Governance in a post-pandemic world

Written by  //  September 23, 2022  //  Government & Governance  //  No comments

Is there a better way?
Could we live our lives, run the world, name our children a different way?
A playlist about alternative ideas and ways of seeing the world
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Why federalism has become risky for American democracy
Darrell M. West, Vice President and Director – Governance Studies, Senior Fellow – Center for Technology Innovation, Douglas Dillon Chair in Governmental Studies
(Brookings) State and local governments long have been considered “laboratories of democracy” that spawn valuable innovation. But recently states have taken this a step farther entering a risky new phase that pits blue states against red ones and blue cities against red states, and threatens democracy as a whole. As opposed to tolerating policy experimentation by different jurisdictions, some leaders are seeking to impose their own policy views on other places. Taken to an extreme, this behavior likely would intensify conflict and escalate policy nullification on a broad scale.
… Even within individual states, there are risks for governance and democracy. Increasingly, there is preemption between red states and blue cities whereby Republican-controlled legislatures are putting major restrictions on the ability of Democratically-controlled cities to spend money, set policy, and address social issues. These within-state conflicts are eroding the capacity of cities to innovate and undertake useful policy experiments. By restricting local prerogatives, state legislatures are upsetting the balance of power within their boundaries and relegating cities to purely administrative functions.
From these and other actions, it appears federalism is entering an intolerant terrain that threatens democracy itself.

17 September
‘A Crisis Coming’: The Twin Threats to American Democracy
(NYT) …the United States today finds itself in a situation with little historical precedent. American democracy is facing two distinct threats, which together represent the most serious challenge to the country’s governing ideals in decades.
The first threat is acute: a growing movement inside one of the country’s two major parties — the Republican Party — to refuse to accept defeat in an election.
The violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress, meant to prevent the certification of President Biden’s election, was the clearest manifestation of this movement, but it has continued since then.
The second threat to democracy is chronic but also growing: The power to set government policy is becoming increasingly disconnected from public opinion.
The run of recent Supreme Court decisions — both sweeping and, according to polls, unpopular — highlight this disconnect.
Ross Douthat: The Quality That Sustained Queen Elizabeth Is Hobbling Putin
In most of the world today there are only two solid foundations for legitimacy: the demos and the nation, democracy and national self-determination. The legitimacy that once attached to imperial rule has washed away, and likewise, outside of the Middle East and a few other places here and there, the legitimacy of hereditary monarchy. Alternative claims to legitimacy exist — the ideological authority invoked by the Beijing Politburo, the religious authority invoked by the mullahs in Tehran — but those claimants rely more on repression for power and survival.
… The Elizabethan pageantry emphasizes this global reality because the House of Windsor is an exception that proves the rule. Like almost no other institution in the West outside the Vatican, the British monarchy has retained a pre-modern, pre-democratic legitimacy; in the outpouring of secular grief there was still a sense that the queen was somehow God-ordained to sit on the throne. But the royal family has kept that legitimacy by giving up all but a fraction of its personal power; it has legitimacy and little else.
… In recent years, as authoritarian leaders have gained ground around the world and democracy has decayed, there’s been a fear that these figures have a stronger hand to play than the dictators of the past, because their authoritarianism is gentler and subtler, and also wrapped in the legitimating structures of elections.

15 September
Bloomberg Politics:  The autumnal wind of right-wing populism isn’t just blowing over the largest Nordic nation. (Swedish PM concedes election defeat to bloc including far-right Sweden Democrats) It’s engulfing much of the European continent.
In Italy, Giorgia Meloni is on course to become her country’s first woman premier after outflanking Matteo Salvini’s League on the right by championing “the defense of Italian national identity.”
UK Prime Minister Liz Truss defeated her rival to the Conservative leadership by appealing to her party’s base with an assertively nationalist approach to government.
Hungary’s Viktor Orban, the European Union’s perennial illiberal, continues to try to block sanctions on Russia. Poland’s nationalist government has been on the front line of support for Ukraine, but Warsaw’s solidarity with Brussels let alone Berlin is in short supply.
Surging fuel and food prices add to the political volatility, hurting voters and buffeting governments, compounding the sense of disarray.

Peter Zeihan on Legacy Research Group
12-15 September
Four Guideposts for the End of the World
Globalization will shatter into pieces… on multiple levels
The 2020s will see a collapse of consumption… production… investment… and trade – almost everywhere.
It will make life costlier… slower… and worse.
No economic system yet imagined can function in the future we face.
This devolution will be jarring, to say the least.
It’s taken us decades of peace to figure out this world. To think we’ll adapt easily or quickly to such a titanic unraveling is to showcase more optimism than I’m capable of generating.
First, place matters. Hugely.
The cities of ancient Egypt prospered because they had the perfect mix of water and desert buffer for the preindustrial age.
The Spanish and Portuguese rose to power in the 15th and 16th centuries not only because of their mastery of deep-water technologies, but also because of their location on a peninsula. This freed them from the general melee of the rest of the European continent.
Toss industrial technologies into the mix… and the story shifts again.
Second, these “geographies of success” change over time. As technologies evolve, the winners and losers shift with them.
For example, the Industrial Revolution began in England in the 18th century. This reduced once-mighty Spain to a backwater. And it heralded the start of the British Empire.
The coming global disorder and demographic collapse will be similar. It won’t just condemn a multitude of countries to the past. It will herald the rise of others.
Third, regardless of trade or product, nearly every process crosses at least one international border. Some – like smartphone chip production – involve hundreds of materials and processes spanning the global supply chain.
In the disordered world we are devolving into, that won’t work.
A deglobalized world doesn’t simply have a different economic geography, it has thousands of different and separate geographies.
Economically speaking, the whole was stronger than its parts. It’s where we got our wealth and rapidly advancing technology from. Now, the parts will be weaker for their separation.
Fourth, and most important, the U.S. will escape the worst impacts of the global churn and degradation.

Our World Is Ending… A New World Is Beginning
(Legacy Research Group) The End of the World Is Just the Beginning charts how the world order we’ve known all our lives is breaking apart. And it maps out a new kind of global disorder that will replace it.
This has massive implications not only for us as investors… but also for the societies we live in. If Peter’s predictions are even half right, it means massive change is on the way.
Read on for more from Peter on why the progress of the postwar era is over… and why no economic system we’ve so far imagined will work in the new world that’s coming.

Peter Zeihan: The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization
The global order is changing at a dizzying pace. There’s a bloody war raging on Europe’s eastern flank. China is threatening to invade Taiwan. And fragile global supply chains are coming unglued.
The End of the World Is Just the Beginning by geopolitical expert and New York Times bestselling author Peter Zeihan. …shows how the globalized world order in place since the end of World War II is shattering. And some nations will go backward as a result.
But it’s not all bad news. As he discussed in his recent Q&A with Nomi Prins, the U.S. won’t just escape the carnage… it will also boom…
Part one: Globalization Will Shatter Into Pieces
“…a few years from now, I see a world in which the U.S. – after some hiccups – has shorter, simpler supply chains closer to home in a captive market with the world’s largest consumption base.
That’s super positive for the U.S. and all those allies nearby.”
Part two: The End of the World Is Just the Beginning
“As the globalized world fractures, it’s important to remember that not all pieces are created equal. When globalization breaks down, you get countries with less reach, fewer materials, less manufacturing, and smaller markets. But that’s not true for everyone. Some are larger and have access to more essentials than others.”

6 September
The End of the World Has Just Begun: Birthing pains
Daniel Chung
(Tufts Daily) Outside of the American domestic system, regional great-power competition seems to be returning for good. Russia has initiated a war in Ukraine and seems set on reconstructing a traditional sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space, while China attempts to expand its influence into the Taiwan Strait yet again.
But aside from those two oft-mentioned states, Turkish neo-Ottomanism is on the march again, with Ankara most recently re-hardening its stance towards Greece, Japan is rearming in a fashion eerily reminiscent of its posture before the Second World War, France is making a play for a soft zone of influence in North Africa, Iran is reconstructing a Persian sphere by taking advantage of American indifference towards Iraq and India along with Israel have recently partnered with the United Arab Emirates to construct an exclusive food corridor at a time of global agricultural instability. It seems like the entire international system is backsliding with countries operating more by the realist principle of self help than the cooperative international norms and institutions that have ruled the last few decades.
However, while all these events are happening, and are significant in their own rights, they mostly serve as the symptoms of something else below the surface. To be exact, the entire structure of globalization that has served as the foundation of the last near-century since the end of the Second World War is fading away, and it’s not clear what, if anything, will be replacing it.
… As described by foreign affairs author Robert Kaplan, technology did not overcome geography but rather made it more claustrophobic. Now we are seeing the end result. When one piece moves, the whole house of cards comes crashing down, resulting in deglobalization and the end of a global industrial system as described at length by geopolitical analyst Peter Zeihan.

September 5, 2022
Can’t We Come Up with Something Better Than Liberal Democracy?
The West’s favored form of self-government is looking creaky. A legal scholar and a philosopher propose some alternatives.
By Adam Gopnik
Democracy is the worst form of government,” Churchill is said to have said, “except all those other forms that have been tried.” Actually, what he excepted was “all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” with that last phrase implying that democracy is the root form, and the others mere occasional experiments. It was an odd notion, but was perhaps called for by the times in which he was speaking, the mid-nineteen-forties, when a war was won for democracy at a nearly unbearable cost.
These days, liberal, representative democracy—moribund in Russia, failing in Eastern Europe, sickened in Western Europe, and having come one marginally resolute Indiana politician away from failing here—seems in the gravest danger. Previously fringe views certainly find new forums, with monarchists speaking loudly, if a touch theatrically, but that is mostly strut and noise. What would a plausible alternative actually look like?
…in search of a better blueprint for governance. … In “Two Cheers for Politics” (Basic Books), the political essayist and law professor Jedediah Purdy, sets out a program for fundamental change rooted in the virtues often thought to repose in the Athens of the fifth century B.C.E. Borrowing his title from E. M. Forster’s famous collection “Two Cheers for Democracy”…he has a nearly religious faith in the power of voting. Although his allusive manner makes it hard at times to distinguish the background of the argument from the point of the argument, what he has in mind would be distant from the liberal democracy we know.
Yet a more radical thesis at last emerges, and with it the originality of Purdy’s position: he is not merely in favor of a renewed egalitarianism but disgusted with “representative” democracy in all its forms.

2020

2 October
The Recovery Summit: Democracy and Institutions
(Canada 2020) The Recovery Project is dedicated to charting the economic road to recovery from COVID-19. Featuring leading economists, strategists and thinkers, we explore how to confront the economic impacts of this pandemic, and lay the groundwork for recovery.
The Recovery Project
For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes. Our economies are in uncharted territory, our institutions are under immense stress, and our global relationships are being put to the test. That is why the future seems so uncertain. It is also why the choices we make now will shape the long road to recovery.

26 July
Foreign Affairs “This pandemic is probably not ‘the Big One,’ the prospect of which haunts the nightmares of epidemiologists and public health officials everywhere,” Michael T. Osterholm and Mark Olshaker recently wrote in the pages of Foreign Affairs. If the current crisis is a warning of outbreaks to come, then the world can learn from its mistakes and begin to prepare. Policy and lifestyle changes can limit the spread of new pathogens. Governments can develop more effective methods for tracking epidemics, no matter where in the world they emerge. And national and international health systems can be better equipped to fight the next deadly virus when it arrives.

21 July
A Plague Is an Apocalypse. But It Can Bring a New World. The meaning of this one is in our hands
(New York) We are wrong, therefore, to think of plague entirely as a threat to civilization. Plague is an effect of civilization. The waves of sickness through human history in the past 5,000 years (and not before) attest to this, and the outbreaks often became more devastating the bigger the settlements and the greater the agriculture and the more evolved the trade and travel.
In these two bookends of European plague, in the sixth and then the 14th century, you see two ways in which epidemic disease changed society and culture. In one, the disruption and dislocation of mass disease sent the world into a long de-civilizing process; Roman society was gutted and its empire dissolved into various fiefdoms. In the other, a mass-death event triggered a revival, economic and spiritual, in a kind of cleansing process that restarted European society. They were caused by the same disease. In one case, it brought collapse; in the other, rebirth.
Plagues …. always present the survivors with a choice. Do we go back to where we were, if that is even possible, or do we somehow reinvent ourselves for a new future? The conflicting desires compete in our minds: to go back to normal or to seize the opportunity to change a society temporarily in flux. We can choose to make a different world, reordering our social compact and our political institutions and our relationship to the natural environment in ways that will protect us against, or at least mitigate the damage from, future plagues. Or we can recognize what was precious in what the plague took from us and seek to restore the status quo ante.
Knowledge of a brutal new virus does not prevent its spread. Only a much more profound reorientation of humankind will lower the odds: moving out of cities, curtailing global travel, ending carbon energy, mask wearing in public as a permanent feature of our lives. We either do this to lower the odds of mass death or let nature do what it does — eventually so winnowing the human stock that we are no longer a threat to the planet we live on.
… It is hard to look at the history of plagues without reflecting on the fact that civilizations created them and that our shift from our hunter-gatherer origins into a world of globally connected city-dwelling masses has always had a time bomb attached to it. It has already gone off a few times in the past few thousand years, and we have somehow rebounded, but not without long periods, as in post-Roman Europe, of civilizational collapse. But our civilization is far bigger than Rome’s ever was: truly global and, in many ways, too big to fail. And the time bomb is still there — and its future impact could be far greater than in the past. In the strange silence of this plague, if you listen hard, you can still hear it ticking.

20 July
Gwynne Dyer: As birth rates drop globally, immigration will play deciding factor in countries’ GDP growth
(London Free Press) Bangladesh usually is seen as a seriously over-populated country, and it still is today: 160 million people. But its birth-rate is dropping so fast its population will halve by 2100, leaving it with no more people per square kilometre of farmland than the United Kingdom.
It has achieved this mainly by educating its girls and young women and making contraception easily available. That’s what’s driving the global numbers down, too. The latest population predictions, published last week in the British medical journal The Lancet, forecast a global population in 2100 of only 8.8 billion.
That’s just one billion more than now. True, we will reach a peak in about forty years’ time of 9.7 billion, but by century’s end we will be sliding down the other side of the population mountain quite fast.
These are no-surprises predictions, of course, and the future always brings surprises: wars, pandemics, a new religion or ideology. The forecasts don’t even factor in the impact of foreseeable calamities such as climate change. Nevertheless, these numbers are not just fiction, and they are good news.
The numbers come from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation of the University of Washington, and they predict an end-of-century world population two billion lower than the UN Population Division’s forecast last year of almost 11 billion people.

4 July
This Is What the Future of Globalization Will Look Like
The pandemic proved, once and for all, that the world can’t be flat. But global trade can recover—if we rewrite the rules.
By Henry Farrell, Abraham Newman
(Foreign Policy) The United States intercepted medical masks being shipped from Thailand to Germany and redirected them for its own purposes, in a move German officials described as piracy. Germany itself blocked the export of masks and other medical equipment at a time when its fellow European Union member Italy was begging for help. India restricted the export of key pharmaceuticals and drug precursors. Newspaper reports describe a chaotic global marketplace where governments and health care officials consort with dubious middlemen for medical supplies, acting on rumors and personal connections, fighting to outbid and undercut each other. And this behavior has spread to other sectors like auto manufacturing; experts worry that the next battles may be over food.
But the crisis that globalization faces has roots that go far deeper than the current pandemic. Many political and business leaders still hope that they can reverse the arrow of time, returning to a golden age in which free market globalization worked magic. The problem is that that age never existed, except in their imaginations. In a hyperglobalized economy, it made sense for individual firms to focus heavily on increasing efficiency and achieving market dominance—actions that led to greater returns and rising stock prices. But these trends also generated systemic vulnerabilities, imperiling fragile supply chains in times of crisis and tempting governments to target dominant companies for their own advantage, creating new risks for citizens and states.
The coronavirus pandemic has not only shown up the weaknesses of the global economy and the narratives that justify it but has also demonstrated that unregulated globalization can be dangerous. One of the reasons why the economy is hurting so severely is because it is so densely interconnected. When the coronavirus closes down a components factory in Italy’s Lombardy region, the entire Western European car industry may be affected. When cars aren’t being manufactured, car dealerships can’t do business, and financial institutions can’t make profits from car loans. An entire economy can go bad very quickly when everything depends on everything else.

But the problem is even worse than that. The coronavirus dramatically increases the demand for some goods at the same time as it damages supply. This explains the extraordinary shortages of medical supplies that plagued states in the wake of the pandemic. …   Pundits and politicians assumed that free markets and economic globalization could support a self-sustaining international order. Instead, it has undermined itself. The corporate world’s quest for efficiency has made the global economy more fragile, and its desire to control markets has provided states with the means to turn that space into a battlefield.

But going back to business as usual would worsen the problem, not solve it. The existing model of globalization, not Trump, is the root cause of the current breakdown. Even in the best-case scenarios, embracing the old approach to multilateralism would fail to solve the underlying problems. Businesses would continue to make the world more fragile as they pursued risky strategies to make their supply chains more efficient, and as the most successful of them consolidated market power, they would become easier targets for states that never ceased being interested in coercive power. The most plausible outcome is bigger future crises with worse political repercussions.

The more difficult path is also the only sustainable one, creating a new model of globalization that can supplement and, over time, partly supplant the old. If the old globalization was based on the rule of markets, the new globalization will have to be based on the primacy of public safety and the well-being of people. It must recognize that maintaining a complex global economy will sometimes require active corrective measures to protect the societies embedded within it.

Rather than assuming that an open globalized system can solve its own problems, it would look to prevent them. Rather than just preserving openness, global institutions would have to address problems that ordinary people care about, such as health, equality, sustainability, and security.

Firms and governments will have to pay the necessary short-term costs to confront the problem of fragility and to reassess the risks within supply chains. This will require not just stockpiling but more focus on the location and distribution of manufacturing, pushing companies to build in redundancies both for their own safety and that of the global economy. As Barry Lynn and others have argued, it will also require a new model of antitrust. Regulators need to recognize how monopolies create single points of failure in times of crisis, while judges need to pay attention to the national security as well as economic consequences of their decisions. Concentrated economic power creates new choke points in the economy that make it less adaptable and more vulnerable.

The first step toward lowering tensions is for states to acknowledge that globalization is not producing a flat world but a complex system and to figure out how to insulate themselves from its risks. Mapping this world’s networks and vulnerabilities will require new bureaucracies and mandatory reporting and transparency requirements for business. Just as businesses need to report possible adverse events to their shareholders, they would have to stress-test their supply chains, reporting and rectifying the weak points or risk actions from new regulators or lawsuits from investors or customers if their supply chains fail.
A more thoughtful globalization will also require a new approach to trade: With better information, states will sometimes have legitimate reason to limit their exposure to the world economy so as to minimize vulnerabilities. Instead of the crude reshoring and high national tariffs proposed by economic nationalists, we must map the intricacies of the system, identify key vulnerabilities, and mitigate them. Rather than decoupling, states would have to recouple. Sometimes that might lead to reshoring within national borders, but more often it would involve identifying bottlenecks and creating more robust global supply relationships, on the basis of active agreement among allies and tacit accommodations among adversaries not to exploit vulnerabilities.
Globalization’s current dysfunction is a product of market forces and will not be solved either by economic nationalism or a naive return to the open market liberalism that created it. Instead, the current crisis opens up an opportunity to create a different approach to globalization, one that recognizes its tendency to generate problems that it cannot solve itself and also one that prioritizes people’s safety and prosperity.  

19 June
Is the coronavirus crisis a chance to reset the world? (animated audio)
The BBC’s Amol Rajan looks back through history at times when crises have led to profound changes in society.

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