Another crisis wasted

At El Alamein in 1942, British forces secured their first military victory of the Second World War. Winston Churchill assessed that Britain and its allies had ‘perhaps’ just reached the ‘end of the beginning’ of the war. But that didn’t stop him and other Western leaders starting to plan for life after the war. In Britain the government’s Beveridge Report was published in November that year, paving the way to the expanded welfare state that became a hallmark for the postwar domestic settlement. Less than two years later, with Allied armies only weeks into fighting their way across Europe and still heavily engaged in the Asia-Pacific theatre of war, their countries’ representatives convened in New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods. There they charted out what became the postwar international economic and monetary architecture that operated for the ensuing quarter century.

These ambitious initiatives remind us that huge crises, such as our coronavirus pandemic, used to be seized as opportunities to undertake radical longer-term planning. Judging by this week’s UK Budget package, this is not the case anymore. Times like this demand bold economic thinking. Rishi Sunak has squandered that opportunity.

Read the full article here.

The economic transformation we need

One legacy of the pandemic has been to bring government activism out of the shadows. Whether you criticise or support how governments managed the pandemic, it is indisputable that their actions and inactions were of huge consequence to our lives and to the economy. So far, though, this acknowledgment has yet to unmask the myth that the past 40 years has been a period of state economic inactivity. Until this is understood, the current debate about state economic intervention will be misleading, when what we really need is a state-led shake-up of the failing status quo.

Read the full article here.

Please, Rishi, stop evading the problem

There is an animated debate going on about post-pandemic economic policies. Centred in the US, the discussion has implications for the forthcoming Budget in Britain and for decision-making across other advanced economies. As he prepares for the 3 March Budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to get real about Britain’s economic torpor.

Read the full article here.

A culture war against China

After the defeat of Donald Trump many international relations commentators think that Western politicians and diplomats can now revert to their postwar multilateralist ways, without having to deal with an unpredictable and erratic American president. No more unilateralist antics. No more disregard and contempt for America’s allies. And no more capricious provocation of China, with the dire potential consequence of a military standoff.

But this expectation of a reassuring return to international norms could actually be much more dangerous to global peace than anything Trump initiated. A resumption of Western complacencies about international affairs would only compound the existing deep-rooted challenges – challenges that have in fact been exacerbated by the response to Covid-19 far more than by Trump.

Read the full article here.

Don’t blame Covid for economic devastation

It is unhelpful to present the economic disruptions over 2020 as costs of the pandemic itself. Claims that it is the virus, and not the restrictions, that is causing today’s devastating economic damage to production and jobs are misleading.

Understanding better how the economy is being hit is important for several reasons. A firmer grasp of all the costs arising from lockdowns and other official social restrictions is necessary for sound policymaking. Making decisions based on epidemiological models without a broader assessment of the costs – social, health and economic – and of how they have arisen is a reckless approach from political leaders.

Moreover, these other impacts from the pandemic measures are helpful in assessing the lessons to be learned in preparing for and managing future pandemics.

Read the full article here.