1776 Commission versus 1619 Project: will Trump’s rejection of history divide America?

The ‘1776 Commission’ is the denouement of all the bizarre notions that have populated Trump’s seemingly random and disjointed dialogue throughout the four years of his presidency. His speech announcing it was a not very well-disguised panegyric for an agenda that isn’t just a denial of history, but could see America remain deeply and passionately divided well beyond Trump’s presidency.

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Crises only sometimes lead to change. Here’s why. (Sheri Berman)

“The coronavirus pandemic won’t automatically lead to reforms. Great upheavals only bring systemic change when reformers have a plan—and the power to implement it”. In this essay, Sheri Berman analyses historical crises and suggests why they may produce or fail to produce transformational change. The essay has a US focus and deals with the potential for systemic change to follow the coronavirus pandemic crisis, but the analysis could also help in understanding why the global warming crisis is failing to produce transformative change on the scale that is needed.

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The challenges of the post-pandemic agenda (Jean Pisani-Ferry)

There is a growing possibility that the COVID-19 crisis will mark the end of the growth model born four decades ago with the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, China’s embrace of capitalism, and the demise of the Soviet Union. The small government, free-market template suddenly looks terribly outdated. Instead of regarding growth as the ultimate solution to inequality, advanced economies will need to tackle distributional issues head on. It is to be hoped that they will be spared the convulsions that often accompany structural and policy changes of such magnitude.

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The global order after COVID-19 (Stephen Walt)

The COVID-19 crisis will not produce a dramatic and enduring increase in global governance or significantly higher levels of international cooperation. Instead it is likely to reinforce divisive trends; to accelerate a retreat from globalization, raise new barriers to international trade, investment, and travel, and give both democratic and non-democratic governments greater power over their citizens’ lives. The post-COVID-19 world will be less open, less free, less prosperous, and more competitive than the world many people expected to emerge only a few years ago.

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Defence spending and plans: will the pandemic take its toll? (IISS)

That the Covid-19 pandemic will have an impact on defence ministries is beyond doubt, but can governments and defence ministries find a way to deal with the possible effects on military spending and resource allocations? One way or another, national governments and defence ministries will have to grapple with the immediate and extended effects of the pandemic on their countries’ military spending and resource allocation.

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Cancel culture and the Harper’s Letter: a moan from the Ivory Tower or call to the liberal battlements?

The Letter on Justice and Open Debate published on 7 July 2020 and signed by 150 noted authors, academics, and public intellectuals cuts straight to a key fault line in liberalism. A collection of privileged individuals are claiming an unfettered right to say or write whatever they wish on the grounds that this right is the “lifeblood of a liberal society”. If this highly contestable claim is correct, it can then be asked if a liberal society is justifiable.

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How COVID-19 will reshape Indo-Pacific security (The Diplomat)

This article is one of a number of pieces circulating that usefully starts to ponder the effect COVID-19 will have on strategic relations in the Indo-Pacific. It presents one of the more comprehensive lists of possible effects. The narrow focus of the article, however, means two major results of the pandemic, a change in the relativities in economic power and a possible change in the US Administration, are not clearly factored into the analysis. With regard to the question of impact of Covid-19 on military readiness, there may be room for greater caution; it is yet to be seen if the worst predictions about a shift in the military balance because of readiness issues will eventuate.

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Who’s first wins? International crisis response to COVID-19 (EUISS)

Did democracies really respond to the Covid-19 pandemic less swiftly than authoritarian systems – and if the determining factor is not the political system, what are the key elements in a crisis response? EUISS (European Union Institute for Security Studies) | Report published 20 May 2020 | Authors: Florence Gaub, Lotje Boswinkel In this Brief, we put this hypothesis to the test: did democracies really respond less swiftly than authoritarian systems – and if the determining

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Year of the rat. The strategic consequences of the coronavirus crisis (Bruno Tertrais)

How might the decline of globalisation affect the rise in authoritarianism and the risk of conflict? How might sovereignism and isolationism retard responses to the ecological and climate crises of the Anthropocene? By Bruno Tertrais | Published 6 April 2020 | Foundation for Strategic Research (Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique | France This pandemic is the perfect stress test for the contemporary global society – and, because of its brutal and massive nature, a real

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Race is not real: It’s time to stop acting as though it is

For something that doesn’t exist, race exerts a pernicious and persistent influence on society. Placing people into a racial category, based on observable external features, and then attributing to it holistic ‘cultures’ that determine behaviours or moral character, is not supported by evidence.

