Attendees at the Davos Conference, hosted by the World Economic Forum, have reportedly been voicing their concerns about the possibility of a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren presidency, per The Washington Post. The two Democratic presidential candidates have both been open about their positions of taxing the wealthy, with Sanders even labeling himself a “democratic socialist.”
“Businesses are really concerned about the possibility of a far-left administration coming to power that would impose very different ways of operating,” said Colin Mayer, a professor of management studies at the University of Oxford and a forum attendee.
“Young people have veered sharply leftward,” echoed Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist at AGF Investments.
Numerous reports have verified the liberal bent of younger generations, with a recent Gallup poll finding that 51 percent of respondents had a positive view of socialism versus 45 percent that had a positive view of capitalism (via CNBC).
The rise of the two progressive candidates marks the continued growth of populism in the United States, which has both spread on the left under Warren and Sanders, as well as the right under President Donald Trump.
The growing discontent with income inequality is not just present in the United States. Camped out in the streets of Switzerland are a number of protesters holding signs that say “eat the rich.”
“The economic pie is bigger than it’s ever been before in history, which means we could make everyone better off, but we’ve chosen as a society to leave a lot of people behind,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and a forum attendee. “That’s not just inexcusable morally but is also really bad tactically.”
That said, topics like wealth inequality are far from favored topics at a conference that boasts more than 100 billionaires in attendance. When attendees were asked last year about how to address the issue, the near unanimous response was to provide more education and training to the disenfranchised. However, the same people who trumpet those programs — called “upskilling” — are also often those who resist tax hikes that would fund it.
However, despite attendees’ worries over a Sanders or Warren economic policy, many would cheer their stances on environmental issues. The conference has deemed “climate action failure” as the top risk in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report.
“CEOs have kids and grandkids. I’ve heard a lot of stories from executives who were sitting down at the table for Christmas dinner and their nephew asked them, ‘What are you doing about climate change?'” explained Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a former World Bank special envoy for climate change.
However, despite the focus on climate change, many attendees have been accused of not putting their words to action after a reported record number of private jets flew into the small Swiss town. This comes on the heels of last year’s estimate that 1,500 private planes descended to Davos, despite inviting guest speaker and eco-activist Greta Thunberg.