Instead Of Davos, Here Is What The Wealthy Should DO
Above Photo: Davos man: Go home. (Reuters/Denis Balibouse)
If you want to save the world, invest in your own communities. Pay your taxes. And support social movements.
Over a thousand private jets have landed at the Swiss mountain ski resort of Davos, where the planet’s elected presidents and unelected financial rulers have gathered for the World Economic Forum. There, they discuss the fate of the world.
Among those attending are billionaire investors and CEOs of global companies—which is one of the reasons why Donald Trump, the first US president to attend the gathering in 20 years, also made the trip.
Beneath the glitz, the gathering features star-studded panels on how businesses and governments can solve the world’s problems. This year’s program calls for new efforts toward “developing a shared narrative to improve the state of the world.”
To those gathered this coming week in Davos, here’s another idea: Come home. And bring your wealth with you.
At a time when the eight billionaires hold as much wealth as the bottom half of the world—and when three US billionaires have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of US households combined—it’s time for drastic action.
I grew up in the wealthiest 1%. Thanks to a recent book I wrote, Born on Third Base, I’ve spent the last two years talking with some of the wealthiest people on the planet about the workings of advantage. Trump aside, I know many Davos participants are troubled by the failure of contemporary capitalism to share prosperity and the ecological challenges before us.
So here’s request from those without the power that you have: Come home, roll-up your sleeves, and help us fix the future.
Return from your global wanderings. Find ways to root yourself in a real place—not an enclave, but a diverse metropolitan area or rural county. Put your stake in this place, pledging to use all the tools at your disposal to make this home as healthy and equitable as possible. Ensure that this is a place where all children have the same healthy start, well-being, and opportunities as your own children.
Bring your wealth home. Bring it out from the offshore tax havens and the opaque trusts and shell corporations. Among households with $40 million or more, it is estimated that 8% of the world’s wealth is hidden. That deprives public coffers of billions of dollars that might be used to educate kids, treat the sick, and alleviate poverty.
Shift this capital away from the global financial casino of financial speculation and the crypto-currency drama. Divest your wealth from the fossil fuel sector that has knowingly brought us to brink of ecological catastrophe and invest in bold conservation measures and the new energy economy.
Bring your wealth home and invest it in the real economy of goods and services that you can touch, feel, and eat, and that creates healthy livelihoods for workers, farmers, and service-providers. Try living off the Wall Street grid.
Share your wealth generously, through community foundations and other philanthropic vehicles. Don’t warehouse wealth in donor-advised funds, but move it with due urgency to address the root causes of many of our community problems.
Celebrate generosity while recognizing that philanthropy is not a substitute for an adequately funded public sector at all levels. Fund projects to strengthen public governance, increase responsiveness and accountability, and restore trust in democratic institutions.
Pay your fair share of taxes. Instead of deploying armies of wealth managers to dodge and weave around tax rules, pay your share of local, state and federal taxes so that we can together make the public investments required to reverse inequality, enliven our public infrastructure, and lift up the next generation.
Do not come home out of sense of charity or obligation alone, but out of a deeper sense of your own interest. Come home because you know that extreme inequalities of income, wealth, and opportunity are bad for everyone, including yourself and your children. These current levels of disparity will fuel economic volatility, social division and political polarization. This is a lousy legacy to leave for the next generation.
It is in no one’s interest to continue rushing toward racial and economic apartheid. We can reverse these inequalities and build a shared prosperity economy. But we need you to step forward.
Come home because you know that there is no Planet B—no Elysium satellite that you can blast off to or bunker that will protect you. Opt back in to society, warts and all, with the delight of a new adventure.
We need you to come home. We need your insights, your wealth, and your sense of agency and know-how. We need you at the table. Not at the head of the table, but fully present at the table of humanity.
Will you join us?