"I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruined by it." -- Pope Francis message to the World Economic Forum Meeting 2014
The World Economic Forum, a global elite annual gathering usually held later in January in Davos, Switzerland, had just wrapped up meeting not long ago on January 22 - 25, 2014. Perhaps the major topic addressed was income inequality, as written about in a well-crafted article by Kim Hjelmgaard for USA TODAY, January 21, 2014, pg. 1A titled, "In global wealth, 85 = 3,500,000,000." Within her article, she refers to the recent blaring report by international relief organization Oxfam, which in her opening sentence she states, "The world's richest 1% own nearly half its wealth, and economic inequality in the USA is among the fastest growing of any nation, a study out Monday finds."
Furthermore, Ms. Hjelmgaard follows that up in her related article within the USA TODAY cover story January 21, 2014 edition, on pg. 1B Money section titled, "Global elite descend on Davos." And beneath the picture of the picturesque environs of the annual meeting place it states, "For many, an expedition to Davos is all about joining the high-powered and the pioneering to talk shop about the world's ills. The hope is that action plans for change will stick around even after the last cheese fondue is consumed."
So there you have it. And that is the hope. So just who are these global elites who visit near the beginning of each year in Davos? They are of course visiting heads of state, and other leaders in branches of governments from around the world such as Christine Lagarde of France, who is the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And they are also of course captains of industry and finance from all over the world, including media personalities, such as world renowned actors and rock stars such as Bono who is front man of the rock group U2.
But let's focus on the individuals, the captains of industry, followed by two questions. Can a captain of industry who is obviously wealthy, also believe in equality? Or is he or she destined into believing that it's the same as if oil and water cannot mix? Well, John MacIntosh seems to think that one can be wealthy and also believe in equality, as he states in his CNN Opinion web article from January 22, 2014 titled, "How to be rich and believe in equality."
Now in the past few years, also leading up to the last presidential election of 2012, the theme of class warfare or the demonization of the top 1 percent have dominated in the media. This theme may also carry over into American cultural entertainment in popular films, such as in the sci-fi 2013 film Elysium, and in TV. But not all real wealthy people are demonized such as Warren Buffett, just like not all fictional wealthy people are demonized in film. And I'll prove it.
Years ago I watched a Harrison Ford comedy-drama film titled Sabrina, released in 1995 with Greg Kinnear, and actress Julia Ormond's character Sabrina as the love interest. Yet it was later I discovered it was in fact a remake of a classic comedy-drama film also titled Sabrina, released in 1954, starring Humphrey Bogart, William Holden and with Audrey Hepburn's character Sabrina as the love interest. And being curious I later saw that film also for the first time, just to compare. And what had begun as a comparison only to satisfy my curiosity, ended with a likeable interest for Humphrey Bogart's character, as the wealthy Linus Larrabee.
In the 1954 film Sabrina, Yale educated Linus Larrabee is the oldest son of Oliver and Maude Larrabee. And David Larrabee, acted by William Holden, is the youngest devil-may-care woman chasing son. The Larrabee's are a well-known wealthy Long Island, New York family. Sabrina Fairchild, acted by Audrey Hepburn, is the daughter of a chauffeur employed by the Larrabee's, while both father and daughter live close by. Linus Larrabee is an industrialist, the responsible hard working son and caretaker of the family wealth. In one scene, David visits brother Linus one day in his spacious luxurious office within the high rise family office in Manhattan. And the following is the dialogue from that scene in the original film.
David: "You've got all the money in the world!"
Linus: "What's money got to do with it? If making money were all there was to business it would hardly be worthwhile going to the office. Money is a by-product."
David: "Then what's the main objective, power?"
Linus: "Nah, that's become a dirty word."
David: "Well then what's the urge? You're going into plastics now. What will that prove?"
Linus: "Prove? Nothing much. A new product has been found, something of use to the world. So a new industry moves into an undeveloped area, factories go up, machines are brought in, a harbor is dug in a new business. It's purely coincidental of course, that people who've never saw a dime before suddenly have a dollar, and barefooted kids wear shoes and have their teeth fixed and their faces washed. What's wrong with the kind of an urge that give people libraries, hospitals, baseball diamonds and movies on a Saturday night?"
Okay, then contrast that with the well-known 1987 film Wall Street. Actor Michael Douglas won a best actor Oscar for his role as investment and corporate raider Gordon Gekko. In one scene after Bud Fox, acted by Charlie Sheen, found out that mentor Gordon Gekko was about to break up Blue-Star Airlines where his father Carl Fox worked. Gordon Gekko delivers his speech also within his spacious luxurious high rise office, which I believe is the best scene in the film. And Gordon Gekko closes by saying, "You've got 90 percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules pal, the news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price of a paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of a hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you're not naïve enough to think we're living in a democracy are you Buddy? It's the free market. And you're part of it," he says, while smiling.
And what a difference thirty-three years makes. That is between the two films. Or actually, what a difference 60 years makes since the 1954 film Sabrina, since U.S. manufacturing has shrunk, taken over by service industries, and the presence of a knowledge workforce in a global economy while a number of jobs have moved off-shore. But that's not the point, because what Gordon Gekko says is true.
For in a web article almost nine years ago written by Mark Trumbull on August 22, 2005 for The Christian Science Monitor titled, "Why a booming economy feels flat," he cites a quote from Iranian-American Economist Nariman Behravesh. Mr. Behravesh, who also is a frequent visitor of Davos says within the article that, "...most gains in the economy have gone into profits rather than wages." In other words, the issue of economic inequality, spoken by Pope Francis, addressed recently by Davos and by President Obama in his recent State of the Union Address, is a discussion that's been long overdue.