I can spend more time with my wife and children than I used to, travel less, live in a more secluded way. They're not going to do that, because people are rational. There are few big thinkers better placed to explain the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic than historian Niall Ferguson.
"The 1918-19 influenza killed 3% of the world's population - not in the same league as the Black Death, but 3% of today's world population is a pretty big number. We are not terribly good at radical adaptation of our behaviour.My own personal response is to say - hurrah. John F Kennedy airport was thronged yesterday with people doing what, since time immemorial, they have done in times of plague: fleeing the big city (and spreading the virus). Then there was a political backlash that produced populist governments, and protectionism was back on the agenda.All this has been playing out for more than 10 years. I’m still frowning. Yet we struggle to think clearly and to act consistently. A category error, or mistake, is a term coined by the Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle. World is 100 years away from gender parity but these countries are speeding things upExplore the latest strategic trends, research and analysisExplore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis I don't think we should assume there'll be a post-COVID-19 era, any more than there's a post-influenza era, or a post-tuberculosis era, or a post-AIDS era. It's better at this point to imagine a world with COVID-19, rather than a world after it.Small is beautiful in the pandemic. A fourth and final category error is to confuse a real pandemic with science fiction. Up to a certain point, they adjust their behaviour and try to avoid situations that would likely cause disease spread to resume.Globalization was in retreat already. People are adjusting to having conversations on platforms like Zoom. Ferguson is currently the Milbank Family senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford and Managing Director of Greenmantle, a macroeconomic and geopolitical advisory firm.We are now in the biggest economic shock since the Great Depression. In The Concept of Mind (1949), he gives a very English example. Between December 1 and February 5, roughly the same number of direct flights went from Wuhan to Rome (28) and Paris (23) as went to San Francisco and New York (23 each). The war zone scenes in some Italian hospitals will be replayed in San Francisco or New York — and they may even be worse, as America has slightly fewer hospital beds per capita than Italy. Even without testing, however, we would expect to see many more people already falling ill and dying in American hospitals. Sometimes you get three, like in 1918-19, and a lot depends on whether you get a vaccine in that two-year timeframe.
But you can't tell them: go out shopping, go to the movies. The financial crisis dealt it a blow. I was not one of those who defiantly persisted with “never Trump” after the current occupant of the White House won the Republican nomination in 2016. Activities that essentially were predicated on gregariousness, on people being in quite close proximity to one another, can't recover. From my vantage point, the world's going my way. An earlier category error was to confuse demagogy with leadership. Image: World Economic Forum/ Manuel Lopez
The first category error I observe today is that many investors, seeing the extraordinary market volatility of the past week — which rivals the financial spasms of 1987, 2001 and 2008 — conclude that they are in a financial crisis. "In an interview for the World Economic Forum’s World vs Virus podcast, Ferguson discussed lessons from history for the economic recovery ahead; the potential impact of the virus on geopolitics and globalization; and why lockdown life suits some people - including him. Only a minority of them paid heed; as recently as 12 days ago, one was still mocking me as “a Debbie Downer, Fergie Frowner”. Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. I think that's a good thing for a whole variety of reasons.More generally, I have never been somebody who liked parties or crowded bars. But there was always going to come a crisis that would expose this president’s flaws — and it has come in the year he seeks re-election.