tradition. Its altitude and an enterprising doctor, Alexander Spengler, made it a destination for well-heeled tuberculosis sufferers. Thomas Mann set his comedy of ennervation, The Magic Mountain, in one of its sanatoria. Albert Einstein helped kick-start its reputation as an intellectual retreat (video).
Davos today is a working alpine town. The town’s tourism is a functional contrast to the chocolate box world of Villars, Zermatt and St Moritz. The Forum’s Annual Meeting boosts the local economy, but not its winter sports. Barely one-fifth of those participating can be accommodated in a five-star hotel. The local ski-lift company has contemplated shutting the lifts during the Meeting. When I’m there, as a member of the Forum, I sleep on a single bed and share a bathroom. Hardship? Not really, but it is work.
And that suits the Forum, because it deals with the world as it is, not as it would prefer it to be. It is not a decision-making body. Nor is it a conspiracy in which the horological components of global governance and industry are wound together to frustrate the rest of the world…”.
Of course one has to remember that he works for the forum, so the Mandy Rice-Davies caveat applies. Still, the next post on the blog gives a set of interesting, contradictory and sometimes critical perspectives on this year’s event.
I’ve been to Davos once — many years ago, long before the Forum was thought of. I thought it a rather dull, workaday place, quite different from St Moritz which is just around the corner. I remember it chiefly because I bought a Swiss Army knife there which I still have.