World Affairs

How the Great Reset is Capturing our Politics

During the pandemic, the people of Melbourne, Australia’s second city, largely lost two years of their lives. For months at a time, they couldn’t travel more than five kilometres from their homes, couldn’t leave home for more than an hour a day, and couldn’t meet anyone outside of their own household without special permission. These extraordinary, unprecedented and draconian restrictions were dictated by experts, enforced by government, and for much of the time passively endured by the population because they were deemed necessary to keep people safe. Yet Melbourne was only a somewhat more extreme version of the scientism and safetyism that afflicted most of the world between 2020 and 2022. Far from viewing this as a catastrophe, to the advocates of what’s become known as the Great Reset the pandemic was less a disaster than a portent of how other challenges might usefully be tackled. 

Despite the grotesque overreaction to it, Covid was not the trigger for an organised conspiracy to take away our freedom and to damage our health. It was simply a fearful new challenge that brought out an arrogance in experts, an authoritarianism among officials, and a timidity in our own citizens that was almost as unanticipated as it was unprecedented.

To people with a definite agenda, every crisis has the potential to advance it. For forty years now, the World Economic Forum President, Professor Klaus Schwab, has marketed his annual Davos gathering as a chance to address the key-crisis-of-the-moment, invariably through intensified global elite networking and more joined-up government. Naturally, he seized upon the pandemic as a golden opportunity to push for a more comprehensive version of the health-industrial state that so readily took over people’s daily lives in order to protect us from an illness which people under seventy had a 99.9 per cent chance of surviving.

To the essay writers in this volume, Against the Great Reset, Schwab is a representative-in-chief of the homogenised global elites that seem to have taken over most developed countries’ policy-making and created the administrative state that elected politicians are now struggling to tame. Rather than being a sinister global string-puller, Schwab is an especially well-connected exemplar of the expert class to which elected politicians are increasingly expected to defer. And the problem is less the prevalence of Davos Man than the diffidence of elected leaders in the face of such pseudo-intellectual pretension.

In June 2020, Schwab issued his current version of elite intellectualism:

The Great Reset agenda would have three main components. The first would steer the market towards fairer outcomes … Depending on the country, these may include changes to wealth taxes, the withdrawal of fossil-fuel subsidies and new rules governing intellectual property, trade and competition … The second component of a Great Reset agenda would ensure that investments advance shared goals such as equality and sustainability. Here, the large-scale spending programs that many governments are implementing represent a major opportunity for progress … This means, for example, building “green” urban infrastructure and creating incentives for industries to improve their track record on environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics … The third and final priority of a Great Reset agenda is to harness the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good, especially by addressing health and social challenges. During the Covid 19 crisis, companies, universities and others have joined forces … Imagine what could be possible if similar concerted efforts were made in every sector …

There’s no doubting Schwab’s high-mindedness, but underneath the corporatist jargon there’s also no doubting his preference for bigger, more active government, and smaller, more passive citizens, with the “experts” firmly in charge; a kind of soft authoritarianism, with the pandemic response as a model, to address politically correct problems such climate change, global inequality and racism.

To the critics in this volume, “Davos thinking” has become dangerously entrenched at the top levels of most institutions: hence businesses are run less to produce goods and services than to promote diversity, and economies less to create prosperity than to reduce emissions. Many of these essays deal with the Great Reset only to the extent needed to be part of a volume against it, but nearly all of them are worth reading because of what they have to say about key aspects of contemporary life such as the decline of politics and the politicisation of business. An underlying theme is the extent to which the Marxist zealots who were unable to persuade the working classes to upend the system in order to create equality have been far more influential in persuading the middle classes to upend the system in order to save the planet, to end the patriarchy and to combat racism. Yet like all revolutions, these ones too will end in tears.

