Marketplace Scratch Pad

G-20 Deja Vu

Scott Jagow Apr 1, 2009

People smashing things, bloody faces, mayhem and beer. Must be another gathering of world leaders! I have pictures to show you from the G-20 protests in London, but they could just as well be stock photos from WTO 1999 in Seattle or the 2005 G8 in Scotland or any number of costly and ineffective global summits.

Costly, as in $75 million for this G-20, which will last about four hours tomorrow. Costly, as in huge security expenses, people getting hurt, windows getting smashed, buildings being defaced. Ineffective, as in no real decisions are likely to be made. Ineffective, as in political posturing, grandstanding and demanding for the folks back home.

Slate has it right:

The truth, of course, is that nothing that will be discussed at the summit, and nothing that will be discussed at any of the follow-up summits, could not also have been discussed on the telephone. Or by e-mail. Or on a Skype conference call. Indeed, one British writer suggests that “the world’s leaders should have followed their usual platitudes about looking to the future and engaging the young by holding the whole thing on Facebook.”

I don’t want to be too cynical and dismiss the whole idea of world leaders meeting face-to-face in a group. But when they do, how about having an honest conversation, one in which thoughtful, intelligent people share ideas and think proactively about solving problems? It just rarely happens. What usually happens is — documents are drafted, decisions tabled, more meetings scheduled. Of course, that occurs in most workplaces too, but how many times do 20 companies get together to try to reach agreement on what’s best for all of them? There’s a reason they don’t.

Still, I hope something does come out of the G-20, besides nifty and pointless verbal acrobatics:

(Uh, what capitalism are referring to?)

(This beer-drinking horse is a climate change protester, not an anti-capitalist. Come on, everyone knows that.)

(The Royal Bank of Scotland will now be creating stimulus in the glass and window industry)

(I can actually see Nicholas Sarkozy getting into this scrum. Now that would be a refreshing summit.)

(Cannibalism is one solution I hadn’t heard yet.)

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