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Even The Millionaires Are Fed Up

Even The Millionaires Are Fed Up

How to speak to a hostile crowd

Some weeks ago, I was sitting on stage with an economist from the World Trade Organisation and a banker from UBS. We were opening a small, one-day conference for the private aviation industry, and I had been invited to challenge the prevailing macro-economic forecast. I had been surprised to receive the invitation, to say the least, and asked the woman organising the event if she was sure she wanted me there. She laughed: “Hell yeah!” So off I went to the Swiss Alps—by train, of course—to calmly and assuredly explain to a hostile audience that the excellent economic forecast provided was awfully narrow in scope when you factor in resource scarcity, geopolitical instability, nuclear war, climate tipping points and the illusion of material decoupling. In sum, we’re heading for economic collapse by 2050, I said.

The banker disagreed. I told him perhaps he should look at the data before forming an opinion. He recoiled as if I had slapped him, and I wondered how often he is around people who disagree with him. The economist from the WTO offered a middle ground, focusing on the necessity of economic development, and using it as a reason to warn against the injustice of degrowth. I smiled wanly and gave the correct definition of degrowth as a redistribution mechanism to develop the majority world whilst reducing the output of the global north.

Then someone from the audience, fed up with my negative outlook, shouted out that he didn’t necessarily disagree with everything I was saying but he wanted solutions! He’s a capitalist, for god’s sake! What, did I just want to throw away capitalism?

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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