One of the most extraordinary features of an almost uniquely dispiriting time was the way the pandemic plans that many governments had developed over decades (none of which involved closing down all non-essential activity for months on end) were junked in favour of versions of the Wuhan plan that could only have happened in a totalitarian state: locking everyone up in the hope that the virus would die out. In a clinical dissection of our pandemic follies, Douglas Murray deplores the collective cowardice behind the failure to blame China for unleashing (even if unintentionally) this scourge upon the world, the absence of any cost-benefit analysis once media-driven panic had taken hold, and the fake science behind all the catastrophic early predictions of doom and the changing instructions about things like masks. The Great Reset, he says, “aims to replace national government with world government, and in an increasingly CCP-dominated world, that would lead in only one direction: against the cause of democratic and financial freedom”.

Roger Kimball sees the Great Reset as the latest chapter in the long fight between the advocates of the big battalions and the little platoons. He contrasts the other-centred passions that most people feel for family, neighbourhood and country, with the self-centred passions of the elites for rules, order and systems that empower them. He says there are two views of liberty: one “affirms tradition, local affection and the subordination of politics to the ordinary business of life. It is a view that looks to the nation state as the primary guarantor of its rights.” The other “is more ambitious but also more abstract. It seeks nothing less than to boost us all up to that plane of enlightenment … through which mankind as a whole (but not alas, individual men, who hardly matter in this calculus) may hope for whatever salvation secularism leavened by utilitarianism may provide.” The Great Reset, he says, is a textbook manifestation of this latter version.

In an enthralling essay, Angelo Codevilla charts the decline of American education into the kind of culturally self-loathing relativist swamp to whose alumni notions like a Great Reset seem plausible. In the Second World War, he says, only 4 per cent of some 18 million US draftees were illiterate. Yet a generation later, despite a massive increase in education funding, 27 per cent of Vietnam War draftees were judged functionally illiterate.

Conrad Black was a regular attendee at Davos for many years and, in a masterly account of the follies of contemporary capitalism, observes that Davos is in favour of democracy and capitalism but only the “right” types. He laments the “venality, cowardice and invertebrate tactical stupidity of much of the corporate world” exemplified by “oil companies putting up slick television praising and purporting to be part of the heroic march to a fossil-free world”. He’s one of several authors here noting the moral decline of businesses that, for instance, boast of their ESG credentials while outsourcing parts of their supply chain to slave labour in Xinjiang or child labour in the Congo.

One of the most instructive chapters is Michael Anton’s analysis of Marxism and capitalism. He contrasts the contemporary capitalism of the IT-facilitated “gig economy” with mid-twentieth-century capitalism characterised by high wages and stable employment. He says that the modern danger is less from old-style socialism than from “the cabal of bankers, techies, corporate executives, politicians, senior bureaucrats, academics and pundits who coalesce around the World Economic Forum and seek to change, reduce, restrict and homogenise the Western way of life—but only for ordinary people”. He says the Great Reset “combines the worst elements of libertarian capitalism with most of the worst of socialism and rolls them together with utterly irredeemable wokeness”.

So how did we get here and what’s to be done? It’s often observed that politics is downstream of culture; less often that culture is downstream of religion. Western civilisation is unimaginable without Christianity with its insistence that every human being has equal worth and its golden rule “Do to others what you would have them do to you”. Hence it really should be no surprise that societies that have not only largely lost their Christian faith but mostly lost even their Christian knowledge should now be in the grip of identity politics where people are morally pigeon-holed on the basis of characteristics they can do nothing to alter. Or that people should be expected to have a “belief” in climate change with its own sets of commandments and anathemas. And to the extent that woke virtue requires saving the planet from the wars of nation-states, from the injustice of global inequality, from the environmental depredations of big business, and from the evils of racism and biologically determined sex, the all-but-inevitable result is politically correct education systems, mass immigration, and renewable energy based on wind turbines and solar panels largely made in China.

