Fans of the musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton probably get chills whenever Aaron Burr’s envious lament near the beginning of Act II is mentioned.
As his rival emerges from a private dinner to announce a deal has been struck to provide congressional support for the financial system Hamilton wants to create in exchange for placing the new nation’s capital city on the banks of the Potomac, Burr sings:
No one really knows how the game is played
The art of the trade
How the sausage gets made
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in the room where it happens
The song is a description of the seedier side of politics, of the unattractive aspects of how the business that changes the world gets done.
For people in the arena, in the space where business, politics, media and celebrity intersect in ways that drive public policy around the globe, “the room where it happens” is the most important place one can be. It was true in 1790 and — even though the rooms are larger and more luxurious, there are a lot more people involved now, and you may have to travel by jet to reach them — these rooms still exist today.
The most well-known, of course, is the World Economic Forum held each year in Davos, Switzerland. It’s a pricy gathering of global glitterati that helps determine what the rest of us will be doing not weeks but years ahead.
With so much at stake, you’d think the most ardent supporters of free minds and free markets would be beating down the doors of the complex where it’s held. What better place to advocate for policies that will liberate mankind, grow the global economy, raise living standards and make it possible for people even in the least developed countries to live longer, healthier, more productive and better-educated lives?
Instead, they write it off as some sort of global socialist conspiracy that, along with groups like it where people gather in far less public settings, seeks to use the power of the state to bring about a single, global governing structure in which our children and grandchildren will be deprived of their right to choose and the ability to control their destiny.
It sounds pretty oblique, which is why the Republican lawmakers who attended are being skewered by conspiracy-minded conservatives who think they’ve sold out to the globalist cabal. As GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis put it, “All these elites come in for the World Economic Forum and, basically, their vision is they run everything and everybody else is just a serf.”
On the other side is Darrell Issa, the multi-millionaire California Republican congressman who attended as part of the official U.S. delegation.
Issa agrees with the criticism but is aware of the importance of being part of the discussion. “We should not accede to being excluded from a deeper dialogue at the World Economic Forum any more than being shut out of college campuses, online platforms, or public forums,” he said. “This is what liberals are doing all over the world to drive away dissent.”
That’s part of it — and it’s important to wave the flag — but only by attending a meeting like Davos can one be in proximity to the private luncheons and tennis games and evening soirees that are not part of the plenary sessions, but that make attending worth the time of global leaders and CEOs and the other movers and shakers who make things happen.
The organizers of the World Economic Forum say they want the people who attend to be able to discuss, despite major differences in opinion, the many issues that will shape our future. For free markets to secure their place on the global stage, they must be present. Davos presents an opportunity for them to prescribe solutions to a global audience — in the room where it happens.
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