Davos Dispatch #1

January 29, 2009

Davos does feel different this year. CEOs as a group, if I can generalize after less than one full day, are crowding into open sessions to hear the experts opine on the world economy and the financial crisis (large meeting halls are filled early and many would-be attendees are left out in the cold). In prior years they seem to have spent more time networking with each other in the corridors. The press has emphasized that the Davos stars this year will come from the political not the corporate or entertainment worlds. So it seems.I attended a breakfast session in which the results of a recent global poll of people's trust was reported (Edelman Trust Barometer). In the 20 countries polled, trust in business, government and the media is "half-empty," i.e. way down. In the U.S. and China 61% and 69% of those polled agreed that more government control over business would help restore "trust." But overall trust in government scored even lower than trust in business. (NGOs are more trusted but not considered responsible for solving the world's problems.)Hmmm. Business and the people are looking to government. Maybe this means the dawning of the recognition that on collective action problems -- climate change, regulation of the global financial services industry -- it is governments, for all their failings, that need to take the lead -- and businesses that need at a minimum to go along if not actively cooperate.


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