THANK God for Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum (‘Davos’) and coiner of the phrase ‘The Great Reset’. In three words, he foolishly exposed not just his own sinister ambitions to ‘reset’ society in the post-Covid world, but crystallised a process that has been going on for some time: the transfer of power and wealth to a supranational elite, often as a consequence of responses to various international crises.
In recent years we have undergone a number of ‘resets’, going back at least as far as the 2008 banking crisis or even before that the anti-global warming agenda. On each and every occasion the response to the narrative of international crisis has led to vast transfers to the elites. For instance, the banking crisis led to the huge public bailouts of large private banks deemed too big to fail. The public bailed them out, but few bankers were prosecuted or even lost their bonuses, while quantitative easing had the effect of raising the prices of assets largely held by the wealthy. Similarly, green policies have consistently rewarded the well-heeled at the expense of the poor: large landowners made a packet out of wind farm subsidies, whereas the poor got higher electricity bills, the loss of manufacturing jobs and the forthcoming ban on petrol and diesel cars. Latterly, the response to Covid-19 has had an even greater effect, once again favouring big corporations and institutions over the little guy: we were locked down to ‘protect the NHS’ – from the public; small traders and enterprises have been driven to the wall while huge corporations like Amazon have prospered; public sector workers continued on full pay as government debt – paid by us all – exploded; vaccines developed by Big Pharma were preferred to readily available and much cheaper solutions such as Vitamin D supplements. (There is an interesting article on Vitamin D here.)
On Covid-19 and much else, our government did, in the end, practice herd immunity: the immunity of the elites against the people.
Before you reach for your tin foil hats, this blog will emphatically not be going down the rabbit hole of alleging some vast, all-knowing globalist conspiracy co-ordinated by a sinister, cat-stroking oligarch. Although it is true that the ‘resets’ we have already been subjected to have coincided with an increasing militancy within international organisations, such as the United Nations, the EU and yes, the World Economic Forum, agenda setters within them are often very open about their intentions, and to blame such actors is actually to confuse cause and effect: there have always been people who wished to control the destinies of the rest of us, but their agendas would stand little chance if they were up against robust, properly functioning democracies.
It is the atrophy of Western democracy that is the root cause of our ills: the representative model has had its day and does not function very well anywhere. Its decline has many roots, but more than anything else it is a function of the information age. First of all, in all advanced countries this led to the rise of a cognitive elite who, by virtue of high intelligence and levels of education, were best placed to manage the information-intensive digitisation of every aspect of our society. Nationally and internationally, almost everywhere institutions are dominated by people who have far more in common with each other than with the general population of their respective countries.
A second consequence is the exponential rise in the density, speed and richness of modes of communication. It is a banal truism of human nature that your decisions and actions will tend to become most highly aligned with those you communicate and interact with most regularly, and thus come to know and understand best.
As Adam Smith wrote: ‘People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.’
Crucially, much of that alignment occurs at a subconscious level. The elites, whether in government, the higher echelons of business, government and the public realm, constantly communicate and negotiate with each other through a mixture of lobbying, discussions on regulation, supply of services and so on that is simply not mirrored between the broader electorate and its political representatives. Yes, these days we can email our MP, participate in opinion polls, petitions and alternative media. However, our system of accountability, voting for a political party’s manifesto every five years, is still stuck in the age of the horse and cart.
Brexit is highly instructive here: tellingly, it is the only victory in recent years won by the people against the elites, and one impossible to arrive at via a purely representative democratic route. Initially decided by direct democracy, as soon as the institutions of representative democracy were tasked with its delivery the process started to decay. During May’s sorry term as Prime Minister, it looked from the outside that its gradual defenestration was the result of some cold, calculated and consciously planned grand conspiracy, organised by May and Olly Robbins. Although conspiracy did play a part, in fact what happened was largely that following the shock and chaos of the referendum result, the network of elite relationships largely subconsciously reordered itself. Even though a decent if flawed Brexit has finally been delivered, it would be foolish to suggest a similar process won’t manifest itself once again: EU/UK relations will now be governed by a series of civil service committees, but who watches the watchmen? Who can doubt that with time the decisions reached will benefit these new elite relationships and the networks that will organically form around them rather than the people? Maintaining the spirit and actuality of Brexit will require constant vigilance.
Whatever the ultimate fate of Brexit, only a new system of democracy can save us from the Great Resets of the future. Plural. There will inevitably be more crises, and the reordering that naturally follows any period of chaos will tend to favour the elites over the people until politicians can be made far more immediately accountable to the demos. We must move to a hybrid system including referenda by citizens petition and right of recall – and we can do it. Brexit showed us just how much the common people can achieve and it must be the springboard to much greater revolutions in our culture, economy and not least our politics. Let us work towards ‘The Great Reset’ of our democracy. Klaus Schwab, eat yer heart out.