Yet for all Western countries’ alleged oppressions, they’re still the only places that others want to flee to, whether that’s Africans seeking a better life or wealthy Chinese who don’t trust their own government. What’s needed is a recovery of self-belief based on the undoubted fact that Western countries remain the world’s most free, fair and prosperous; and that the pre-pandemic, pre-Ukraine, pre-October 7 world was more safe, more rich, more free and more fair for more people than ever before in history, based on seven decades of freer trade, freer speech and freer politics sustained and protected by the US-led global order.

Against the Great Reset is a powerful critique of our contemporary ills and of how Davos Man is making them worse. It doesn’t offer an explicit alternative, although it implicitly points to the eighteenth-century liberal conservatism of Edmund Burke, who saw true freedom as grounded in religion, personal character and social order. Perhaps this volume has helped to prepare the ground for an alternative worldview, that represented by the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship, which has recently held its inaugural conference in London, which aimed to tell “a better story” about the strengths of Western civilisation. To the Davos agenda of climate anxiety, global equality, world governance, woke capitalism and suppressing “misinformation”, the ARC offered freedom of speech, support for small business, protection of the family, patriotism and educational rigour.

Still, at a time of green hysteria, gender confusion, religious scepticism and cultural uncertainty, it will take better political leadership than any major Western country has recently had to craft a political program that’s capable of restoring confidence in our societies. The fact that nearly every country now wants to forget the pandemic as a kind of collective bad dream, rather than rigorously analyse it lest we make the same mistakes again, shows how governance has generally become worse as it’s become bigger and ever more intrusive.

Against the Great Reset: Eighteen Theses Contra the New World Order
edited by Michael Walsh

Bombardier Books, 2022, 474 pages, $49.80

The Hon. Tony Abbott was Prime Minister of Australia from 2013 to 2015


20 thoughts on “How the Great Reset is Capturing our Politics

  • lbloveday says:

    Christianity’s golden rule “Do to others what you would have them do to you”.
    I’m unsure of the universal application of the “golden rule” to me.
    What I would have them do to me is displayed on the bespoke T-shirts I had made in various colours with the back displaying the words:
    Don’t walk behind me
    I may not lead
    Don’t walk before me
    I may not follow
    Don’t walk beside me
    Pretty clear but so often ignored, presumably by people who are doing to me what they would have me do to them.

  • Alistair says:

    A predictably disappointing essay from Tony Abbott, who seems to always miss the point. For example, while presenting a limp-wristed critique of Davos Man – has he re-assessed his position on the Republic? I mean King Charlese is THE model global manifestation of Davos Man
    The British Royal Family are listed as prime movers of Vangaurd/Blackrock.
    “Rather than being a sinister global string-puller, Schwab is an especially well-connected exemplar of the expert class to which elected politicians are increasingly expected to defer. And the problem is less the prevalence of Davos Man than the diffidence of elected leaders in the face of such pseudo-intellectual pretension.”
    What you are describing is the end of Liberal Democracy across the West – and to dismiss this as “pseudo-intellectual pretension” and not some “sinister” global plot is just dangerously failing to give them enough credit for what they are doing.

  • sfw says:

    Tony, how about getting back into politics? You’re still relatively young and hopefully you’ve learned from the terrible mess you made of being PM. Dutton is good but not good enough, you are. Instead of travelling the world on your massive taxpayer funded super and benefits, lecturing us on what to do, do it yourself!
    I’m serious, you were the greatest political disappointment of my life as PM but you can come back and do it right. Churchill was in the wilderness for years but did never gave up and the world was a better place because of him. You are no Churchill but you are someone that can lead the nation away from the soul and economy destroying left, please at least try.

    • Rebekah Meredith says:

      Correct, on all counts. Hear, hear!

    • Rebekah Meredith says:

      Correct on all counts. Hear, hear!

    • Watchman Williams says:

      Tony had his chance and didn’t have the courage to resist the appeasers and be true to his principles. He was more akin to Chamberlain than Churchill.

