In those now far- off days, where helicopters queued to waft the rich to the better slopes and the champagne flowed in rivers, everyone knew just how clever they were by the cost of their carbon fibre ski boots and how far their fresh salmon had been flown for lunch.
Now, irony is not a form of humour I favour – it’s usually a little dog-eared and sad. But for Davos I will make an exception.
Just what were they on back in the heady days of 2006, when post-neoclassical endogenous growth theory was invented to obscure the simple fact that no one knew what they were doing, on or off the slopes? In those distant times our glorious leaders complimented themselves on their financial wizardry and how jolly lucky they were to have useful chaps like the Chinese to do all the dirty work. This year has turned out to be a little different.
Topic number one is that the current system is as broken as it can get. Topic number two is that the financial system has got out of control and has damaged the real economy (I know, I know, just imagine the extraordinary power of the intellects that can pull it all together for us just like that. It makes me feel very humble).
Topic number three is, wait for it, making things that other people want to buy is a good way to generate wealth.
Topic number four is all about those frightfully clever Chinese chaps and how they have run rings around everyone by having a plan – dashed clever that, almost cunning. Perhaps next year the Davos menu will be Sichuan, or Cantonese for those who can’t take the hot stuff, and perhaps there will be workshops on how to build things?
No, I don’t think so either. Despite the attendance this year of 2,500 of the world’s richest, cleverest and most influential, the best they can come up with is to ‘look to China to prop up the global econ-omy’. So the combined intellectual might of those who caused the mess in the first place propose that someone else can solve the problem? I think the best we can hope from Davos is a well-timed avalanche.
So it’s down to us then, the economic equivalent of the poor bloody infantry, to solve this extraordinary mess. We have to innovate more, develop more, manufacture more and do so in intelligent, efficient ways. We are pretty good at that as a nation.
As that great engineering genius Barnes Wallace once remarked: “We haven’t got any money, so we are going to have to think.” It was that sort of spirit that led to the iconic Jaguar XK inline six that powered the iconic E-Type. The engine was designed in Coventry at night during the second world war. The E-Type went on to dominate the world market for sports cars for nearly a decade. We have done it before; we can do it again.
Steve Kelsey is strategic innovations director at design agency PI Global