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Davos Man by Peter S. Goodman


Davos Man: How the Billionaires Devoured The World is a scary read. Drawing on the famous World Economic Forum that the political scientist Samuel Huntington once termed ‘Davos’, author Peter S Goodman meticulously charts the rise and rise of billionaires over the past fifty years and where that has let the world in the current climate.


While much of the text looks at the economic programmes (often) manipulated the system to make it work best for corporations and individuals while taking advantage of the working class and demonstrating how and why this should not happen.


Goodman does not hold back looking at the major corporations of our world - Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and so on and so forth. He reminds the reader consistently how much these companies, and - more specifically the billionaires behind these companies - earn and own, and often in comparison with the percentage of the world that equals their personal worth - for example at one point the CEOs of the above companies earn more as individuals than the total GDP of Finland.


The exploitation of workers in multiple countries around the world are excused based upon the demands of the consumers and the expectations for lower prices and easier availability. Certainly Amazon becomes a kind of horrific poster child for this.


Politicians are, of course, inextricably bound to the fortunes of billionaires, and the lobbying process has grown from strength to strength with America leading the way, but other countries not as far behind as we would like to think. In the sights of Goodman is Trump, and the ability of Trump to work the system, and obtain the presidency. Ending the chapter, Goodman warns that while ‘Trump may be gone; Trumpism is alive and well.’ and warns that there is still a deep divide in the social fabric of America that still desires similar industrialist narratives that got Trump into the White House in the first case.


Some of the explanations of the economic policies and concepts are confusing, but Goodman - himself a marvellous journalist with an impressive history of success in writing - explores these ideas with clarity and a straightforward style.


Towards the end of the text there is a shift in the approach from Goodman and it does come a little too simplistic, endorsing a reduction in these corporate powerhouse’s strength, increased taxes, and a universal base income. It feels as if some of the stream had run out of the argument and these three concepts are much more nuanced than Goodman makes out. For a piece that is so meticulous in its presentation of the problem, this part feels a little disappointing.


The line from the final chapter is rather poignant, “Other people can tally the death; Steve Schwartzman will tally the money.” Schwartzman, the CEO of Blackstone Group, is definitely one of the main characters attacked in the book, and symptomatic of a group of billionaires who seem totally unaware of the humanity of those around them.


Overall, Davos Man is a well researched, interesting and unbelievably disconcerting piece of writing. It really demonstrates the lengths that individuals have gone to in order to grow their own personal wealth. Bringing this knowledge to the consciousness of the wider society is one thing, fixing it… well, that may be a different story.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Custom House