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An urgent and informed look at the challenges Britain and world governments will face in a post-Covid-19 world.
The Covid crisis has not just highlighted the failures of certain governments, it is accelerating a shift in the balance of power from West to East. After a decade where politics in the US and the UK has been consumed with inward-facing struggles, countries like South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, as well as China, have made extraordinary advances economically, technologically and politically.
In this beautifully crafted essay, Micklethwait and Wooldridge explain how we ended up in this mess and explore the possible routes out. If Western governments respond creatively to the crisis, they will have a chance of reversing decades of decline; if they dither and delay while Asia continues to improve, the prospect of a new Eastern-dominated world order will increase. The big question facing the world is whether the West can rise to the challenge as it has before.
Economist columnist Wooldridge and Bloomberg News editor-in-chief Micklethwait team up again (after The Fourth Revolution) for this thought-provoking yet flawed look at how the Covid-19 pandemic exemplifies the decline of the "Western state" since the mid-1960s and what can be done to reverse course. They credit Asian nations such as South Korea and Singapore with steadily improving their governing systems, public infrastructure, and technological know-how over recent decades, allowing them to better respond to the pandemic, and explain how Western governments have been weakened by bureaucratic overreach, private interest group influence, and lackluster leadership. In the book's last chapter, Micklethwait and Wooldridge imagine a hypothetical president named Bill Lincoln (after 19th-century U.K. prime minister William Gladstone and Abraham Lincoln) and his initiatives, including a carbon tax, police reform, reduced Social Security spending, and a mix of public and private health care options. The gimmicky imagining of a fantasy leader who is both a progressive "social reformer" and a conservative "small government man" allows the authors to skirt the considerable roadblocks standing in the way of their goals, which include somehow making America a "race blind society." Nevertheless, this is a succinct and credible assessment of Western government dysfunctions.