A BBC headline on a report of President Trump’s speech at Davos, Switzerland:
Trump Decries Climate “Prophets of Doom” with Thunberg in Audience
How dare he! The leader of the free world dares to express views contrary to those of a 17-year-old? He really did that!
Thunberg of course is Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen and climate activist and Time mag’s “Person of the Year” for 2019.
President Trump’s Davos speech was actually terrific. We’ll get to the issue of climate change in a second, but the speech deserves notice. Politico has a transcript—it’s not that long, and I urge you to read it.
Here are three nuggets that are representative of the speech:
I believe in America. As president of the United States I will always put America first just like the leaders of other countries should put their country first also. But America first does not mean America alone. When the United States grows, so does the world. American prosperity has created countless jobs all around the globe and the drive for excellence, creativity, and innovation in the U.S. Has led to important discoveries that help people everywhere live more prosperous and far healthier lives.
. . .
The world is witnessing the resurgence of a strong and prosperous America. I'm here to deliver a simple message. There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the united States. America is open for business and we are competitive once again. The American economy is by far the largest in the world and we've just enacted the most significant tax cuts and reform in American history. We've massively cut taxes for the middle class, and small businesses to let working families keep more of their hard earned money.
. . .
In rebuilding America we are also fully committed to developing our workforce. We are lifting people from dependence to Independence because we know the single-best anti-poverty program is a very simple and very beautiful paycheck. To be successful it is not enough to invest in our economy.
We must invest in our people. When people are forgotten the world becomes fractured. Only by hearing and responding to the voices of the forgotten can we create a bright future that is truly shared by all. The nation's greatness is more than the sum of its production and a nation's greatness is the sum of its citizens, the values, pride, love, devotion and character of the people who call that nation home.
It was an optimistic speech in which the President urged the members of the international elite who flock to Davos to “reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.” Uh-oh. Not what they wanted to hear.
Indeed, CNN reported that the President Trump “snubbed Davos vision in another America first speech” and that his words were “not what many attendees wanted to hear.” Trump presented a vision of a prosperous America that wants to join with other countries to make the world more prosperous.
The official name of the Davos gathering is the World Economic Forum. It is held in a small village in the Alps and it draws mostly liberal intellectuals, pundits, politicians, academics, and celebrities. The Wall Street Journal's Walter Russell Mead coined a wonderful name for them: the Davoisie.
I can’t resist quoting Mead’s description of the discreet charm of the Davoisie:
There is something inescapably ridiculous about a gathering this self-important; certainly Marie Antoinette and her friends dressing up as shepherdesses to celebrate the simple life has nothing on the more than 100 billionaires descending, often by private jet, on an exclusive Swiss ski resort for four days of ostentatious hand-wringing about the problems of the poor and the dangers of climate change.
This year an earnest young aide at registration told me that, to reduce the event’s carbon footprint, no paper maps of the town were being distributed; one could almost feel the waves of relief from the nearby Alpine glaciers at this sign of green progress.
So, no, a rousing speech reflecting the rise of populism and free-market ideas was probably not what most of the attendees wanted to hear!
And Mead explains the Davoisie approach to climate change:
The conventional Davoisie wisdom says that climate change can be handled only by international agreements and global institutions like those envisioned in the Paris Agreement. The goal is to get the nations of the Earth to limit their use of fossil fuels and make the enormous changes required to reach “net zero” emissions in time to avoid the most devastating consequences. The solution requires a massive shift of power from national governments to global institutions.
The Davos Way–restrictive accords and a massive transfer of power to global institutions–is not the only path we should consider.
President Trump rousingly rejects the Davos path:
[T]o embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune-tellers — and I have them and you have them, and we all have them, and they want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the ’70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform, and control every aspect of our lives.
Bjorn Lomberg, who recognizes that climate is changing and that this must be addressed, believes that human innovation, not the Davos solution, is the correct route. Lomberg notes:
Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, wash your clothes in cold water, eat less meat, recycle more, and buy an electric car: we are being bombarded with instructions from climate campaigners, environmentalists, and the media about the everyday steps we all must take to tackle climate change. Unfortunately, these appeals trivialize the challenge of global warming and divert our attention from the huge technological and policy changes that are needed to combat it.
He probably wouldn’t be a hit at Davos either.