Yes, many of us already are bought into Own nothing and be happy, in-fact, it’s a very good idea.

Edward Taaffe
8 min readSep 21, 2022


The great Reset and the WEF as an organisation have come in for a great deal of bad press. I’m dealing specifically here with the Great reset and the “Own nothing and be happy” debate

Hopefully I can clear up a few points

Who are WEF and why do they exist.

It is a NGO of sorts and equally can be compared to a thinktank or institute. Typically, such organisations have no official role in democracy, have no vote other than those of the individuals, but as we all know they have huge influence over the politicians we vote for.

They exist in order to influence society, in this case business, but they were never requested and often exist in a shadow.

What is the stated purpose of the WEF

“Our activities are shaped by a unique institutional culture founded on the stakeholder theory, which asserts that an organization is accountable to all parts of society. The institution carefully blends and balances the best of many kinds of organizations, from both the public and private sectors, international organizations and academic institutions.” I’ll return to the latter concept shortly.

Are organisations like WEF, Chatham House, ERG democratic?

Its a matter for each individual to decide. My take is that partly they are, simply because a politician ought to be questioned on his beliefs and policies sufficiently before he’s elected to know what he believes in and therefore that should be enough. We don’t for example need normally to question if his University is democratic.

On the other hand, organisations like ERG and Chatham house are overtly political and have membership who do invest enormous sums to get their chosen candidate elected, it’s hard to suggest that behaviour of that kind is democratic, but you then have to consider that its been happening for a long time and nobody seems to care enough to do something about it.

What does stakeholder capitalism mean, how would it work?

When companies like The Dutch East India and Hudson Bay company were formed, the principle was that shareholders were owners and had substantial say in how the business was run and often they were also workers investing in their employer to grow their pensions. The remnants of that remains by way of shareholder voting, but most of it is handled today through fund managers who are part of the finance institution and rarely and only by accident represent the interests of investors. The accountability, even were it to be effective, stops there. The only stakeholders with any power are those controlling the investment, as opposed to investors.

For large organisations to also be accountable to other large stakeholders such as countries, communities, workers and so forth who make up the full stake-holding is not a revolutionary idea.
The principals I worked with over many years as a Prince 2 practitioner teaches exactly that approach. Every stakeholder identified, stake understood and rights or obligations taken into account at all times and kept informed. Its a perfectly natural way to go about things and this particular methodology came out of the UK government’s OGC now replaced by others. If it worked today, industry could not poison rivers and beaches, companies could not consume infrastructure and pay no taxes and so-forth.

For this approach to work in commerce would take serious changes in how companies are structured and regulated and the structure, law and regulation would have to be agreed, and then managed by a single global body in order for it to work. Who better than the WEF to put this forward, the people who champion this move? The WTO would naturally be the biggest part of such a movement.
That of course poses huge questions and we’ll come to that. I doubt anyone imagines them ruling the world, but such an event must eventually happen, its only a mater of who is established to do it. Its unavoidable and drawing closer.

Why now?

We have reached a point in time when commercial organisations have larger revenue annually than the majority of countries. We’ve seen a company sue France for damaging their profits. Companies are even hiring private armies to quell countries that stand in their way. It has reached that point.

We have huge companies able to bully nations into charging lower tax and are successfully forcing countries to accept pay grades and workers rights that would not have been considered two decades ago, clamping down on unions and all sorts of public protest.
We also know very well though politicians won’t discuss it, that many governments and virtually all politicians are under the firm control of lobbyists and contributors from the business community who get their needs considered ahead of the citizens. Business has become not just a commercial concern, but many would say, a political dictator that simply tolerates democracy at best.

At first glance, I would say there are other approaches needed regardless of whether stakeholder capitalism is embedded and they include major reforms to democracy to remove money from the equation and put a stop to lobbying in favour of official consultations of some form. That still leaves room for a more benign and more balanced makeup for capitalism.

How might a Stakeholder capitalism be envisaged when working.

