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What is the point of Davos? And what can the annual World Economic Forum do when the global elite and the order they represent are losing support — and the argument?

In this week’s column, Martin Wolf argues that the values of the liberal international order animate the World Economic Forum, making it more than a club for the rich and powerful. But what are those values? According to Princeton’s John Ikenberry, they are “economic openness, multilateral institutions, security co-operation and democratic solidarity”.

But as Martin points out, these international norms are under attack, not least by the US president, who has retreated to protectionism and is busy undermining the fabric of international co-operation. If both domestic political cohesion and global economic integration are under threat, he warns that the Davos attendees must recognise that the rise of Donald Trump is a symptom of a deep malaise about the liberal world order rather than its cure. And why? “It may have brought vast gains to the sorts of people who attend Davos, but not to everybody else.”

Berlusconi’s latest comeback: Tony Barber analyses the 81-year-old’s likelihood of winning the Italian election at the head of a rightwing coalition. Berlusconi seems sure to wield influence over the next government’s composition and policies, even though he is technically banned from public life until 2019.

How can workers survive the robot revolution? Sarah O’Connor argues that reskilling those losing traditional manufacturing jobs will only go so far. They also need lasting “safe” jobs to apply for in the places where they have put down roots.

Rock’n’roll runs away to join the circus: The FT’s pop critic Ludovic Hunter-Tilney investigates the legal battle between Kid Rock and Barnum and Bailey Circus, both of which would like to be branded as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Marketing loves hyperbole but, according to Ludo, we need to puncture the puffery.

Boris Johnson is worried about our health: Is the UK foreign secretary raising the need for more NHS spending because he cares? Or might he be worried about the legacy of the campaign to leave the EU, of which he was a figurehead? Sebastian Payne says he still has his eyes on the top job.

Best of the rest

Imagining a post-Merkel Germany — Jochen Bittner in the New York Times

The third age of Tony Blair — wide-ranging interview in the London Evening Standard.

In defence of Cathy Newman — James Kirkup for The Spectator on culture wars and fans of Jordan Peterson

Could Boris Johnson’s self interest end up helping the NHS? Gabby Hinsliff in The Guardian

What you’ve been saying

Show you can pay your way and you can stay— letter from Christopher Cruickshank, Kraainem, Belgium

‘Sir, Professor Vernon Bogdanor ( Letters, January 22) points out that limited movement of persons is not allowed under the European Economic Area. It should be borne in mind that even under EU rules, movement of persons is not unconditional. Under Article 7 of Directive 2004/38 an EU citizen wishing to stay in a host member state for more than three months has to show that he or she has a job, or independent financial means and health cover. This means that person will either be a contributor to the wealth of the host country through the payment of taxes, or at least not a burden on the resources of the host country. This is far from the uncontrolled immigration that some of the media in the UK make out to be the case.’

Comment by Pietro B. on Tony Barber’s column, Silvio Berlusconi flexes his political muscle in Italy again

‘I think that Berlusconi and Grillo are not only a threat for Italy and Europe but they are a terrifying threat to democracy too. Too often we give for granted that governments led by incompetent people voted by incompetent electors still reflect the universal suffrage and the more general principles of democracy. But this perception is outright wrong. Greeks call this type of government an “Ochlocracy”. It is the rule of a government by mob or by a mass of people. Polybius coined the term in the second century BCE. Despite the common idea that anarchy and tyranny are the worst threats to democracy, the ochlocracy is just as “bad” as these. But while the first two seem only remote threats to our democracies, the latter is much closer than we think…’

Creativity and ideas do not come about by writing code lines for 15 hours— letter from Prof Patrick Leblond, University of Ottawa, ON, Canada

‘First, the data on productivity and working hours do not support Mr Moritz’s perspective. European countries such as Austria, Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden have the lowest levels of working hours per worker and yet stand at the top of the pile in terms of worker productivity. For example, Danish workers manage to produce almost the same gross domestic product per worker as US workers but do so while working close to 400 hours fewer per year. Clearly “hygge” is not wealth destructing!’

Today’s opinion

FT View: Germany clings to a well-worn political formula A grand coalition has merit for the EU, but has drawbacks at home

Instant Insight: Frustrated Boris Johnson is right for the wrong reasons on the NHS The UK foreign secretary still hopes to succeed Theresa May as prime minister

Our robot era demands a different approach to retraining A local economy that loses its main industry does not magically create ‘safer’ jobs

Davos 2018: The liberal international order is sick Delegates need to consider what is to be done to save the model from wreckage

Free Lunch: Do not forget the winners from freer trade Openness brings more (and better) jobs than it takes away

Rocker’s ‘greatest’ show turns into a circus Legal dispute highlights how the language of hyperbole has infected our conversations

FT Alphaville: ICO regulator anger translator

Opinion today: The real genius of Donald Trump Might the US president have a claim to be considered a genius of a different sort?

Silvio Berlusconi flexes his political muscle in Italy The former prime minister is on course to steer his rightwing coalition to victory

The Big Read: Private equity: flood of cash triggers buyout bubble fears The buyout sector is on a tear as investors hunt for higher returns. But as competition and valuations increase, some fear a dangerous new cycle

FT View: Moscow holds sway in Syria’s proxy battles Turkey’s offensive on Afrin marks a new low in relations with the US

FT View: On the City of London and Brexit, silence is not golden The UK government needs to state its priorities for trade in services

FT View

FT View: A tactical mis-step from Donald Trump on trade Tariffs on solar panels and washing machines are foolish, not ruinous

FT View: Germany clings to a well-worn political formula A grand coalition has merit for the EU, but has drawbacks at home

The Big Read

The Big Read: Private equity: flood of cash triggers buyout bubble fears The buyout sector is on a tear as investors hunt for higher returns. But as competition and valuations increase, some fear a dangerous new cycle

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