Lesson #1 Buckle Up
The human race has been developing at an extraordinary pace, expanding into every realm at a rate we’ve never thought it was possible. It is as if we’ve built the fastest sports car ever imaginable and driving it into the unknown.
The problem is we’ve never bothered to equip the car with airbags. We didn’t purchase insurance. We’ve not even put on our seat belts. The engine runs hot. Parts get overheat sometimes. There have been some crashes along the way with each crash getting worse than the last.
So we occasionally stop the vehicle, tune up the suspension, redo the bodywork and fine tune the engine. But as we continue the race and getting faster and faster into the unmarked terrain, it’s getting equally riskier and riskier. Maybe it’s time to install the airbags and buy some insurance. Above all, it’s time for everyone to buckle up.
Lesson #2 What matters is not the quantity of government, but the quality
America was once thought as powerful enough to never collapse. The pandemic has proven us all wrong. America could slowly edge downward muddling along with a mix of dynamic economics and dysfunctional politics that follow.
It’s true the military still outranks all other nations on the planet, but the lives of the normal citizens continue to slip behind. The country becomes more parochial and less global, losing influence and innovation. For many years, the world needed to learn from America, but now it’s time America learns from the rest of the world. Probably what America needs most is to learn about its government – not big or small – but a good and stable government.
Lesson #3 Markets are not enough
Regulations, when probably tailored, ensure the level playing field for the market. Tax policies can be geared to help workers more and capitals less. The government must get back to injecting major investments into science and technology. Education also needs more funding.
The biggest challenge perhaps is to make it possible for American citizens to face that environment of global competition and technological dynamism. In staying open to the world and empowering its people, the Northern European countries such as Denmark, have found a path that’s not only secure but also dynamic and democractic. They understood that markets were amazingly powerful and needed support, buffers and supplements. America should learn from Europe, adapt their best practices to its own national realities. As the author says, there really is no alternative.
Lesson #4 People should listen to the experts, and experts should listen to the people
The world has gotten into chaos. We need more experts to navigate the uncertainties through these times. Experts are becoming an elite of some kind, a group whose knowledge lends them power and authority. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ll see a government by gut and celebration of ignorance. America, Brazil and elsewhere has proven these results have been dismal.
Experts are great but they must connect with people and keep their needs at the forefront. The most destructive thinking is the belief that your success makes you superior in your society. After all, in democracies, at least, the peoples’ wishes are the ultimate source of authority. So, let it be clear that as we navigate through this pandmeic, citizens need to listen to the experts and the experts need to listen to the people.
Lesson #5 Life is digital
As artificial intelligence (AI) is leapfrogging itself, people worry that we’ll rely too much on our computers and end up thinking of them as our friends and unable to function without them. But the truth is we’re already there (almost). Our phones can give more information than any person could. It can solve complex tasks in nanoseconds. Despite all of that, you might have never mistaken it for a friend. In fact, artificial intelligence might make us value our human companions even more, for their creativity, warmth and intimacy. For the most part of our history, we’re thought to have many qualities other than our power to calculate – bravery, loyalty, generosity, faith and love.
“The movement to digital is fast and broad and real. But perhaps one of its deepest consequences will be to make us cherish the things in us that are most humans.”
Lesson #6 Aristotle was right, we’re social animals
Humans build cities and cities make humans – these are two sides of the same coin. We are the reason our cities grow and sustain. Even when our cities face catastrophes, humans are naturally drawn to participate and collaborate. No global pandemic will short-circuit this human hard-wiring. In fact, the isolation following the lockdown will cause the opposite effect.
“COVID-19 remind human race the simple yet profound insight that by nature, we’re social animals.”
Lesson #7 Inequality will get worse
The most glaring inequality that the most infectious diseases have created is between the healthy and the ill. The divide between the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick is so great that one’s worldview can change permanently when crossing it.
While sometimes, a disease can erase inequalities, most of the time, it exacerbates them. If we face another pandemic, which is very likely at this point, we must recognize the need to keep everyone safe, both the rich and the poor. That’s the kind of equality we’re striving for.
“COVID-19 is forcing us to live up to a piece of wisdom that in the most fundamental and moral sense, human beings are all equal.”
Lesson #8 Globalization is not dead
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes, the saying goes. While we’re living in a new age of technology and globalization, we’re seeing the return of one of the oldest stories in international relations – the rise of a new great power and the uneasy this creates in the existing hegemon. Hard-edged realpolitik might be back with the rise of China and the intensifying great-power competition between it and the United States – the two largest economies on the planet.
One can confidently say that, given the levels of interdependence between the two countries, sustained conflict would be wrenching, costly and ultimately – for the average citizen of both countries – hugely counterproductive. In short, globalization isn’t dead but we could kill it.
Lesson #9 The world is becoming bipolar
As tense as US-China bipolarity may become, it remains embedded in this enduring, powerful, multilateral world, to which we will turn next. Looking at the shape of the international policies in the future, it’s clear – bipolarity is inevitable. A cold war is a choice.
Lesson #10 Sometimes the greatest realists or idealists
On the whole, the liberal international order of our time has improved the lives of more people than any previous system humans have lived with. And it has done so because it is based not on some dreamy delusion of a world in which evil is abolished and virtue reigns.
The idealism underlying liberalism is simple and practical. If people cooperate, they’ll achieve better outcomes and more durable solutions than they could acting alone. If nations could avoid war, their citizens will live longer, richer and more secure lives. If they become intertwined economically, everyone’s’ lives are better off.