Frederick Studemann: President Donald Trump may have scooped the headlines at the end of last week's World Economic Forum with his “America First” speech, but the real story was elsewhere. For Rana Foroohar the lesson of this year's gathering in Davos was the increasing fragility of states confronted by profound changes wrought by technology. In her column this week Rana says that the “dirty secret” of the Alpine gathering was that the much-vaunted “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is set to make people less, not more secure. The effects of this are far-reaching, going well beyond immediate concerns about incomes and jobs. She points to the ability of companies to personalise products based on our data streams. This, Rana says, is not just a shift in business model. “It’s a fundamental challenge to liberal democracy.” Yet, she did find some cause for optimism in the form of Illah Nourbakhsh, a robotics professor, who has launched projects to educate elementary school children about the power and risks of data. “The idea is to create a new generation of citizen scientists who understand the power of data. I predict that if they truly do, they’ll start to demand a lot more ownership and control over it themselves.” If this is right, we will no doubt hear more from them about this at the Davos gatherings of the future.
Time’s up: The light shone by the FT last week on the Presidents Club me-only fundraising dinner has exposed behaviour that is wholly shocking, writes Carolyn Fairbairn. In an opinion piece, the head of the CBI business lobby says that the scandal underscores the need for profound change in business culture. In particular she argues that “the overwhelming presence of men at the top of corporate life — and in other fields — makes the Presidents Club and events like it all too possible”. To change that we need new power structures, “not just in terms of the treatment of women but also in terms of who’s included”.
Italian nightmare: Are investors too complacent about Italy’s forthcoming general election? Wolfgang Munchau thinks so. In his latest Monday column he argues the received wisdom that the March poll will result in a stalemate and business will continue as usual could be seriously misplaced. Wolfgang notes that financial markets never quite got the eurozone right, and did not react when they should have.
Brexit transition: Jacob Rees-Mogg was in characteristically arch form last week when he warned that Britain risks becoming a “vassal state” if the Brexit transition process sees the UK abiding by EU rules while losing its current membership rights. Nick Clegg agrees. In an unusual coming together of a leading Remainer and hardline Brexiter, Nick argues that Rees-Mogg is right to say that “it would be more ‘honest’ simply to extend the Article 50 timetable rather than condemn the country to the humiliation of negotiating our departure from the EU having already evicted ourselves from it.”
Trading with China: Protectionism à la Donald Trump is a dead end, writes Zaki Laidi. Nobody really believes that tariff barriers can reduce a trade deficit. Yet, he adds, Europe finds itself in a quandary: if rising economies, particularly China, are making inroads into European markets, how can the continent protect itself without indulging in protectionism? The answer he says is for Europe to rebalance its economic relations with China, where there is currently a flagrant lack of reciprocity. - Financial Times