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With the news the U.S. government will reopen after 34 days and the initial spate of Democratic candidate announcements officially kicking off the 2020 Presidential campaign, American focus on the role of government in solving problems is high. That the shutdown coincided with the Davos World Economic Forum is either a predictable confluence or a cruel irony. High-profile author and activist Anand Giridharadas took advantage of the timing by hosting an “Ask Me Anything” session on Periscope today that outlined his current thinking about how America can fix its primary economic problems. I checked it out and found it riveting. The questions and answers were revealing.
Giridharadas has impressive bona fides to take on the issues. He was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Paris, France, and Maryland. He has written for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. And he has been in the belly of the beast, working as a consultant for McKinsey & Company.
Giridharadas discussed the thesis of his recent book “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” and introduced “Davos Man,” a character of his invention who opines about bettering the world from the perspective of the the management consultant class. Mixing hope and doom, jokes and facts, Giridharadas started out by poking fun at the Davos forum. It’s not unusual that it’s cold in Switzerland at the Davos forum, he opined: “When plutocrats run the world, it’s chilly everywhere.”
Adding a fedora and speaking in a mock-concerned tone, like a 21st century version of “Rich Uncle Pennybags” from the boardgame Monopoly, Giridharadas answered questions from viewers in the voice of a concerned plutocrat. He didn’t mince words. Hat on head and tongue in cheek, he proclaimed his “Davos Man” manifesto: “Only when you rape and pillage economically do you generate the resources to help the people hurt by your raping and pillaging. That’s innovation. That’s the fourth industrial revolution and in some ways the six and the seventh industrial revolutions.”
Speaking as a real person, Giridharadas ticked off some key issues that he feels need to be addressed, and likely will be on display in the upcoming 2020 Presidential campaign:
- Medicare for all
- Improvements in public education
- The size of your house shouldn’t determine the quality of your school
- Taxing the rich fairly
Giridharadas called corporate lobbying “richsplaining,” that is, the rich justifying their huge compensation while working to convince the electorate that it’s in their interest to support further increasing the elite share of the economic pie.
He discussed the inherent illogic of corporate monopoly: “Monopoly is about some companies getting to steal all the oxygen from the economy. It’s as if you were on a plane and one passenger used all the oxygen—it’s not a natural occurrence.”
He recently completed, and highly recommended, Harvard Professor and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore’s These Truths: A History of the United States. He cited two examples drawn from American history in the book which outlined the different way that Americans can make change when the majority supports it. The first, the abolition of slavery, resulted in civil war, death and destruction. The second, the women’s suffrage movement, resulted in organizing, marching, and bloodless change.
Giridharadas reserved some of his harshest criticisms for the management and corporate finance sectors: “What has happened in recent years is that consulting and finance are the universal access codes for getting shit done. And they’re not.” Despite this, he observes that many of the major foundations working to improve life in the world are enamored of the management class: “I’ve found that people who work in foundations are afflicted with this view that they are the only people who can fix society. It’s like saying the only people who can fight fires are arsonists.”
His belief is that the ruling class wants to prevent coalitions. “Plutocrats profit from red and blue hating each other. They profit from our differences.” He said that citizens need to move from the New Guilded Age to the Age of Reform. He ended on a hopeful note: “We’ve gotten through really bad stuff before and we’ve found ways to come together. It’s going to require taking back power from the plutocrats.”
January 25, 2019 at 04:53PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs