Sunday, January 3, 2021

Review of Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Politics
Intriguing Connections = What Disease Has Wrought: Bacteria, Viruses, And Their Impact On Society

Short Description

Elaborate Description

This book is not about the particulars of the coronavirus pandemic.  This is a book about how the world has handled the pandemic and the changes that occurred within the economies.  Countries and cities had different preparedness ability to handle pandemics, but it seems all were unprepared for the scale of the pandemic and economic consequences.  A pandemic which is shaped and is shaping a deeply interconnected world.  The pandemic has changed the social and economic life of individuals and companies.  Zakaria focuses on the political factors which influenced how the pandemic was handled, and the social and economic changes in the structure of world economies.  

Pandemics are not new and there are those who kept claiming that they are inevitable and should be prepared against.  In terms of biology, a virus does not actually want to kill its host as that would kill the virus as well.  It is not possible to stop nature from producing outbreaks of new diseases, but a pandemic to those diseases is optional.  Preparation and efficient responses can limit the spread of the diseases.  The risk of pandemics is high not only because of nature, but because they are able to be manufactured.  Although bioweapons are more practical, protecting against these weapons has very few employees and a lack of budget, unlike other forms of national defense which are more easily detectible.  

Experts operate by obtaining, questioning, and testing hypotheses.  Data influence the conclusions.  As different data is obtained, the conclusions change.  In the initial stages of any pandemic, Covid included, have a dearth of information and contain erroneous information which needs to be used for decisions.  Making claims before the appropriate evidence creates backlash of disbelieve in the future when listening to the claims would be appropriate.  Given the chance, the public can understand nuance, but elites usually patronize the public.  

How well a country handled the virus depended not on its size, but on the quality of government.  What Zakaria sees as a competent, well-functioning, and trusted state.  Quality governments are able to generate wealth and direct it to where it is needed.  The US has a long history for being anti-statist, with the recent decades having many officials which wanted to heavily reduce the government.  An anticommons has occurred with the US government as the system of checks and balances made easy to block any action.  

This pandemic and many other issues require international support to ameliorate.  International relations have been improving after WW2 with many international treaties and institutions.  Recently, the US has been removing itself from the international stage.  The lack of international support reduces the ability of the world to reduce or ameliorate many problems, and increases the threat of conflict.  

The world has been moving to the digital economy but many did not see that as relevant to their decisions.  Many seeming taboos of online have been broken as companies and people connect via digital space.  Working from home maintains productivity with flexible hours and less office-space.  The problem with going digital is that size matters, whereas small business have more difficulty gaining users.  

The author uses many claims which seem true and seem to be platitudes, but are not actually true.  Provided confirmation biased claims while in a different context explaining them in more detail.  These pretentious claims seem to try to soothe fears by adding a bit of certainty and glorification which cajoles the reader to feel some safety in the words, but they contradict many themes which Zakaria continuously frames.  The pretentious claims are a minority in this book, but they create problems as by referencing myths, sustains them, and prevents accepting the history and circumstance that led to the situations.  A big convoluted claim is about government and markets.  In some instances, the author references that markets were not enough and that government is needed, while in others that government was preventing private solutions.  The story of the interaction between government and private sector needs to be ameliorated.  

The pandemic has shifted many economic and social facets.  Weaknesses became pronounced as the strengths could not compensate for their troubles.  Going digital seems like progress, but it has become very difficult to tell genuine information from fake news.  While some governments do an effective job at mitigating woes, other governments blame others rather than deal with the issues.  Economic and social circumstances are shifting, but hopefully many lessons are learned to facilitate appropriate action in the future.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why is coronavirus so virulent?
•How are pandemics handled?  Compare how they were handled before and now. 
•Why are some countries able to effectively handle the pandemic while others having so much trouble? 
•What are some shifts in international politics?
•Why were hospitals unprepared for a surge in hospital care needs? 
•Why do people support a particular political party?  How does this influence their ideological commitments? 
•How do experts operate? 
•Why are experts not trusted?
•What is the problem with scientist making bold claims?  How does the public react to the claims?  
•How have views changed to going digital?
•Who benefits from going digital?
•How did markets react to the pandemic?  

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780393542141
Pages to read:   181
Publication:     2020
1st Edition:      2020
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall           4