Salvo 10.24.2023 7 minutes

The Biggest Button


The “Great Reset” is still chugging along.

Until the spring of 2020, the threat of “The Great Reset” to create an authoritarian one-world order sounded like a fever dream conspiracy theory. But now, in the aftermath of COVID-19 and all its attendant economic, social, and political consequences, The Great Reset seems very real—an ongoing enterprise by powerful corporate players to insinuate themselves into the critical arenas of worldwide governance—with America and much of the world now in the throes of a New Normal.

The term “Great Reset” gained mainstream prominence in 2010 with the publication of The Great Reset by Richard Florida, a neoliberal urban studies theorist at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Florida saw the economic crisis of 2007 and 2008 exposing inherent defects and unsustainability in American capitalism—as demanding a “reset” of society. Florida posited that such cycles of necessary and beneficial “resets”—depressions, recessions, world wars, social upheavals, paradigm shifts—would permit America to usher in a braver mundus novus free from any misguided expressions of democracy.

That same year, Florida’s “crisis of capitalism” was greatly expanded and brought to the world stage by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which released the results of its 604-page Global Redesign Initiative—a consortium of 700 international experts and industry and corporate elites who proposed a new vision of global cooperation and worldwide decision making. The GRI report aimed to “redefine the international system as constituting a wider, multifaceted system of global cooperation in which intergovernmental legal frameworks and institutions are embedded as a core, but not the sole and sometimes not the most crucial component.”

WEF’s founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab has long extolled “stakeholder” or “multi-stakeholder” capitalism—the idea that companies and corporations have a duty not only to their shareholders (and by extension to their creditors, customers, suppliers, partners, etc.), but also to any group or individuals who might be affected by corporate actions and behavior. In Schwab’s words, “The time has come for a new stakeholder paradigm of international governance analogous to that embodied in the stakeholder theory of corporate governance on which the World Economic Forum itself was founded…. The state-based core of the system needs to be adapted to a more complex, bottom-up world in which nongovernmental actors have become a more significant force.”

Of course, when an elite, global organization funded by the economic and political might of more than 1,000 hand-chosen transnational corporations, megabanks, political leaders, and captains of industry (membership is by invitation only) promises to restructure the entire global system of international institutions and their relationships for the good of the planet and humanity—well, skeptical voices are aroused.

Harris Gleckman, senior fellow at the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts, has studied multi-stakeholder engagement theory and practice and urges caution regarding WEF efforts to “elevate them into a ‘multi-stakeholder governance’ system.”

“It is one thing for MSGs to advocate for a position…or provide their knowledge and expertise to governments,” says Gleckman. “It is another thing when the multi-stakeholder consultation format morphs into a multi-stakeholder governance system that silently or not so silently takes over ‘solving’ a global problem…. This undermines any concepts of democracy, of popular engagement, and puts the market over human rights and other issues.”

To many, embracing a multi-stakeholder governance system creates an imbalance of authority and raises the question of who would or should emerge as the principal voice in this new tangle of influence. But to the WEF, that’s the point—“The current framework of global governance is as much the problem as the solution…. We should seize this moment to ensure that stakeholder capitalism remains the new dominant model” of capitalism. Michael Rectenwald of Hillsdale College takes issue with this credo. “Stakeholder capitalism entails corporate cooperation with the state and vastly increased government intervention in the economy.”

Gone would be the 400-year-old multilateral system of sovereign nation-states with their own economies and politics, acting in their own interests—in favor of the supposedly more transformative aim of multi-stakeholder governance whose locus of power would now rest with multinational corporations and mega-sized banks, wielding authority equal to or even greater than established world governments. To Schwab and his Davos crowd, there is little need for national unity, national borders, or national governments—all, hopefully, soon to be relics of the past.

In advance of these disturbing headwinds, the Rockefeller Foundation conducted a prescient 2010 exercise whose report, “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and Social Development,” envisioned “a fictional pandemic that would infect 20% of the world in 2012, killing eight million people in just seven months.” Termed the “Lockstep” scenario, it painted “a world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback.” To conspiracists, it foresaw too closely the “lockdowns” of COVID-19 and was an early salvo of unelected, self-appointed global elites laying the groundwork for their radical transformation of the international order.

Alarmingly, two subsequent events would fan conspiracy flames even further. In May 2018, the WEF and Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security collaborated on “CLAUDE X,” a newer pandemic simulation and response—this time calculating 900 million worldwide deaths. Eighteen months later in October 2019, the WEF, Johns Hopkins, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation joined forces on yet another pandemic war game, code-named “Event 201”—only months before the actual COVID-19 contagion. Rectenwald notes that both simulations “anticipated almost every eventuality of the actual COVID crisis; most notably, the responses by governments, health agencies, the media, tech companies, and elements of the public”—including lockdowns, quarantines, isolation, censorship, surveillance, business and industry failures, riots, mass unemployment, and even the proliferation of misinformation. Given the timing and circumstances, suspicions arose at how serendipitously the WEF had situated itself to assume a pivotal role in the subsequent pandemic response.

Not long after, in June of 2020, Klaus Schwab and economist Thierry Malleret heralded their new book COVID-19: The Great Reset, which reiterated the “weaknesses of capitalism” and figured COVID-19 as a liberating event. “The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world,” they wrote. “The world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions. Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed. In short, we need a ‘Great Reset’ of capitalism.”

Committed to a program of globalization and the wider application of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), the WEF (along with the U.N.) has greatly accelerated the phenomenon of marrying corporate structure with the tenets of the social justice movement. ESG and its handmaiden DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) have become widely accepted organizational frameworks for governments, corporations, banks, and entrepreneurs to “jointly and urgently build the foundations of our economic and social system for a more fair, sustainable, and resilient future.”

In 2022, WEF’s “Radio Davos” boasted over 3,000 investment funds with $2.7 trillion in assets—all engaged in the lucrative business of providing advice to investors on ESG and restorative solutions for what makes a worthwhile company. “Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics” are indicators “to improve the ways that companies measure and demonstrate their contributions towards creating more prosperous, fulfilled societies and a more sustainable relationship with our planet.” To Rectenwald, the ESG index “is essentially a social credit score…used to drive ownership and control of production away from the non-woke or non-compliant” and to squeeze them out of the marketplace—permanently altering the financial landscape.

Call it what you will—conspiracy, Jacobin intrigue, zeitgeist shift, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution—the Great Reset is here and very much with us, an ever-invasive work-in-progress to permanently reinvent world governance. From its glitzy aerie in Switzerland, the WEF continues to issue blizzards of initiatives intent on “improving the state of the world.” Indeed, in 2017 Schwab proudly admitted that the WEF’s Young Global Leaders (YGL) initiative was used “to penetrate cabinets” of governments, including France, Argentina, and “more than half” of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.

In 2019, the UN and the WEF signed a “Strategic Partnership Agreement” which outlined 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs)—everything from no poverty and zero hunger to ending global warming and avoiding plastic bags—all to be achieved by 2030. To Gleckman, this turns the U.N. into a public-private partnership and creates an unhealthy, special place for corporations in the United Nations.

But the future is bright. According to Ida Auken, a member of Denmark’s Parliament and a WEF writer, “Welcome to 2030. I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.” For our convenience, the WEF’s website sports an image of a green button inside a rusted-looking, industrial electrical box with the directive: “PUSH TO RESET THE WORLD.”

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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