Radical pragmatism: policymaking after COVID (Gertz + Kharas)

Contemplating a world after COVID, some are calling for a reset of existing models of policymaking. In this essay the authors outline shortcomings in existing neoliberal economic models, and argue that the radical pragmatism of effective crisis response—a willingness to try whatever works, guided by an experimental mindset and commitment to empiricism and measuring results —represents a policymaking model that can and should be applied more widely, not only in times of crisis.

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Global order in the shadow of coronavirus: China, Russia and the West (Lowy)

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a harsh spotlight on the state of global governance. Faced with the greatest emergency since the Second World War, nations have regressed into narrow self-interest. The concept of a rules-based international order has been stripped of meaning, while liberalism faces its greatest crisis in decades. In this Lowy Institute publication, the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI)’s Bobo Lo argues that it’s time to rethink global governance and its priorities.

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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 The small government, free-market template suddenly looks terribly outdated.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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The impact of COVID-19 on critical global food supply chains and food security (SIPRI)

By the end of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic risks doubling the number of people who face acute hunger from around 135 million to around 265 million people. The pandemic may have a more severe impact on the number of hungry than the global food crisis of 2007–2008, potentially constituting a ‘hunger pandemic’.

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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)

Responding to the emerging narrative that the Covid-19 pandemic is not just a test for healthcare systems around the world, but an international contest for which country has the best political system, the EU Institute for Security Studies put this hypothesis to the test: 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 crisis response?

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

Bruno Tertrais proposes a provocative list of trends might be exacerbated or accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. The list begs the tantalising question of how each of these trends might impact on the progress and direction of the others. 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?

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Lessons from a global crisis: coronavirus, the international order and the future of the EU (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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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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Evgeny Morozov: COVID-19 and the relationship of capitalism, neoliberalism and technology’s ‘solutionism’

In government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Evgeny Morozov sees a ‘feast of solutionism’ being unleashed. [W]e can see two distinct strands of solutionism in government responses to the pandemic. “Progressive solutionists” propose that timely, app-based exposure to the right information could “nudge” people to behave in the public interest, while “punitive solutionists”, by contrast, want to use surveillance infrastructure to monitor and manage daily activities. The risk, he argues, is that the pandemic will supercharge the solutionist state, … creating an excuse to fill the political vacuum with anti-democratic practices.

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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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