Geopolitics, Arts and the Alps

You have to take three trains to get from Zurich’s international airport to Davos, Switzerland. The schedules are so finely tuned here that it’s no big hassle. About the only difficulty is staying awake — after traveling all night from California — so you don’t miss your transfer stops.

The last train winds up into the Alps, threading through breathtaking scenery and ultimately into the village of Davos. It’s my first trip here.

When some people say “Davos” they are talking about the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, an event that resonates with globalism. In the next few days some of the world’s richest and most powerful people will congregate here to discuss all manner of topics, but on their collective minds is the recent World Trade Organization debacle in Seattle.

The panel I’m moderating has almost nothing to do with the matters that roiled Seattle. Some experts are going to discuss “knowledge architectures” for the future — the way we’ll collect and circulate information as networks become ubiquitous.

The Davos crowd believes in the correctness of globalism, of free trade. They’re right on the concept. But the rich and powerful are facing a backlash that they cannot and should not ignore. They need to hear more protests, not fewer. They need to understand why so many people look at free trade with such utter panic. The transition from what was to what’s coming is going to be painful, and the powers-that-be underestimate how regular folks will react.


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