It's only 85 people. That's about as many people as might attend a small wedding, or a church service, or perhaps a controversial public meeting. Eighty-five people may live on your street, or just a fraction of your street. In the great scope of things 85 people is not a lot of people. If you were asked to pull together a list of 85 people in all likelihood you could do it. Go ahead and try this exercise. Write up a list of 85 people that you know. Study this list very carefully. Now ask yourself this question -- what would you think if those people on your list of 85 people controlled half of the world's wealth; as much wealth as that of billions of people combined?

According to Oxfam, a British development charity that issued a report on the eve of the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, 85 people control half of the world's wealth; i.e. $120.5 trillion. That is a lot of money. Look at the people on your list. Think about those 85 people controlling half of the world's wealth and ask yourself how good an idea is it that those 85 people, or any 85 people, have that much power and influence.

The World Economic Forum was created in 1971 by Klaus Schwab; a business professor at the University of Geneva. It was originally known as the European Management Forum, but apparently that title was deemed too restrictive. Sixteen years later the name was changed to the World Economic Forum. It was created, in part, to help resolve international conflicts.

Don't bother getting another part-time job so you can save up money to go to the next annual WEF meeting in Davos. From the beginning it's been an invitational only event. In 1971, 444 business executives from Western European firms were invited to attend, with a goal of learning more about American business management practices. Today, the WEF is funded by 1,000 corporations. Not just any corporations but global corporations doing roughly $5 billion per year. Joining these corporate executives at their annual are public officials from around the world. This year House Majority Leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, was in attendance. Other than leading the Tea Party element of Congress it's a bit of a mystery as to why he would be invited, but, hey, I don't control the invitee list.

Only about 2,200 people from around the world get to participate in this five-day event that holds a variety of seminars consisting of international conflicts (a never ending problem), poverty, (one wonders just what it is these mega-rich corporations have to say about this subject) and environmental problems (you might enjoy being a fly on the wall at this seminar as well).

So as not to run the risk of appearing secretive, the WEF invites hundreds of journalists from around the globe to attend any or all of the public sessions, thus allowing the public to be kept fully informed as to what the world's wealthiest corporations are talking about, are worried about and hopefully what they are doing to address the perceived problems.

I've been to a couple of national legislative conferences, and yes they were informative and there was much to learn at the numerous seminars I attended. However, I can assure you that I learned more about what was going on in other states over dinner and later at the bar talking with legislators from around the country. In Davos we can only imagine who is meeting with whom after the public seminars and what issues of concern are discussed with the public eye blindfolded.

It may be a good thing that the wealthiest corporations of the world get together with political leaders to discuss how we might save the planet. I suppose if the planet is to be saved these are folks who are in a position of influence to do it, don't you think? Of course, one might argue that it might be some of the people attending this summit who are responsible for the problems for which they say they seek solutions.

Is it in the best interests of the 1,000 corporations to resolve world conflicts or is it in their best, financial interests to create world conflict? There never been any question that wars are good for business. Destroying the environment should not be a goal, but is there any doubt that in doing so a corporate bottom line might be increased?

All in all it's a lot of fun for the couple of thousand participants. The really rich get to show off their wealth. The pols get to feel special hanging out with the mega-rich. The reporters get a week's worth of stories. Everybody wins.

Back to those 85 people. Suppose one of them was Gov. Chris Christie; a man who professes not to be a bully in spite of the fact that, as we're now learning, he is a bully. Is this the person you'd want controlling half of the world's wealth? Then again, maybe it is people like Christie who run the world.

Bob Stannard is a Banner columnist.


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