#Davos2021 started yesterday.
We’ve all been hearing a lot The Great Reset lately, new slogans abound such as Build Back Better, the New Normal, and what seems to be a “new” model called “Stakeholder Capitalism” is being espoused (although it is not new, I wrote about the pendulum swinging from stakeholder supremacy to shareholder supremacy back in the days of Milton Friedman in the inaugural post for this site).
Recently I decided it would be helpful challenge my own reflexive inclination to suspect that we were all being collectively screwed by our institutions, yet again. I wondered if these momentous shifts were simply one of those tectonic phase shifts that occur throughout history and that I shouldn’t leap to the conclusion that it’s some disingenuous and ultimately malevolent pseudo-reality being imposed from above.
It is fitting that as #Davos2021 begins, I outline my arc in which I tried to suspend disbelief around The Great Reset narrative, forcing myself to pose the question:
What if The Great Reset was getting a bad rap?
Maybe it’s true that the world has changed irrevocably, and that change hasn’t been driven or captured by a razor thin scab of elites at the top of the socio-economic pyramid who are setting the agenda. The idea of a reset may be well founded, after all when I first started writing about wealth inequality and crony capitalism over a decade ago, I called it “Rebooting Capitalism”.
So I started going through Klaus Schwab’s books: The Fourth Industrial Revolution (2016), COVID-19: The Great Reset (2020) and most recently, Stakeholder Capitalism. (2021). It started out as s a curious blend of nodding one’s head in agreement, underlining numerous passages, musing that maybe this is just descriptive, not prescriptive. By that I mean, maybe Schwab is simply trying to make sense of the shifts occurring, and not really offering frameworks around what should happen next, but just trying to parse what is happening and possible trajectories of the future.
This former case is similar to Warren Mosler’s description of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). It describes how Mosler and other MMT-ers think the system actually works and why the outcomes will not be as conventional economics generally fears. In Stephenie Kelton’s more recent book The Deficit Myth, she builds on this theme that MMT is more descriptive with some prescriptive policy recommendations. But my overall sense of it is that these books about MMT were more about trying to articulate a new way of looking at the existing system and not trying to drive a completely overriding agenda (even if that’s what would happen if policy makers seize on MMT as a rationalization for destroying their currencies).
I mention MMT here specifically because we touch on it again when I contrast it to Charles Hugh Smith’s concept of Community Labour Integrated Money Economy (CLIME), a little later.
With Schwab, he spends a lot of time in a descriptive mode, talking about the what is happening in the world, although we do see some of his assumptions creeping in and for awhile, I am cautiously optimistic that if everything Schwab outlines as a policy response to global issues like global poverty, and of course now, the pandemic, maybe it’s just the way of the world and this is the direction things are going without there necessarily being a SPECTRE-like entity in the WEF driving a self-serving agenda.
When Schwab talks about how a grand ideal of a standard issue One World Government model, what he calls the Neoliberal Utopia simply will not work, I breathe a sigh of relief,
“Consider a global government [that] regulates multinational companies in global markets, and people gather in a global democracy and global unions. It is an unrealistic an undesirable goal, as it increases the distance between individuals and the immediate social ecosystems they are a part of. It also decreases their feeling of commitment to the people and the environment closest to them…Though the 20th century neoliberalists once may have seen such a global model as a Utopian ideal, it would inevitably end in the political disenfranchisement of local communities. When the center of power is too far removed from people’s everyday realities, neither political governance nor economic decision-making would have popular support.”
- Stakeholder Capitalism p.181
But then, the more I read, the more I couldn’t shake the sense that when a guy like Schwab means by the word “commitment, what he really means is “obedience”. Schwab understands that people aren’t really going to accept decisions from on high, especially if on high is a centralized world government.
What we really need is “Subsidiarity”
Schwab goes on to introduce with a flourish one of the core pillars of Stakeholder Capitalism: Subsidiarity (the other is “Value creation and sharing”):
A primary principle for the implementation of Stakeholder Capitalism is therefore that of subsidiarity. It is not an untested or purely theoretical principal. Applied most famously in the governance of the European Union..it asserts that decisions should be taken at the most granular level possible, closest to where they will have the most noticeable effects. It determines, in other words, that local stakeholders should be able to decide for themselves, except when it is not feasible or effective for them to do so.
Subsidiarity is supposed to mean “whatever can be done at lower levels of government should not be done at higher levels”, but my guess is the devil would be in the details. Like in that last sentence of the quote, when it is not feasible or effective for the “stakeholders” in Stakeholder Capitalism to decide certain matters for themselves, those will have to be decided for them.
What would those sorts of issues be?
