One of my favorite songs when I was a teenager in the late 1960s was “Harper Valley PTA.” In it, Jeannie C. Riley sings about a woman whom the Harper Valley PTA criticizes for the way she dresses. The woman doesn’t sit back. Instead, she shows up at the PTA meeting that afternoon and asks some embarrassing questions designed to show the hypocrisy of many of the members of the PTA.

I thought of this song when watching Argentine president Javier Milei’s masterful speech last month to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The WEF meets every January in Davos to discuss world affairs. Based on reports I’ve read over the years, it’s fair to say that while WEF participants seem to favor some good policies such as freer trade, they also want to arrange people’s lives. This shows up especially on the issue of fossil fuels. In 2020, for example, law professor William Burke-White expressed his hope that “teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg” is an opinion setter and celebrated the fact that a few “CEOs and government ministers joined youth from around the world in Greta’s climate march down the main street of Davos.” I wonder if only a few CEOs showed up because they hadn’t parked their companies’ private jets in time. (If you think I’m not taking global warming seriously enough, realize that even the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agrees with me. As former Caltech physicist Steven E. Koonin pointed out in his 2021 book, Unsettled, the IPCC predicted that if the global temperature increases by up to 3 degrees Celsius in 2100, world gross domestic product will be 3 percent lower than it would have been. As I wrote in 2022, “So instead of world output in 2100 being 387.5 percent higher than it is now, it would be ‘only’ 368.8 percent higher.”)

The WEF was due for a “Harper Valley PTA” moment, and Javier Milei delivered it masterfully.

This is the opening of my latest Defining Ideas article for the Hoover Institution, “The Day Milei Socked it to the Davos Crowd,” Defining Ideas, February 1, 2024.

Read the whole thing.