It’s midnight and I’ve talked with maybe 20 really smart people so far at Davos (yep, very dense population of very smart people at the World Economic Forum) and the consensus is that a deep fear is running through the conference this year. Things could be much worse, is the message.
As proof, people point to the riots in the southern tier of Europe—Greece, Spain, Portugal—and in the east—Latvia and Lithuania. Young people are taking to the streets to protest growing unemployment and impoverishment. Ireland is in deep financial trouble. Ditto for Iceland. Britain is nationalizing major banks. And the economic data out of the US is worse and worse every day.
One senior public European figure told me “First we had the financial crisis. We still have that plus an economic crisis. Now we’re getting both plus a political crisis. This is getting ugly.”
Not too many US bankers or hedge fund managers in sight at the party scene. I saw JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon downstairs talking to someone but not the crowd of “no regulation is good regulation” financial folks so evident in the past two years at Davos.
The party scene itself was subdued tonight. No models, no flamboyant dress. Most of the men worse suits with ties. I wore a sweater. I have to get more sober.
So what should they be talking about right now at the World Economic Forum in Davos? What questions should I ask people here? Let me know.