Well for starters, there’s climate change. That’s one of the things that’s already been decided…
“It makes sense to coordinate this challenge first at the global level.” but then the second level is at the national level, where countries can take different approaches, a limit on auto travel would have significant effect in the United States, where cars are the primary mode of transportation. Taking a different approach, such as limiting air travel, would affect certain groups of people more than others. Subsidiarity supports a national or local level of decision making for countries to determine which path will work best for them to effectively address the global goal”.
As Schwab blithely bandies about various limitations and curtailments on everybody else’s range of motion and economic choices, there is never any treatment of climate change as anything but a global crisis that justifies the complete re-ordering of everybody’s lives.
And yet, the same level of drastic re-ordering of everybody else’s lives is proffered in Schwab’s other book, COVID-19: The Great Reset, even though by his own admission in that same book, COVID-19 is a not civilization ending plague:
“Even in the worst-case horrendous scenario, COVID-19 will kill far fewer people than the Great Plagues, including the Black Deaths, or World War II did”
- COVID-19: The Great Reset p. 17
Albeit one that provides an excellent opportunity to reorder everybody else’s lives,
changes that would have seemed inconceivable before the pandemic struck, such as new forms of monetary policy like helicopter money (already a given), the reconsideration/recalibration of some of our social priorities and augmented search for the common good as a policy objective, the notion of fairness acquiring political potency, radical welfare and taxation measures, and drastic geopolitical realignments.
The broader point is this: the possibilities for change and the resulting new order are now unlimited and only bound by our imagination, for better or for worse. Societies could be poised to become either more egalitarian or more authoritarian, or geared towards more solidarity or more individualism, favouring the interests of the few or the many…
You get the point: we (as in the WEF) should take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to reimagine your world.
If COVID-19 is a comparatively lightweight pandemic to be opportunistically seized upon to drastically reorder everybody’s lives, one cant help but wonder if the climate “crisis” isn’t yet another global softball. Perhaps in the cold light of day, it could turn out that climate change is either out of our hands (if it is driven largely or even partially by solar cycles) or that climate alarmism is in itself more toxic and destructive than the direct effects of climate change itself, as Michael Shellenberger asserts in “Apocalypse Never”,
Apocalypse Never explores how and why so many of us came to see important but manageable environmental problems as the end of the world, and why the people who are the most apocalyptic about environmental problems tend to oppose the best and most obvious solutions to solving them.
Shellenberger, Michael. Apocalypse Never (p. xi). Harper. Kindle Edition.
Shouldn’t there be some sort of process or governance structure in there to protect the world’s citizens from being overly regulated by somebody else’s idea of what is important? Should there be some counterbalance to these unilateral assessments of when drastic measures are required, especially when those measures would supersede our own agency in ordering our lives?
But there isn’t, not in Schwab’s Stakeholder Capitalism after the The Great Reset.
What we get instead is “subsidiarity”:
Another example around climate change, conspicuous in its lack of coverage in Schwab’s books is the idea of nuclear energy.
If the entire world is headed toward an eventual transition off of fossil fuels (if for no other reason than Peak Oil) then shouldn’t the safest, cleanest, efficient energy source be featured prominently? The next generation pebble bed reactors and micro-reactors are safe to the point of being effectively riskless when compared to other forms of energy generation and the number fatalities those other forms cause when accidents do occur:
The worst energy accident of all time was the 1975 collapse of the Banqiao hydroelectric dam in China. It collapsed and killed between 170,000 and 230,000 people. It’s not that nuclear energy never kills. It’s that its death toll is vanishingly small. Here are some annual death totals: walking (270,000), driving (1.35 million), working (2.3 million), air pollution (4.2 million). By contrast, nuclear’s known total death toll is just over one hundred.
Leading Shellenberger, an environmental activist of 30 years to assert that,
Nuclear is the safest way to make reliable electricity. In fact, nuclear has saved more than two million lives to date by preventing the deadly air pollution that shortens the lives of seven million people per year….
Nuclear’s worst accidents show that the technology has always been safe for the same inherent reason that it has always had such a small environmental impact: the high energy density of its fuel.
- Shellenberger, Michael. Apocalypse Never (p. 151). Harper. Kindle Edition.
And then there’s also Thorium, which can’t meltdown and the radiation half-life is measured in weeks, not years. There is no mention of any of this in any of Schwab’s books.
Under subsidiarity, local governments across the world will be tasked with addressing problems Kraus Schwab and the Davos crew (the wealthiest 0.01% of humanity that own somewhere north of $36 trillion of the global assets) deem to be problems, and reorder the world according to how the WEF thinks things should be prioritized.
What are the priorities?
We get some insight by looking at the list of “Deep Shifts” Schwab predicts in his earlier book: The Fourth Industrial Revolution, where he posits what the big changes are that are coming at us in terms of tipping points, positive outcomes, negative outcomes and “unknown / cuts both ways”.
