#11. Vaccine Nationalism Is an Exaggerated Threat
August 12, 2020
Nationalism is all the rage these days. Following decades of globalization, the pendulum has begun to swing back the other direction, triggering fears that nationalist policies will lead to a breakdown in international cooperation and a destabilization of the world order. This, in turn, has led to much hand-wringing over “vaccine nationalism,” the notion that governments will take a “me first” approach to vaccines, further exacerbating the health crisis.
#10: Book Review: Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World
July 28, 2020
Modern society is far removed from the reality of death. That was not the case for the vast majority of human history, when parents would produce multiple offspring in the hope that a few might survive to adulthood. Well into the 20th century, infectious diseases cut lives tragically short, often in gruesome ways, radically transforming the course of human history in ways that are underappreciated in textbooks.
#9. The Geopolitical Importance of the WHO
July 17, 2020
In 1958, the Soviet Union proposed a global effort to eradicate smallpox, a disease that kills roughly a third of those it infects, including 300 million in the 20th century alone. On Dec. 9, 1979, it was completely eradicated. This public health triumph – perhaps the greatest in the history of mankind – would not have been possible without the efforts of the U.N.’s World Health Organization, which coordinated the immunization campaign. The magnitude of this achievement – removing a microbe from existence – cannot be overstated.
#8. Will the Coronavirus Forge a Brave New World?
June 24, 2020
Of all the major geopolitical players on the planet, Mother Nature may be the toughest adversary. Nature has neither imperatives nor constraints to guide its behavior. Rather, it operates off general patterns that occur under various conditions. While the patterns provide broad strokes of expected behavior, it strikes mostly randomly. Even predictable phenomena, such as the Atlantic hurricane season, tell us nothing about the magnitude and target of, or potential for, economic damage. A catastrophic Category 5 hurricane that misses major population centers is quickly forgotten; a milder Category 3 hurricane that decimates New Orleans has long-lasting consequences.
#7. Mother Nature as a Geopolitical Force
June 3, 2020
History is biased, and not just because the victors tend to write it. The study of history is largely the study of humankind – specifically, the geopolitical events that have shaped human actions (and vice versa) over millennia. It’s true that to learn from the past, we must study ourselves. But what if we’re missing a large part of the story? What if Mother Nature plays just as large a role in shaping the course of human events as mankind? After all, any force that compels specific actions by nation-states is necessarily geopolitical.
#6. Four Coronavirus Lessons That We Will (or Won’t) Learn
May 1, 2020
When a patient dies in a hospital, it’s not uncommon for doctors to convene what is known as a morbidity and mortality conference, the goal of which is to determine what went wrong and why. In the months and years following a national crisis, we engage in a somewhat similar process. Over time, official investigations are carried out, and political leaders, the media and the public initiate ad hoc debates meant to arrive at a general understanding of the primary cause of the crisis and what steps need to be taken to prevent something like it from ever happening again.
#5. Coronavirus and the Peril of Politicizing Medicine
April 14, 2020
All human institutions are political. This follows naturally from Aristotle’s observation that “man is by nature a political animal.” If one wishes to rise to the very top of one’s field, it is not sufficient to be competent. Instead, one must also be diplomatic, savvy and – when the time calls for it – brutal. Even the Pope had to step on a few miters on his way to the Vatican.
#4. Is It Even Possible to Contain COVID-19?
March 16, 2020
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. At least two different countries, China and Italy, have turned this aphorism into an official government response to the coronavirus, issuing quarantines that cover millions of people and enforcing extraordinary lifestyle changes. But these kinds of measures can’t last forever. The public is willing to tolerate massive disruptions to daily life only when it believes the disruptions will end.
#3. The Most Important Coronavirus Question
March 9, 2020
The first person to die from coronavirus on American soil passed away on Feb. 29 at a Seattle area hospital – incidentally, the same hospital where my daughter was born just ten and a half months ago.
#2. How Dangerous Is the Wuhan Coronavirus?
February 17, 2020
The political and economic effects of the new coronavirus – both in China and across the globe – hinge overwhelmingly on just how successful efforts to stop its spread are likely to be. Forecasting these, therefore, requires us to take a closer look at the mechanics of both contagion and containment.
#1. Chinese New Year 2020: The Year of the Coronavirus
January 24, 2020
The biggest political and economic effects of pandemics come from public panic and panicked government responses, not the disease itself.