    • Maryse Usher says:

      Well said!

    • Maryse Usher says:

      Tony Abbot, if only you as PM had carped the diem to push back against the LGBTQ monster bulling for gay mirage. If only you had promoted and protected the only firm foundation of a civilized society, the family. You know, married mum, dad and as many children as they liked to have. Instead, you crumpled at the knees and bleated about giving all sides a fair go. No decent leader gives evil a fair go. You could have crushed it by defending those true families which still represented the greatest cohort, of sexual/parental arrangements, which is rearing its biological children in safety and peace. No, you delivered us the sodding plebiscite, predictably funded by American squillionaires funnelled through Get Up, successfully captivating an ignorant and faithless generation.
      I can’t forgive you for cowardice of this scale when you could have educated, informed and inspired Australians to support and aspire to true marriage and its beneficial effects on everyone. Didn’t you have anyone to do the research for you? You didn’t even have to mention religion.

  • Daffy says:

    I too have mixed views of TA, as I do of…well…everyone! But I think this is a helpful critique of the world-engineers who want to accumulate power to them selves on the Platonic fantasy of ‘philosopher-kings’. Real kings aren’t so bad (especially if another nation pays for one’s own king’s upkeep) as they come and go.
    All this goes to two points. Firstly the passivation of the ordinary person, whose native scepticism of government and experts has been dulled by mass entertainment via screens of various sizes and fueled by proto-marxist party education that has dulled their wits, and the lack of a general moral position that respects the agency of the individual and their role apropos government: that the government is the servant of the people!
    Remember, politicians are not our leaders; they are our employees.

    • David Isaac says:

      That’s just the problem. We need leaders, not employees, to lead us. Until the twentieth century our then limited democracies drew candidates from the educated class and aristocracy and those men were extremely well-educated and mostly inculcated with a doctrine of patriotism and public service. These days we have mid-wits at best, indoctrinated with tolerance for all and everything, who are at the mercy of advisers and lobbyists, which makes instituting global governance and destroying the Australian nation a relative snap. But of course it’s all just bungling, couldn’t possibly be the result of a planned programme to subvert national governments to an international, elite agenda.

  • Petronius says:

    I have never been quite so concerned about the Covid lockdowns because they were perhaps an overreaction to a pandemic that was at the time not really understood. What if it had been much worse than the authorities imaged? –we might be singing their praises.

    I can relate to much of the sentiments in the article and it is refreshing to see them understood by a seasoned LIberal-Coalition former PM. Alas, the previous PM, Mr Morrison, appeared to be quite ignorant to these political-social forces which washed around his government and eventually contributed to his demise. He perhaps believed that “social justice” meant being nice to people. Mr Dutton seems to keep one on woke and one eye on the pragmatic seeking of government. He is hedging his bets which leads to confusion among his non-woke supporters. What comes across is a lack of clarity and missed opportunity. The question of mass immigration illustrates this perfectly: he supports passively the favourite fix of both major parties for lack of productivity and GDP growth, but then lip serves the unpopularity of waves of strangers from all corners of the world reducing GDP per capita, taxing infrastructure and housing and diluting social cohesion.

    • David Isaac says:

      It was clear from the Ruby Princess that the illness in non-frail people was not severe. It was apparent early that death rates from the illness in healthy people under seventy were about equal to the background annual mortality rate at that person’s age. This ought to have been managed by reassurance and a call for calm but instead the media, particularly Reuters and AP stoked fear and pilloried Sweden for its completely conventional handling of the pandemic. Worldwide media pressure was brought to bear on politicians who buckled. We then saw the media obsessing about deaths in nursing homes whilst a whole generation of children and young people had their social lives destroyed. All at the cost of their future prosperity as one third of a year of GDP was blown on this farrago. And then there’s the unprecedented peacetime assault on civil liberties and concomitant forced medical experimentation.
      The replacement of Australians with ‘New Australians’ began post-war. Most assimilated to a large extent but then they were already similar: Christian Europeans. Then we had the second stage of large scale Asian migration with the demise of the WAP. Many decent people, hard-workers, manageable and some did assimilate, particularly Christians. But now we are marching to the finish line with blatant replacement from China, India, Africa, South America. It’s a demographic assault which is being perpetrated in every European and Anglosphere land. In Australia it goes hand in hand with the discrediting of British settlement and the acknowledgement mantras and international socialist aboriginal flags on just about every building. No politician has the guts to call it out because they know both wings of the media will crucify them. A problem, certainly if you are what would have been called, in 1939, an Australian, but really also if your roots are more recently in Europe or the British Isles.

