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The 70 Billionaires at Davos

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By Robert Frank at The Wall Street Journal

Davos is often criticized as a cabal of the global elite. But maybe it’s time they got some populist credit: Only 70 of the 2,500 attendees are actual billionaire. The rest are merely powerful or millionaires.

According to an article by Matt Miller of Bloomberg, the U.S. is sending the largest contingent of billionaires, with 20. The roster includes hedge-funders Steve Cohen, Ray Dalio, and George Soros.

India is sending 16 billionaires – nearly a third of the country’s total billionaire population. Russia is sending 12.

There are so many billionaires attending that a social-networking company is using the occasion to launch a new “Facebook for world leaders” Indian-born businessman Vivek Ranadivé is introducing TopCom, “a private social network that combines Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, texting, and Skype.”

Oh, and you have to be among the 200 richest people in the world to join.

Yet the billionaires at Davos are mindful of the times. So they’re highlighting all the social good that can come of their Alpine pow-wow. It’s not about doing deals, partying with the powerful and expanding their networks and fortunes, they told Miller. It’s about trying to make the world a better place.

Buffett-like, they say inequality is a real problem – even though they’re perceived as the cause and Davos is short on inequality discussions.

“We have seen in 2011 what ignoring this aspect can result in,” Azim Premji, the Indian software tycoon, wrote to Miller. “If we don’t take cognizance of it and try to solve this problem, it can create a chaotic upheaval globally.”

Soros was more dire. He told Newsweek that he’s predicting “riots on the streets that will lead to a brutal clampdown that will dramatically curtail civil liberties. The global economic system could even collapse altogether.”

Should be a fun party.

bonus video : Five things to know about the World Economic Forum 2012 NDTV

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cF8tAYo9Xc
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