THE World Economic Forum, if it means anything to most people, means a jamboree in the snow where the big guns of international politics and finance get together and feed each other’s outsize egos.
You may even have a mental stock image of some Evan Davis or other standing in the snow and doing a piece to camera while sharp-elbowed ministers in the background look important and manoeuvre themselves into shot.
You might have wondered what entitles the likes of George Soros or Bill Gates to rub shoulders and influence political leaders at these get-togethers.
You might wonder why Britain should have abolished rotten and pocket boroughs, or limited the powers of patronage of prime ministers or the role of the Lords, if a new breed of influence-seekers is allowed to flourish in their place.
The involvement in formulating public policy of unelected people who can demonstrate only an ability to amass a vast personal fortune is questionable unless the chief criterion for attendance at these shindigs is to be able to fly to Switzerland in a private jet.
But if the World Economic Forum were nothing more sinister than a talking-shop where European leaders jockey to have their picture taken with the Japanese Prime Minister to burnish their internationalist credentials and to make them look if not exactly tall, at least fully grown, where would be the great harm?
Well, the problem is that the WEF has metamorphosed into a threat by devising the Great Reset for the developed world’s economies.
This isn’t one of those resets where you try turning the computer off and on again to see if that will make it work better. No, the Great Reset is best understood by its slogan ‘Build Back Better’ (BBB).
BBB was originally conceived in the context of disaster relief and prevention, and that makes a deal of sense. If an earthquake strikes a developing country, it is hard to argue that rebuilding new and better infrastructure is no more use than sending in Oxfam teams with 4×4s to prostitute the destitute.
US President Joe Biden and our own Prime Minister are enthusiastic adherents of BBB, so it is worth considering whether a policy devised for disasters in the third world can be applied to a developed country. Does it of necessity imply preparedness to countenance or even to promote the partial deconstruction of the existing economic landscape in order to achieve a future Eldorado under state design?
Even allowing for Boris Johnson’s bombast, it would be a mistake to dismiss the BBB mantra. The huge damage done to this country’s economy and sense of wellbeing over the last year, without proper parliamentary oversight, could offer an opportunity for politicians sufficiently deranged and economically illiterate to stifle a natural reprise of activity in favour of imposing ideological dogma.
Government is no good at running business, and even worse at picking winners. When it ran swathes of the British economy, Britain ended up as the poor man of Europe, beset by strikes and culminating in Jim Callaghan’s Winter of Discontent.
All those best-since-sliced-bread things that have improved life before and since Otto Rohwedder invented the bread-slicing machine (and Gustav Papendick who improved on Rohwedder’s loaf packaging) owe everything to human ingenuity and resourcefulness and nothing to the state.
The power of the state lies elsewhere and has for the last year been exerted on a population in which self-reliance has apparently been bred out and which has been terrified into a degree of submission, fear and unquestioning compliance.
This is enough to make any aspirant pocket dictator feel quite bobbish. But will the population be as amenable when the threat is less immediate and without the endless drumbeat of death? Will people be as willing to ‘save the planet’, for example, as they have been to ‘save the NHS’?
At some juncture folk will have had enough. Whether that point comes with vaccination passports, enforced hotel quarantine following trips abroad, a sharp increase in fuel duty to curb car use, a range of imaginative new taxes to create green investments with a negative rate of return, or runaway inflation which, thanks to the debauching of the currency, makes essentials unaffordable, who can tell?
And when that point does come, Boris Johnson might reflect on Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech from September 1988: ‘We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.’
With ‘Building Back Better’ he will have achieved that journey in reverse by having rolled back the power of the EU only to replace it with an overweening centralised control over stagnant businesses and a spavined economy which will end up beggaring us all.