Our Elites Couldn’t ‘Reset’ a Wall Outlet, Let Alone the Global Economy
The Great Reset sounds sinister, but it's less Marxist conspiracy than dreary board game for the wealthy and powerful.
No surprise to learn this week that John Kerry supports the Great Reset. Kerry is the only man alive who could turn a papier-maché volcano into a global vanity project. He remains forever unsettled and at large, in search of a legacy big enough to fill the Mount Rushmore slot he thinks he narrowly missed in 2004. I can’t even imagine how exhausted the ghost of JFK in his magic mirror must be at this point.
Some explanation is in order. Back in 2014, an economist named Klaus Schwab emerged out of the hive of sentient buzzwords that is Davos to declare that it was time for an elite-engineered “Great Reset” of capitalism. There was just one problem: the little people who inhabit economies had been through quite enough disruption of late and weren’t especially keen on more. Schwab’s idea found little purchase outside of the global Gulfstream gentry. And as Britain voted to leave the EU, as populists like Donald Trump began to thunder and pound, the world turned its attention elsewhere.
Then came 2020, the pandemic, the lockdowns, the social unrest, the election mess in America, Brexit looming. Schwab, perhaps upscaling Rahm Emanuel’s dictum to never let four dozen crises go to waste, decided to try again. He published a book and an essay, both of which called for elites to take advantage of COVID to finally bring about his Great Reset. “The world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions,” he wrote. “Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed.”
So back to year zero and all that. Yet as with most blueprints to remake everything, this one gets a bit vague after the executive summary. The Great Reset, per Schwab, has three goals: to “steer the market toward fairer outcomes,” to “ensure that investments advance shared goals, such as equality and sustainability,” and to “harness the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good.” Groundbreaking stuff, if you’ve been trapped at the bottom of a canyon for the past 20 years. But specifics are rarely the point with these globalist white papers; the change itself is less important than the opportunity to use the word “change” in as many unsettling contexts as possible. For example: “One silver lining of the pandemic is that it has shown how quickly we can make radical changes to our lifestyles.”
From there, Schwab’s plan only gets more confusing. It would presumably require an enormous amount of central planning, yet no less a macroeconomist than Prince Charles—the greenest of the royal family’s resource-sucking black holes—assures us it would be handled by the private sector. Schwab worries about government debt, yet such a reset would surely mean an immense amount of expenditure and borrowing. As Ben Sixsmith notes, Schwab’s book declares that we need surveillance and then declares also that we need personal liberty. Read this stuff long enough and your brain starts to carbon-freeze. Populists warn about the evils of Davos Man; I’m starting to wonder whether he could successfully back a car out of a garage.
Yet cue the Reddit panics, the conservative alarm bells, the protests, Alex Jones ululating and firing an AK into the air. The Great Reset is a carefully calibrated kind of lunacy, designed to achieve the most blowback possible in exchange for the least feasibility. This may be because it’s meant mostly as therapy. The project’s vagueness seems like a ploy to assuage every type of elite ego in existence. Corporate CEOs, under Schwab’s proposed “stakeholder capitalism,” get to sound socially conscious while committing to nothing concrete of any kind. Governments are empowered to do what they want most, think big and meddle accordingly. And global bureaucrats get to cast the world as a giant Settlers of Catan board, with them bringing the Mountain Dew and moving around the pieces.
Just who is this Schwab? You will be relieved to learn that he’s a lifelong academic and founder of the World Economic Forum. And yet, you wonder, does he have any honorary doctorates? He does, in fact, no fewer than 17 of them. Yet it’s here that we damn him with robust praise. Back in parts of the world where bacon-wrapped scallops are not instantly available upon request, policy doesn’t trickle down from globe-girdling theorists; it comes from elected leaders and national civil servants. (What’s the one thing that might make Angela Merkel belly-laugh? Try telling her Jean-Claude Juncker used to run Europe.) And while politicians are occasionally tempted towards radical change, they’re also accountable to voters, whose lives they can’t afford to blow up by, say, holding down the economy’s power button for 10 seconds. Progress has to be more gradual and piecemeal than that. Disruption even amid a pandemic can garner serious pushback.
Still, let’s take the Great Reset seriously for a moment. Its overall thrust seems to be that we need a more sustainable and fairer future. The last American leader to put serious policy meat on those bones was Barack Obama in the early years of his presidency. Obama entered the Oval Office with grander plans than just licking the Great Recession. He wanted to rebuild the economy—reset it, if you like—into something cleaner via stimulus spending and other incentives. His administration tossed around words like “sustainable,” “renewable,” and “multimodal.” He hoped at last to resolve liberalism’s internal conflict between labor unions and environmentalists through a kind of blue-green alliance, a spate of new shovel-ready clean energy jobs. Think hardhats singing “Whistle While You Work” as they hammer together windmills and you’ve got the general thrust of it.
It was all very bracing, even for an ill-tempered conservative like myself. Yet what happened next was instructive: Obama more or less got what he wanted. The economy recovered (eventually), blue-collar jobs came to places like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, emissions started to come down. Yet the reason had little to do with his vision and much more to do with the shale lurking thousands of feet beneath American soil. Fracking was an economic godsend to working-class communities and the natural gas it produced was a cleaner source of power than coal. The boom it yielded took the Obama administration by surprise; they both tried to claim credit for its benefits and slapped it with regulations.
And it’s here that we find a real preview of what might happen post-COVID. The pandemic could very well change our economy in revolutionary ways, terrifying ways, but none of it will happen according to the MS Paint designs of Herr Schwab. Hayek’s fatal conceit once again ruins anything larger than a beer run. The Great Reset will go the way of the UN’s equally sinister-sounding Agenda 21 a decade earlier: a hand-stamp for sad elites, a year’s worth of dystopian monologues for Glenn Beck. And then the cycle will start anew. The Davosie will cook up yet another boldfaced comprehensive scheme, same as the old, with a name like Mission: Destiny or Solar Wheelhouse 72917. The radio hosts will calmly scrutinize the plan before concluding it’s a Marxist genocide.
Which brings us back to Jean-Francois Kerry. The Great Reset might be headed nowhere, but let’s not count him out just yet. Joe Biden has said he intends to reenter the nuclear deal with Iran, which Kerry helped negotiate, and a fine thing too. Kerry and I are both Patriots fans so I hope we can agree to exempt a certain quarterback from the advice I’m about to give him: for God’s sake, man, take the W and retire.