The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Ten Lessons

10/15/2020

Fareed Zakaria is a native of Mumbai, India who earned his doctorate from Harvard and now hosts a highly-rated weekly show on foreign affairs for CNN, called GPS.  He has already written several best-selling books, including his latest, which is entitled Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World.

I didn’t see his “Lessons” as something to learn from — but more as things that will govern where we go from here.  Will we return to normal after the pandemic?  Or, is this a “hinge-event” which will put us on a different course?  In many ways, it is more of a book on sociological trends than foreign policy alternatives.  Here are his “Lessons”:

1. Buckle Up

2.What matters is not the quantity of government but the quality

3. Markets are not enough

4. People should listen to experts and experts should listen to the people

5. Life is digital

6. Aristotle was right – we are social animals

7. Inequality will get worse

8. Globalization is not dead

9.The world is becoming bipolar

10. Sometimes the greatest realists are the idealists.

He devotes a chapter to each Lesson, but space permits only a few of his more interesting comments here.  He believes that conservatives crush good government by starving it for revenue, while progressives strangle good government with regulations.  Most agree that Denmark has an enviable form a of government, which he calls “flexicurity” – giving employers the right to hire/fire as they like, while maintaining a generous safety net.  Quoting Zakaria, “a Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen found that democracies tend to respond to famines [read:  pandemics] better than dictatorships do, because the key to preventing their spread is the free flow of information – and the pressure that this puts on elected officials.”  Not always!  Zakaria also states “America is, in its DNA, an anti-statist country.”  We are deeply suspicious and distrustful of EVERYTHING the government does.  Not all nations are such anti-statists.

Personally, Lesson #8 was good news to me – as a lifelong globalist.  The logic of comparative advantage will survive this attack by the populists.   He states “At the core of the new populism is a deep antipathy toward the establishment.”  This is true from both the left and the right.  It begs the question of why?  Why so much antipathy for the establishment – rising inequality is the answer, which is still rising (see #7 above).

Zakaria is brilliant and so is this book . . . now, read it!

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