Weekly Selection 8 May 2020

Kevin Rudd, The Pandemic Bodes Ill for Both American and Chinese Power—and for the Global Order

(Foreign Affairs, May 6, 2020)

The President of the Asia Society Policy Institute and former Australian PM explains why both China and the US are likely to emerge from this crisis significantly diminished. The result will be a continued slow but steady drift toward international anarchy across everything from international security to trade to pandemic management. Strategic rivalry will now define the entire spectrum of the US-Chinese relationship - military, economic, financial, technological, ideological - and increasingly shape Beijing’s and Washington’s relationships with third countries (reads in about 7-9 min).

Emily Badger & Alicia Parlapiano, Government Orders Alone Didn’t Close the Economy. They Probably Can’t Reopen It

(The New York Times, May 7, 2020)

This article corroborates with facts our long-standing conviction that there is no trade-off between health and the economy. Recent US data shows there was a drop in spending and working even before any official mandates to stay at home, and the same phenomenon seems to be happening with the re-opening. In the states that have already begun the process, there is no evidence that this has significantly changed anything in the local economy (reads in 7-8 min).

Olga Khazan, Work From Home Is Here to Stay

(The Atlantic, May 4, 2020)

Over the next year or so, the 40% (in the US) of total employees who can work remotely will be strongly encouraged to work from home, at least some of the time. Thereafter, the proportion of people working from home will most likely grow – working two days a week from home may become standard. For companies, getting rid of empty desks will seem like an easy way to save cash in tough economic conditions (reads in 6-7 min).

Diane Coyle, COVID-19 and the End of Individualism

(Project Syndicate, May 4, 2020)

As this article demonstrates, the pandemic is one of many collective-action problems facing humankind, like climate change, biodiversity loss, or antimicrobial resistance. “Just as a spider’s web crumples when a few strands are broken, so the coronavirus has highlighted the risks arising from our economic interdependence”. It has taken the sudden stop to economic activity to underscore a basic truth about the modern, interconnected economy: what affects some parts substantially affects the whole (reads in 6-7 min).

Kim Stanley Robinson, The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations

(The New Yorker, May 1, 2020)

A science-fiction writer (who defines science-fiction as “the realism of our time”) reflects on the changes from the crisis that strike him the most. “A change in the way we were looking at things, and it is still ongoing. The virus is rewriting our imaginations. What felt impossible has become thinkable. We’re getting a different sense of our place in history. We know we’re entering a new world, a new era. We seem to be learning our way into a new structure of feeling. A good read to prompt us, as we leave lockdown, also to exit our comfort zone (round 10 min).