In the simplest vision, it would be very much as described above. Workers, owners, lenders of capital and customers would have clearly defined rights as indeed the were originally intended via standard capitalism before it became eroded and side-lined by forces like private equity, reduction or abolition of workers rights, loss of the right to have a say by workers and by investors too as their pension funds are represented by members of the financial establishment.

Government and regulating bodies would once again have a powerful say and keep the balance between businesses and other stakeholders.

Money would flow in a circular and continuous motion from customer to business to worker thus serving the community via income and taxes and the capitalist via returns and from these people in their role as customers back again to the business.
The model below is not new, but even economists often misunderstand it.

This circular flow has been understood for more than a century as a critical part of what makes an economy and an overarching society function and thrive, but it has been damaged almost fatally by loss of regulation, globalisation that drives unhealthy competition from undeveloped nations without rights and hence a levelling down to their level and by the corruption of democracy through its dependence on money to win elections, money provided by businesses in return for unfair treatment and escape from tax and other obligations.

The first is straightforward enough and beneficial to all, that is apart from the globalisation issue. Globalisation has to be regulated or cut back a long way if society overall is to survive. Regulation is easier, but those used to their own way such as the US struggle to play ball with smaller nations.

This idea became an opinion piece on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda website by Danish MP, Ida Auken,

‘Welcome to 2030: I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.’

“You will own nothing and be happy”, where did this originate and what does it mean?

“You’ll own nothing. And you’ll be happy” came from he WEF’s “ Predictions for the World in 2030,” published in 2016 and still on their website.

Auken had referred to the circular economy as the means by which people would own nothing in this futuristic scenario where “Everything you considered a product, has now become a service.” Think SAS the model that has already overrun software and is even tackling razors. Not precisely the same, but you can bet that the revenue model is also attractive, thats how stakeholder negotiation works..

In this video, Frans Van Houten of Philips explains in more detail the simple proposition.

Here it is in my own “Product Manager Speak”. Most of us PMs recognise that a customer yearns for or buys the value or benefit a product offers them, not the actual product. That extends to things like social status even. The point is this, its not “the Product” that’s important. Any marketer or product specialist will attest to this.

The notion, part of the circular economy, is that the product is rented rather than bought and returns to the manufacturer who never in fact gave up ownership and can now reconstitute its parts or materials into other products, and thus reduce the harmful waste we all are so aware of.

Hence, I own nothing and life has never been better.

The circular economy is another key proposition form the WEF (economic systems that aim to eliminate waste by reusing raw materials rather than disposing of them)

Perhaps now it makes more sense.
My circular economy is the economists view and I believe it is even more important. The simple concept is that you already own a surprising amount you were barely aware of. Retirees are often shocked at how much their holdings in companies amounts to and if only that holding came with direct votes, they’d have had huge power as they deserved, over their employers. Taxpayers own a share of the country and a huge share at that.
The difficulty is that we have all been conned into believing otherwise and giving way to men in suits who buy bonds with our huge wealth and pay us sad pensions while keeping our capital. We allow politicians to give our wealth to their pals while neglecting even basic services.

WEF is not an elected body.

WEF is not an elected body and neither are many of the global organisations and local thinktanks that influence our lives. Now the strongest complainers are very often the same ones who like nothing better than a weekend bashing people of a different colour or belief, but on this subject, they do have a point.

Its the subject of a very much bigger separate piece, but we all are aware of vast numbers of bodies and huge global organisations that have far more influence over our elected government than we do. That ranges from military contractors to online technical platforms to everyday business software to Social media, to Big OIL, Banking, Pharma and you name it.

They use their huge financial clout to support tame politicians and get their own way. We in fact are mostly faced with a choice between their candidate A and their candidate B to be PM or Chancellor.

These are scary and unacceptable facts that must be addressed and put right, but let’s not single out just one, possibly one thats trying very hard to negotiate well by keeping everyone involved in the conversation.



Edward Taaffe

Ed is a technical consultant and writer in the areas of Digital and Products. He writes here on random subjects that catch the eye.