Anand Giridharadas @AnandWrites @TIME editor at large. Author of @WinnersTakeAll, THE TRUE AMERICAN, & INDIA CALLING. MSNBC political analyst. @PriyaParker's man. Father. Rhymes with "almond." Jan. 23, 2019 2 min read

Watch wealth work.

Here's how the plutocrats do it.

They go to Davos and talk about charity, Africa-saving, inequality.

This elevates them from mere businesspeople to sages. Then they use that loftier platform to stealth-lobby against policies that help others but hurt them.

I don't think this move is well enough understood. It's a multi-step dance, and it fools journalists and others.

We get fooled by looking at the marginal good act. The nice project.

We don't see how each act is part of a weather system of self-preservation.

A businessperson sitting in their boardroom or at home in Greenwich, Connecticut, tweeting or giving a speech about their views on tax rates would be seen as self-interested.

It's not very effective. Straightforward lobbying is also hamstrung by the fact that everyone knows when it's happening. It is disclosed.

Enter Davosplaining. This solves the problem by giving plutocrats a way to, first, elevate themselves, and then fight for their interests.

Inequality panels. Africa rescuing. Future-of-work discussions. Toasts to the importance of a free press.

The atmosphere at these summits gives businesspeople a moral glow. They aren't there to do business. They're there to help lead the search for fixes to our biggest problems.

And it works. I cannot tell you -- and I don't need to -- how many journalists who are fierce interrogators when faced with the powerful in New York and San Francisco turn bashful at the summits.

They get into the vibe that these people are changing the world. Or trying.

So they pay lots of money to go to a conference. That conference transforms their image from people trying to make a buck to people trying to heal the world.

And now they are being heard as sages, as wise people, as people who care.

This is when the predation begins.

That rich guy tweeting, enrobed, from his living room in Connecticut about @AOC's tax plan wouldn't be heard.

But now, in the highest town in Europe, he has received a makeover. He is a "leader" worried about our shared challenges.

And so when he goes after a plan to raise taxes on people's ten millionth dollar and beyond, he is heard not as a rich guy playing self-defense in defiance of the common welfare.

He is heard as a person who wants what's best for the world he "leads."

This is so important to understand if you don't know how these people work.

I have fielded 100 questions this week about "What's wrong with them hanging out in the alps?"

What's wrong is that the gathering occasions covert-action lobbying.

Saving Africa is the excuse to get together in Switzerland. It's the thing that gets journalists to cover them.

And with everyone there and captive, the other shoe drops. They call critics Communists, they laugh off public anger, they fight for low taxes.

And we enable them.

You can follow @AnandWrites.


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