Shift #1: Implantable Technologies (p. 121)
“Digital tatoos not only look cool but can perform useful tasks, like unlocking a car, entering mobile phone codes with a finger point or tracking body processes”
(or implementing immunity passports).
Shift #10: Smart Cities (p.144)
Shift #11: Big Data for Decisions (p. 145)
Shift #22: Designer Beings
Tipping point in for this one will be when “The first human whose genome was directly and deliberately edited is born” (which I will point out, has already happened with the CRISPR babies in China).
Shift #23: Neurotechnologies (p. 170)
Tipping point: “The first human with fully artificial memory implanted in the brain”.
Together, they coalesce to usher in an impetus toward transhumanism ordered by Big Data and AI that will probably, in lieu of any honest debate or public consultation around these shifts, result in a type of social credit system.
And that’s what is missing from Schwab’s books. There is nothing in the framework where local communities can identify and define what they see as problems for themselves and work toward solving them. There is no mechanism for asserting their own priorities of types of things the communities themselves may value above the WEF’s “Deep Shifts”, such as full or meaningful employment, privacy, or self-sovereign health care.
In other words, what is missing from Stakeholder Capitalism is that, despite paying lip service to inclusion and community, there are no actual mechanisms for priorities coming from the bottom up.
What I’ve been realizing is that you can take two systems that have outwardly similar mechanics, like MMT and Charles Hugh Smith’s CLIME. Both systems describe an economy from which money is created ex nihilo to fulfill or generate economic activity. But from those two frameworks one can envision two very different outcomes: hyper-inflation and a two-tier society on one, and a robust community of involved economic actual stakeholders getting stuff done in the other. Why?
Because one is a top-down framework where the incentives are set by policy makers removed from the economy they attempt to fine tune, while the other is a bottom-up ecosystem where actual economic activity is a direct result of market signalling and community needs.
After reading through the Schwab material having initially forced myself to suspend judgement, I now am now firmer in my initial suspicions that The Great Reset, Stakeholder Capitalism and Build Back Better slogans that come out of these annual Davos circle jerks are blissfully oblivious to what they themselves actually are.
They believe that the role they are ostensibly to serve is as the “enlightened stewards” of society, taking the liberty of reimagining everybody else’s lives.
In reality, they are the living embodiment of uber-woke super wealthy elites , so tacitly sure that their belief systems are the product of their own personal enormous material success that they can’t really be beliefs but self-evident truths. After all, if they were wrong, they wouldn’t be super rich, right?
What is being proposed however, what The Great Reset and Stakeholder Capitalism is, isn’t just benignly wrong-headed or egregiously presumptive: it is chilling.
It doesn’t specifically call for social credit, or an AI-driven authoritarianism, yet that is what its tenets and incentives will produce. It aspires toward transhumanism, and so far all indications are that governments, and global elites seem to be buying into it and singing the “Build Back Better” mantra of Stakeholder Capitalism in concert.
If The Great Reset comes about, and I think it’s already here, it will lead to that two tier society where the world’s underclass are governed algorithmically via smartphones, digital, programmable scrip (UBI) and well ordered dopamine hits. Meanwhile the far smaller populace that actually owns all the assets globally live in a parallel universe where they retain agency, freedom of movement, diet, and thought.
On my mailing list I talk about what we can do as individuals to try and get clear of The Great Reset. Because even if we loathe this with every fibre of our being, find it oppressive and tyrannical, anti-human, anti-spirit and soulless, we won’t be able to do anything about it from the wrong side of the impermeable membrane that will very soon cordon off the haves from the haves-nots.
We have to defend our liberties, our civil rights and our assets in the New Normal. In a worst case scenario it’ll require forming an underground network a la Isaac Assimov’s Foundation. The Foundation’s stated purpose was to survive the onset of a Galactic Dark Age and preserve the accumulated culture and wisdom of a civilization that had irrevocably embarked on a path that would trigger its own demise.
Now more than ever it is important we all try to improve things from the grass roots level as the Stakeholder Capitalism rubric may be the last gasp of a system about the come off the rails completely or after a prolonged period of disruption and tyranny.
Charles Hugh Smith and I are working on a base framework for CLIME that will empower communities to create their own local exchange currency and take control over their own community economies.
- Join my mailing list to be notified about that and get other advice on surviving The Great Reset.
- Start setting up on alternative communications channels like Telegram, Signal and Keybase (we’re setting up a Bombthrower Telegram here)
- Support third-party political parties like the Greens if your left-of-center or the Libertarians or PPC if you’re on the right; withdraw your financial support and votes from incumbent political parties everywhere, at all levels (more on this in another post).
Hold your ground where possible, but prepare for a type of Samizdat communications culture for awhile. We may have to keep in touch with each other from the underground. The mainstream media will be no help and Big Tech is part of the problem.