Commentary

Politicians “stars” of Davos economic summit

The international business glitz fest World Economic Forum has a new set of celebrities this year. Rather than feature the world’s top business leaders, politicians are getting center stage.

This year, politicians, not corporate titans, are poised to be the big draw, echoing the broader power shift away from the free market as one government after another tries to prop up its sinking economy. This time, the prototype of the jet-setting “Davos Man” may well be Gordon Brown, the dour British prime minister who spent last week staving off another round of bank failures in London. And with much of the financial system in Britain and the United States edging toward a government takeover, the 2009 agenda at Davos, “Shaping the Post-Crisis World,” seems to have concentrated minds on the here and now more than past themes like climate change and globalization. “The pendulum has swung and power has moved back to governments,” said Klaus Schwab, the German-born economics professor who founded the World Economic Forum in 1971 and has been its impresario ever since. “This is the biggest economic crisis since Davos began.”

Davos is still expected to draw about 2,500 participants.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.