February 11, 2022 - 7:00am

The World Economic Forum — also known as “Davos” — is an exclusive talking shop for the rich and powerful. As a symbol of the neoliberal order it’s long been a target for the anti-capitalist Left. More recently, it’s also become a bugbear of the populist Right. That’s not just because the WEF champions globalisation, but also because of what some see as an elitist plot to radically change our lifestyles. 

Apparently, a shadowy cabal is dead set on getting us to eat bugs instead of real meat and to live in pods instead of proper flats and houses. Needless to say, the conspiracy theories are overblown; but, as I explain here, insect protein and tiny homes are definitely on the Davos agenda. 

According to the conspiracists, we’re being primed to be satisfied with less — not only less stuff, but also less control over our lives. The WEF doesn’t help itself when it puts out videos like this one about life in 2030. Notoriously, it opens with the words: “You’ll own nothing. And you’ll be happy.” 

The defenders of Davos point out that this was just a collection of predictions, not a manifesto. Nevertheless, the WEF continues to push some distinctly odd messages. For instance, this week it dropped a new video promoting the idea of regular cold showers. These are good, because people subjected to them “take fewer sick days off work”:

Apparently, there’s scientific research to back this up. But did no one at Davos think about the optics? In case they hadn’t noticed, household energy bills are surging to record highs. A cold shower is all we’ll be able to afford soon. Still, never mind, at least we’ll be able to work harder!

Amazingly, this wasn’t the weirdest video that WEF has released this week. Rather, the prize for that belongs to this effort, entitled “Animals pass on privilege too, say scientists”:

It would seem that young squirrels “inherit” buried acorns from their parents, thereby granting them a survival advantage. Chimps and monkeys do the same thing with nut-cracking tools. The suggestion is that inequality in human societies has “deep evolutionary roots”. In bygone times, we would have interpreted these examples from nature as a model for responsible parenthood. But the WEF interprets them as “privilege” instead.

So here’s a message for the folks at Davos: if you don’t want to look weird, then stop being weird.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.