There are a lot of interesting things out there, and here, talking about COVID 19. I have been listening to podcasts a lot lately, and Make Me Smart is one that has discussed some interesting aspects of the economic consequences of all this stuff. There are others, but this one has gotten my attention lately.
First, a very good piece about Sweden's approach to this whole thing, which has been unorthodox. This article provides a good overview of why Sweden has taken a different path and the reasons why people are listening to the government. The long section below (in italics) provides an interesting argument:
One key factor according to the Swedish minister for foreign affairs, Ann Linde, is Sweden’s politically independent public agencies—and the high level of public trust in them. For the last 400 years, Sweden has had a system with small ministries but big agencies, like the Public Health Agency, which explains why there is an epidemiologist and not a prime minister at the helm of this effort.
Next, there are two Guardian pieces that are long (I mean it) but worth reading. The first (link here) is about how the financial markets reacted to the COVID 19 and how close we were of a complete collapse of the world economy in March (as if we didn't have something else to worry about!). Here is one of the most impactful quotes from the article (in italics):
After five terrifying days of market turmoil, the weekend of 14-15 March was a moment for central banks around the world to coordinate their response. What everyone wanted was dollars, so it was above all the Federal Reserve that needed to take the lead. And as its chair, Powell did. He called an unscheduled press conference for the afternoon of 15 March. What he announced was remarkable.
The article above is long, but it is worth a read! The second article I am likely going to assign next year in my Intro to International Relations Class unless I find something else that tells the same story better somehow. This article talks about the World Health Organization (WHO) and why it cannot "solve" the COVID 19 crisis. Spoiler alert: states are self-interested, but not necessarily acting in the best collective interest.
There is a simple reason for this. For all the responsibility vested in the WHO, it has little power. Unlike international bodies such as the World Trade Organization, the WHO, which is a specialised body of the UN, has no ability to bind or sanction its members. Its annual operating budget, about $2bn in 2019, is smaller than that of many university hospitals, and split among a dizzying array of public health and research projects. The WHO is less like a military general or elected leader with a strong mandate, and more like an underpaid sports coach wary of “losing the dressing room”, who can only get their way by charming, grovelling, cajoling and occasionally pleading with the players to do as they say (Buranyi 2020)
I have also seen a few articles about the role of gender and leadership in dealing with COVID 19. Opinion pieces on Forbes (link here) and CNN (link here) both make the same argument and raise the question: women leaders have been the ones dealing with the pandemic most skillfully, so why is it that we don't have more women leaders? (My students from POLS 223 know the answer, but I feel what I said in class should not be recorded in writing...)
The last article from this roundup connects to the discussion on climate change that we were having in my POLS 121 class this past week. The collective action problem that arises from COVID 19 has similarities to the collective action problems that arise from climate change politicization. This Vox article written by sociologist Patrick Sharkey has a lot of interesting information, but this quote is the one that connects the most to our class discussions: "In fact, attitudes toward climate change are one of the strongest and most robust predictors of social distancing behavior. In the full model I find that an increase of 10 percentage points in the share of residents who do not agree that global warming is happening is associated with a 1 point drop in the county’s social distancing grade — which essentially means shifting from, say, a C to a B- in social distancing behavior."
This is it for the roundup of the week (or for now, I am not sure I am following days as a measure of time anymore). Let me know if you have any questions or comments!
Here are some of the most interesting/intriguing sources I have found these past days, in no particular order, except for the first one that is about mental health.