Tag Archives: economics

On Keeping A Professional Distance From Global Inequalities

Recently, I was discussing my views about global inequalities with a couple of international trade law and investment law experts. Their experience and expertise was – both in sum and in comparison to me – rather considerable. Together, they had experience with advising governments in their negotiations at international institutional (eg, UN, WTO), in multilateral and bilateral negotiations (eg, free-trade agreements) and also in public-private partnerships (i.e. government investment in industry).

Rather significantly, after some fairly passionate discussions, they thought my reading of ‘public law’ and ‘economics’ was rather moralistic. That they viewed me in this way was not surprising. What surprised me was that they thought: 1) that I was unaware of my moralistic reading of international economic life; and 2) that their understanding of their jobs – as experts – did not involve moral questioning. They admitted it was rather ‘brutal’, but asserted that it was ‘true’.

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Quotes From Davos 2015


The World Economic Forum 2015 may have been fetishizing success. I hope not of course, but listening to all the leaders, it did cross my mind. We’ll really only know decades from now. When there might be enough hindsight so as to be accurate, and, a whole lot less complicity so as to be honest.

What do I mean by fetishizing success? Google offers a definition for fetish as having “an excessive and irrational commitment” to a course of action and success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” In that sense, I use the phrase ‘fetishizing success’ to denote a cultural metaphor.

That ‘we’ – as members of the public, the collective total of all social units – and ‘businesses’ (still ‘we’) – as social units of private interests – wish to converse with each another. (Arguably, it is more than ‘wish’ but perhaps ‘need’.)

Yet, it appears that the functional difference between businesses (make profits, create jobs, etc) and people (earn and income, be better members of society, etc) has made each function polarised with respect to one another and the conversation rather asymmetrical. More monologue than dialogue. More instruction than discussion. That somehow interests are, and, could be mutually exclusive.

In this sense, Davos is trying to offer an alternative means for dialogue. Davos intends to make the conversation less mutually exclusive. However, there have been similar targets and agendas which we’ve yet to meet. And no matter how much one learns to speak nicely and with good intentions, are the people we hope to be nice towards even listening?

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