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.
Notes from March 29
One thing that is becoming very clear is that supply chains matter. There is a lot of information out there about what it takes to bring supplies in, what states (and corporations) are doing to address shortages and the long term impacts of disruptions in trade. There are two articles that popped up on my feed that I think are worth sharing. First, Axios' Inside the start of the great virus airlift discusses what the US government is doing to bring the medical supplies needed. There is an interesting discussion about the nationalization of the supply chain:
"(Rear Admiral John) Polowczyk (working with FEMA) said many members of Congress "want me to nationalize this supply chain by using the Defense Production Act. They want me to do all the buying, all the distributing, and all the allocation." But he's been resisting that. "This medical supply chain, there's like six, seven big distributors who have like 600–700 nodes that push out product," he said. "I'm not going to re-create that. I'm looking to break down barriers ... to help them feed product where it needs to go." He said the federal government will buy some medical supplies but will try to feed them into existing supply chains. Polowczyk said he doesn't want to use the Defense Production Act, but he leaves the door open to using those powers to move supplies around the country if his current plan doesn't work."
The Texas Monthly article Inside the Story of How H-E-B Planned for the Pandemic focuses on the importance of preparedness inside the private sector, especially the grocery store sector. This was so far one of the most fascinating articles for me since it showed how private (non-state) actors may have been better prepared for the pandemic than local, state, and federal officials.
Moving to international law, the forum Just Security had an interesting discussion about "punishing" countries for pandemics. The article, COVID-19 and International Law: Must China Compensate Countries for the Damage? lays out the reasons why it is unlikely that China will be required to compensate other countries, arguing that "Claims that China has committed internationally wrongful acts and has an obligation to compensate foreign governments form part of a feature of this pandemic that is not really about international law." Moreover, the author states that "The most important consequences of the geopolitical aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic will appear after countries bring the outbreak under control in their territories." I appreciated this article for bringing some key international treaties to explaining what can and cannot happen based on precedent.
There were other interesting articles, here are a few links:
Notes for March 30
I am going to start this roundup with the first academic article I have seen on COVID 19. Adolph et al. (2020) wrote Pandemic Politics: Timing State-Level Social Distancing Responses to COVID-19 where they analyze state policies in reaction to the virus and the factors influencing such policies. In their analysis, "all else equal, Republican governors and governors from states with more Trump supporters were slower to adopt social distancing policies. These delays are likely to produce significant, on-going harm to public health" (p. 2). This is a provocative quote in the same article:
"We strongly believe that realistic assessments of decision-making by elected officials must take electoral motivations and career ambitions seriously – as impolitic as that may be. Elected officials, regardless of party, must be responsive to the concerns of their voters and party leaders. However, this essential feature of democratic representation does not inevitably produce the best policy outcome" (p. 13).
This Independent article is one of the many I saw discussing the role of the February 19 Champion's League game between Atalanta and Valencia (a Spanish team). The game was played in Milan (30 miles away from Atalanta's home Bergamo), and the movement of people and created what many are now referring to as a "biological bomb." According to the article, "At the time, few in Italy were greatly concerned about Covid-19. Two days after the match was played, though, the country saw its first confirmed death from the illness, and within two weeks Bergamo was reporting a sharp increase in its rate of coronavirus cases." I also wonder how many Valencia fans were in the Stadium and eventually made their way back to Spain.
I am also sharing here the link to a Tweet from Dr. Rama Dieng that highlights a number of written pieces about COVID 19 from a feminist (and mostly Global South) perspective.
Finally, two more interesting artifacts that are COVID-adjacent. First, this Planet Money episode about unemployment in the US in March explains why the system is not enough to address the economic depression that has started and will follow COVID 19. Next, this 10 Percent Happier Podcast episode about how to engage "corona-deniers" delves deeper into some of the ethics surrounding this whole situation. This was a very interesting piece, and I also recommend the 10 Percent Happier website (or other mindfulness apps and sites) to help in these stressful times.
Notes from March 31
I want to start this roundup with a great podcast episode from Brene Brown on grieving and finding meaning. Whether you realize it already or not, the world as we knew it is no more. This podcast was very provocative and provided some great insights on how to think about this pandemic and its consequences.
Now a quick tour around the world of COVID around the world.
Here I am compiling news articles about COVID 19 that connect in some way to things I discuss in my IR and comparative classes, or they are just articles that I thought were interesting. I am sharing these articles via email with students but thought I would also compile them here. There is little rhyme or reason for the articles, just things I stumble upon and think is worth sharing with my students. Below are the email messages copied and pasted to this blog.