  • Paul W says:

    At this point I can only shake my head. Another book, more essays, and still no solutions. No wonder Conservatives keep losing – they think it’s a victory to not be mad. But that isn’t a victory, it’s a good prerequisite. For victory we need plans and actions.
    Conservatives must get better at creating specific, detailed alternatives and then advocating for them.

  • vickisanderson says:

    Thank you for this excellent review of Michael Walsh’s collection of appraisals of the “Great Reset” – I am looking forward to reading them.

    It has taken some time for our contemporary intellectuals to really grapple with the philosophical, and indeed existential shift that has taken place in the past two generations. I’m not certain if we are still at the crossroads, or if we are so far down the new pathway that we can never retrace our steps.

    It really is a “creeping death”, although I hate to be so pessimistic. It is just that, like the tide coming in, we knew that we must take steps to seek safety, but the pleasures of post industrial society were too seductive. It has taken the experience of the gross and sudden attack on our liberty and dignity by government and their bureaucrats during the Covid years to reveal what we have lost.

    The real test for the survival of western liberal society will be whether the “awakening” will occur right across our communities. Leadership from amongst the ARC movement is important, but only a realisation occurring in the general population will be able to arrest the loss of our way of life.

    • David Isaac says:

      The Alliance for Responsible Citizenship will not solve the problem, which stems from the moral consensus, based on distorted science, which emerged after 1945.

    • Watchman Williams says:

      The ARC is a feel-good gabfest. The vast mass of citizens are in a coma and will never be awakened to the truth. What is euphemistically described as “education” is nothing ofd the sort; it is simple, old fashioned Marxist propaganda. The media has done its brainwashing so well that even Goebbels would be impressed.
      The light will only be seen after the darkness has covered the earth for a season.

  • STD says:

    “That is why men become indifferent to right and wrong, disorder and chaos increase, and the State steps in to organise the chaos by force. Dictatorships arise in such a fashion. Such is the essence of Socialism, the compulsory organisation of chaos”,Bishop Fulton Sheen.

  • Watchman Williams says:

    “There’s no doubting Schwab’s high-mindedness”. Really? This is like saying that Hitler was high-minded.
    Schwab is an unreconstructed fascist, but one who has applied Fabian techniques to the fascist goal of global rule and enslavement of the human race. He will do it too, thanks to the naivety of he political class in the Western world, as exhibited by Tony Abbott.

    • David Isaac says:

      Schwab’s plans are elitist, cosmopolitan and atomising. They bare no similarity to fascism or national socialism both of which were essentially nationalist , traditionalist and family-oriented.

  • David Isaac says:

    “only 4 per cent of some 18 million US draftees were illiterate. Yet a generation later, despite a massive increase in education funding, 27 per cent of Vietnam War draftees were”
    The most obvious explanation of this is that many more negroes and poor whites were drafted for Vietnam because a much larger proportion of educated whites chose to avoid service through student exemptions or otherwise. This was likely related to the much more nuanced propaganda environment and absence of a direct attack on the US in the later conflict. The IQ standards for draftees were dropped by McNamara in 1966 just before the three deadliest years for US servicemen.

    Beware some fairly nauseating grievance-mongering amongst useful information.

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