The Davos Class, Greenway, Romney’s taxes, etc.

Punk Mum, by Banksy
Punk Mum, by Banksy


I resolve to try, in 2012, to do more posts with fewer items. But here’s a link dump of stuff that’s been accumulating on my browsers:

(1) Susan George on “The Davos Class”: The Transnational Institute has a great report called The State of Corporate Power 2012: Exposing the Davos ClassThe lead article is an excerpt from Susan George’s book Whose Crisis, Whose Future?. Here’s a tidbit:

‘“All for ourselves and nothing for other people” seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind,’i wrote Adam Smith in 1776 in The Wealth of Nations, universally considered the first comprehensive inquiry into the nature and practice of capitalism.

The masters of mankind are still with us:  I call them the Davos class because, like the people who meet each January in the Swiss mountain resort, they are nomadic, powerful and interchangeable. Some have economic power and usually a considerable personal fortune. Others have administrative and political power, mostly exercised on behalf of those with economic power, who reward them in their own way. Contradictions among its members can most certainly exist – the CEO of an industrial company does not always have exactly the same interests as his bankers – but generally speaking,  when it comes to societal choices, they will agree.

I’m not impugning anybody’s individual morality here – there are surely plenty of kind-hearted bankers, generous traders and socially responsible CEOs. I am simply saying that, as a class, they can be counted on to behave in certain ways if only because they serve a single system. The Davos class, despite its members’ nice manners and well-tailored clothes, is predatory. These people cannot be expected to act logically because they are not thinking about longer-term interests, usually not even their own, but about eating, right now.

You can find the Davos class in every country – its members do not belong to a conspiracy and its modus operandi can be readily observed and identified.  Why bother with conspiracies when the study of power and interests will do the job? The Davos class is always extremely small relative to the society and its members naturally have money – sometimes inherited, sometimes self-made.  More importantly,  they have their own social institutions – clubs, top schools for their kids, neighbourhoods, corporate and charity boards, holiday destinations, membership organizations, exclusive fashionable social events, and so on – all of which help to buttress social cohesion and collective power. They run our major institutions, including the media, know exactly what they want and are much more united and better organized than we are.

But this dominant class has weaknesses too; one is that it has an ideology but virtually no ideas and no imagination.  Their programme since the 1970s, usually called ‘neoliberalism’, is based on freedom for financial innovation, no matter where it may lead, on privatization, deregulation, and unlimited growth; on the supposedly free, self-regulating market and free trade that gave birth to the casino economy.  This economy has failed spectacularly and is now thoroughly discredited, at least in the public mind.

Read the rest of the excerpt.  The TNI report has lots of great infographics, including this one:


Planet Earth: A Corporate World
Planet Earth: A Corporate World

There’s also a Spanish version of the report.


(2) Greenway Conservancy Scandal: I’ve been enjoying an emerging scandal surrounding the Greenway Conservancy, the 501(c)3 nonprofit that manages the Rose Kennedy Greenway, one parcel of which (Dewey Square) Occupy Boston took over for a couple of months.  It was the Conservancy that asked the city of Boston to evict Occupy Boston (see item 3 in this post, and item 2 in this post for more details).

Last week Nancy Brenner, executive director of the Conservancy, tripped up when a reporter from the Boston Herald, our right-leaning newspaper, asked her to disclose her salary.  She sent an email to her PR consultant asking which of several ways of avoiding answering the question she should opt for–but she sent it to the Herald reporter by accident.  Find the original cover article after that gaffe here. Since then, Transportation Secretary Richard Davey asked the Conservancy to release records (which it did, reluctantly) and he has since said that they should “begin to wean itself off government support” (see here).

We’ll be covering this story as it unfolds.  Besides the Occupy Boston connection, there are multiple other ironies (e.g. millions of dollars going from the Transportation Department to the Greenway even as the MBTA threatens fare hikes and service cuts, while the MBTA is saddled with debt from the “Big Dig”–the Artery Tunnel Project that serves the city’s automobiles and created the Greenway).

(3) Romney’s taxes: I haven’t seen this item from the LA Times referred to elsewhere:  Romney tax returns detail funds not reported in ethics forms.

(4) Two items on Summers:

(5) India Factory Workers Revolt, Kill Company President: From Forbes.

That’s it–saving some juicy items for later.

–Chris Sturr


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