The Atlantic Monthly has a cover article on the new global rich. The modern day robber barons, whose wealth is the equivilant of the GNP of Uruguay, have made a killing on Internet startups and hedge funds. They aren't tied to one country and fly around the world managing their investments. The article wasn't the best. Some say Robert Frank's book, Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich, covered the same material, only better. Still, the article did have some interesting tidbits.
Apparently, this new global elite love policy conferences. They go to Aspen and the TED conferences and invite thinkers to their dinner parties to entertain the guests like trained monkeys.
The best-known of these events is the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, invitation to which marks an aspiring plutocrat’s arrival on the international scene. The Bilderberg Group, which meets annually at locations in Europe and North America, is more exclusive still—and more secretive—though it is more focused on geopolitics and less on global business and philanthropy. The Boao Forum for Asia, convened on China’s Hainan Island each spring, offers evidence of that nation’s growing economic importance and its understanding of the plutocratic culture. Bill Clinton is pushing hard to win his Clinton Global Initiative a regular place on the circuit. The TED conferences (the acronym stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design”) are an important stop for the digerati; Herb Allen’s* Sun Valley gathering, for the media moguls; and the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival (co-sponsored by this magazine), for the more policy-minded.
There's something very phony about all this. Policy is just the new playtoy for the mega-rich. A place to put their billions. Last fall, Mark Zuckerberg gave Newark schools $100 million. Out of the blue. He had no connection with the city and no record of having any interest in education policy. I'm mean, we'll TAKE it. Thank you, very much. But why?
While I'm skeptical about the motives of these global rich and their interest in political and social ideas, I do hope that these TED talks and conferences and glamous names at stuffy policy conferences will make policy cool. Maybe there will be a spillover affect. I want ordinary people to talk about this stuff. They have to start inviting Kim Kardashian to these events.