Covid-19: The Great Reset by Klaus Scwab & Thierry Malleret
The most repeated truism about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is that it has accelerated or “exacerbated”, as the authors of this book prefer, societal changes which were already taking place gradually.
With the rise of America First, Brexit and Xi’s China many were already blowing the whistle on “Davos Man”. Few events now feel more BC (Before Covid) than the World Economic Forum late this January when the businesses’ Masters of the Universe crowded into the small Swiss ski resort for their annual situation report. Even the top Titan, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, joked of his nightmare that “all of us who went there got it. And then we all left and spread it. The only good news from that is that it might just have killed the Elite.”
The worldwide lockdowns which came into force, unforeseen at the meeting, in the weeks immediately following it clipped the wings of Davos movers and shakers along with the rest of us. But idleness is alien to Klaus Schwab, the 82-year-old German engineer and economist who founded WEF. This summer he and another Davos stalwart, Thiery Malleret, a French historian, economist and futurologist, produced this volume to consider the pandemic and its consequences.
Covid 19: The Great Reset is a useful primer of bien pensant analysis and positive thinking. What it lacks in originality it more than compensates for with its thoroughness and insight. The authors point out that Covid-19 is much less deadly than the Spanish Flu of a century ago, even less Medieval plagues, which wiped out millions while, at time of writing, C-19 deaths are still below one million in a much larger global population. Yet they report that the economic impact on the GDP of the rich G7 nations may be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
They speculate the changes in society it precipitates may be as large as those following the Second World War. Like the WHO they reckon that the present outbreak won’t be over until 2022, while the lessons they draw from history are that its consequences will reverberate for perhaps forty years. Citing Henry Kissinger’s observation “when the Covid 19 pandemic is over, many countries’ institutions will be perceived to have failed”, Schwab and Malleret note “the two countries which have embraced the policies of neoliberalism with most fervour, the US and UK, are among those that suffered the most casualties”.
The authors report that business leaders and policy makers are increasingly denouncing “market fetishism”. They predict bigger governments and higher taxes and less pre-occupation with GDP growth. The US dollar’s “exorbitant privilege” as global reserve currency is likely to come into question and the British and UK governments “will be forced to reconsider many features of this obsession with finance”.
They argue that inequality is a driver of many human problems, including Covid 19, but are unable to say whether wealth gaps will start to close in consequence. They are equally uncertain that there will be the “resets” they hope for on other relevant questions, including climate change, the hydrocarbon economy and our treatment of other species. As for our lives, there will be more working from home online and a growth of “IoT” ( the internet of things) including smart toilets to aid “telemedicine” and “chatbots” similar to Alexa, graduating from domestic slavery to conduct business.
Such issues, some only tangentially related to Covid 19, have long stimulated debate at Davos. If we followed WEF’s recommendations this probably would be “a better world”. But as ever there is a big gap between what the Forum says and what its high-rolling attendees actually do. Davos 2021 has already been put off indefinitely due to the pandemic.
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