There is a cynical saying in politics about never letting a serious crisis go to waste. The idea is simple enough: to use an unusual situation as a pretense to implement an agenda that might otherwise prove unpopular.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns imposed by governments have presented an opportunity to some to ensure we do not return back to “normal” – whatever that is – and, in the words of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “build back better.” The alliterative line is a nice catch phrase that sums up what Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, is openly advocating: a Great Reset. Coming out of an economic downturn, whether it is Trudeau’s building back or Schwab’s reset, the goal is to remake society – mostly the economy, but also the culture and politics – according to the well-worn principles of “sustainability” and “inclusion.”
Some people think that the Great Reset is a conspiracy. Indeed, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò warned about the Great Reset in an open letter to President Donald Trump, calling it, “a global conspiracy against God and humanity.” But it is hardly a conspiracy when Schwab has released a book by the title COVID-19: The Great Reset, announced a Great Reset project (along with Prince Charles) last June with a dedicated website, and has made it the theme of the next annual Davos meeting of global elites (although it will be held in Singapore) in May.
The Great Reset website notes its corporate partners, including Apple, Facebook, IBM, Lockheed Martin, and Microsoft. Ah, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are involved; they must be up to something nefarious.
The (in)famous Davos meetings attract the heads of state, government, business, NGOs, and international agencies — thousands of them. The meeting of this elite is hardly some shadowy cabal, with most of their proceedings live-streamed for the world to view and with journalists in attendance.
Prince Charles said in launching the Great Reset: “We have a golden opportunity to seize something good from this crisis — its unprecedented shockwaves may well make people more receptive to big visions of change.” Announcing the project, Schwab said, “The Great Reset will require us to integrate all stakeholders of global society into a community of common interest, purpose, and action.” He called the “old system” unsustainable, as insisted that national governments must “steer the market toward fairer outcomes.” Everything from tax policy and trade agreements to corporate management and individual consumption would have to be reimagined. And by individual consumption, he means everything from eating meat to where we vacation; before we do anything, we must think of the planet.
Schwab, who founded the WEF in 1971, has been pushing “sustainable development” almost as long as he’s been leading the World Economic Forum. Regardless of the economic crisis – the energy crisis of the 1970s, the housing crisis of the 1980s, the tech bubble in the 1990s, the 2008 financial crisis, or COVID-19 today, Schwab has pushed for sustainable development, inclusive growth and stakeholder capitalism (opposed to shareholder capitalism) as the solution to whatever economic tumult the world is facing.
Schwab has long pushed the idea that companies have a duty to more than its shareholders; that private enterprise should be responsible to workers, customers, society, the environment, and whatnot. This sounds like a swell idea, and most companies already act with those stakeholders in mind; but legally changing corporate responsibility to these groups is hardly benign, and there is a reason why so many corporate executives are enamoured of it: they would no longer be accountable to shareholders and would be responsible to … it is not exactly clear. Most likely, corporate executives would seek the approval of like-minded, often activist business, government, and NGO leaders. In Schwab’s vision, big business and government would be partners. What could go wrong?
National Review’s Andrew Stuttaford calls the notion of shareholder capitalism that is at the heart of the Great Reset a power grab. Yet, as Steve Dunning said in Forbes, it looks all so exemplarily altruistic.
What the conspiracy theorists get wrong is calling it a conspiracy. It is all done in the open. Secretive cabals do not write about their plans in books or post them on websites. They don’t write articles about them in weekly magazines.
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, wrote in an article for Time, “produced in partnership with the World Economic Forum,” that “capitalism must be modified to do a better job creating a healthier society, one that is more inclusive and creates more opportunity for more people.” His laundry list of policies include “rebuilding our education system … affordable health care policies, substantial infrastructure investment, and sensible immigration reform and climate policies.” If this sounds like the platform of most left-of-center political parties, there is probably a reason for that. Justin Trudeau might well use the pandemic recession as an excuse to implement many of the policies he’s long wanted; the same is probably true for left-wing governments around the globe.
There is a genuine risk that governments will use the recession caused by the lockdowns as a pretense to increase the role of the state in the economy. In his book, Schwab says that COVID-19 “has offered societies an enforced pause to reflect on what is truly of value.” Schwab, like Trudeau, seemed to pause long enough to realize this was a crisis that could be used to push their long-favoured agenda items. As Schwab writes, “the opportunity can be seized to make the kind of institutional changes and policy choices that will put economies towards a fairer, greener future.” He envisions “public-sector direction-setting” and “better alignment between public policy and corporate planning.” This is regurgitated corporatism, and it is the dream of liberal politicians and technocrats everywhere.
A major theme of the Great Reset is “LGBTI Inclusion” – which website calls “the secret to cities’ post-pandemic success” while claiming that “being an LGBT+ ally can transform lives.”
The Great Reset also trumpets the cause of getting more women working. While the Great Reset website and book are mostly silent on the social policies required to get 100 per cent of women working, the track record of past Davos talks and WEF statements indicates a strong pro-abortion, pro-contraception, and pro-universal daycare agenda; the WEF condemned Donald Trump’s 2016 Protecting Life in Global Health Policy and it has pledged support for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which includes “universal access to sexual and reproductive health services.”
COVID-19: The Great Reset was published last summer, less than six months after the pandemic seized Wuhan, nonetheless Schwab thought the fallout of the virus’s global spread was “likely to sound the death knell of neoliberalism (capitalism).”
The shareholder capitalism fever dream of ESG considerations – environmental, social, and governance criteria – has become the measure of being socially responsible or a good corporate citizen. The problem, of course, is that companies are not citizens. Shareholder capitalism and other elements of the (statist) Great Reset is a grubby little power grab from actual citizens, and investors (shareholders).
We might be heartened by the fact that Schwab has been unsuccessfully pushing this agenda for as long as Justin Trudeau has been alive. But just because it has never been successfully implemented or is nothing more re-packaged broken campaign promises, does not mean that an effort to get governments and businesses on board with the agenda this time is fated to fail.