DAVOS, Switzerland — A four-year economic crisis has left societies battered and widened the gap between the haves and have-nots, financial leaders conceded Wednesday — with one suggesting that Western-style capitalism itself may be endangered.
As Europe struggles with its debt crisis and the global economic outlook remains gloomy at best, there's a sense at the heavily guarded World Economic Forum that free markets are on trial.
Many at the elite economic gathering in the Swiss Alps accept that more must be done to convince critics that Western capitalism has a future and that it can learn from its massive failures.
For David Rubenstein, the co-founder and managing director of asset management firm Carlyle Group, leaders must work fast to overcome the current crisis or else different models of capitalism, such as the form practiced in China, may win the day.
"As a result of this recession, that's lasted longer than anyone predicted and will probably go on for a number more years ... we're going to have a lot of economic disparities," Rubenstein said. "We've got to work through these problems. If we don't do in three or four years ... the game will be over for the type of capitalism that many of us have lived through and thought was the best type."