But even those who are prepared to go to the barricades to oppose racism perpetuate the notion that race is real. This makes the management of entrenched racism inordinately difficult – but belief in race can be undermined – this is what needs to happen.

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Lessons from a global crisis: coronavirus, the international order and the future of the EU (Pol Morillas)

By Pol Morillas | The coronavirus crisis may turn out to be a bump in the road for recent international dynamics. After a period of hibernation in the major global economies, perhaps life will return to normal, the storm weathered thanks to stimulus plans, and the world will once again be flat and hyperconnected. Alternatively, coronavirus may be a turning point in the era of globalisation.

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Cultures of expertise and politics of behavioral science: A conversation with Erik Angner (Cambridge)

An interview Professor Erik Angner of Stockholm University as part of the Humanities and Social Change Centre at the University of Cambridge‘s series on expertise and COVID-19. Erik Angner is a philosopher and an economist writing on behavioral economics, economists as experts, measurement of happiness and wellbeing, Hayek, and the nature of preferences among other topics. Recently he has commented on the need for epistemic humility and the uniqueness of the Swedish response to the pandemic. The interview with Anna Alexandrova

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Sonia Sodha: Nudge theory is a poor substitute for hard science in matters of life and death

How appropriate is behavioural economics as a basis for making public policy? Sould it be called ‘science’? What does the evidence tell us? Published in The Guardian on 26 April 2020, this article is a thoughtful contribution to the current debate about about the extent to which some government responses, notably that of the United Kingdom, have been influenced by behavioural science/economics, and whether this has been appropriate in all the circumstances. Read the full

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Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus

Asking people to choose between privacy and health is, in fact, the very root of the problem. Because this is a false choice. We can and should enjoy both privacy and health. We can choose to protect our health and stop the coronavirus epidemic not by instituting totalitarian surveillance regimes, but rather by empowering citizens. Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari writes that ” [i]n this time of crisis, we face two particularly important choices. The

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Allan Behm: In times of coronavirus and climate change, we must rethink national security

The Australia Institute’s Allan Behm writes that ‘[t]he wellbeing of both the citizen and the state is the goal of all sound public policy. Traditional security thinking fails to deal with the new security issues presented by global warming, and now, pandemics. These constitute existential threats to human security that are not amenable to solution by military forces. Yet they go to the heart of national security in current circumstances.

The scope of national security policy needs to transcend traditional defence and law enforcement models by comprehending climate change, human security against pandemics, environmental (and soil) degradation, food security, water shortages and refugee flows – to identify just a few issues.”

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David McCoy: Faith in coronavirus modelling is no substitute for sound political judgment

David McCoy is a professor of Global Public Health and director of the Centre for Public Health at Queen Mary University of London. In this article published in The Guardian on 10 April 2020, he makes some important observations on the relationship between the scientific and non-scientific elements of COVID-19 decision-making; the inherent limitations of modelling – particularly when dealing with a novel virus about little is known. The article touches on many of the

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Evgeny Morozov: COVID-19 and the relationship of capitalism, neoliberalism and technology’s ‘solutionism’

Published in The Guardian on 15 April 2020, Evgeny Morozov writes about the relationship of capitalism, neoliberalism and technology’s ‘solutionism’ in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Selected excerpts follow – and read the full article here (external link to The Guardian) But capitalism does not survive by neoliberalism alone: the latter merely plays the role of the bad cop, insisting, in the words of Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum, that “there is no alternative”… The

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Blinded by ‘the science’: COVID-19 and the authority of science in public policy

There are important distinctions when it comes to the way governments claim to have been ‘guided by the science’ when justifying their approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ministers are not saying they are following a course of action because ‘an experimentally and observationally validated law of nature has been brought to my attention’. They mean that social scientists, based on some assumptions and suppositions, have modelled a range of possible outcomes and produced a number of projections, not predictions.

It is not science but policy, that mixture of ideology, politics, and pragmatism, that the ministers are doing when the choose between the pandemic options.

Governments should not be able to avoid scrutiny and accountability for their actions by leaning on the authority of science.

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