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humbled masters @ davos

“How could we have been so stupid?” That was the refrain of several experts at a session of the World Economic Forum last week about “What Went Wrong” to produce the global financial crisis. Not that they had been wrong, mind you. It being Davos, the chosen commentators had mostly been right in warning several years ago of disaster ahead. But there was at least a note of collective chagrin.

Davos doesn’t do humility, normally. These are the masters of the universe, after all, whose gathering each winter has come to symbolize the process of economic globalization. But this year, with the global economy in the tank, there is a kind of corporate self-examination. Beyond the panel discussions, you could hear a collective sigh of “Oops!” and a plaintive “Now what?”

One reason for the tone of self-reflection this year is that U.S. officials, who can’t seem to resist being pitchmen at such global gatherings, have mostly stayed away. The Obama administration’s absence gave a “post-American” feel to the session, but that’s deceiving. Barack-o-mania is as strong among the global titans as it is everywhere else.

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