Transcript: One Crisis After Another | Sep 23, 2021

Steve Paikin sits in his home office. Framed pictures of The Ontario Legislative Building and Walter Cronkite hang on the wall. A calendar is opened to September. Paikin wears a cream-coloured button-down shirt and a patterned crimson tie.

Text reads, “One Crisis After Another”

Paikin begins,
IF THE WORLD WAS
HEADED DOWN AN UNCERTAIN PATH
BEFORE COVID-19 -- AMIDST FOUR
YEARS OF A VERY UNCONVENTIONAL
U.S. PRESIDENT -- THE ARRIVAL OF
A PANDEMIC AMPLIFIED THAT.
AND ONLY NOW ARE WE STARTING TO
GET A SENSE OF THE GLOBAL
IMPLICATIONS.
ADAM TOOZE IS A PROFESSOR OF
HISTORY AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY.
HIS LATEST BOOK IS AN IMPORTANT
CONTRIBUTION TO THAT.
IT'S CALLED: "SHUTDOWN: HOW
COVID SHOOK THE WORLD'S
ECONOMY," AND HE JOINS US NOW
FROM THE UPPER WEST SIDE OF
MANHATTAN ISLAND IN NEW YORK,
NEW YORK.
PROFESSOR TOOZE, GREAT TO HAVE
YOU ON TVO AGAIN.
HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Adam Tooze responds,
GOOD TO BE HERE.

Paikin asks,
ARE THE OUTLINES, IN
YOUR JUDGMENT, OF HOW THE
PANDEMIC WAS HANDLED BY
DIFFERENT COUNTRIES ALL OVER THE
WORLD CLEAR ENOUGH NOW THAT WE
CAN BEGIN TO FORM SOME CONFIDENT
JUDGMENTS ABOUT WHO GOT IT RIGHT
AND WHO GOT IT WRONG?

Text reads, “One Crisis After Another. The Worst and the Best”

Text continues, “Adam Tooze, Columbia University”

Adam responds,
IT MAY BE PREMATURE FOR THAT
BECAUSE WE ARE NOT DONE WITH
THIS PANDEMIC AT THIS POINT.
BUT WE CAN CERTAINLY FORM A
VIEW, I THINK, OF THE GENERAL
REACTION TO THE CRISIS, AND
UNFORTUNATELY, IT'S NOT A
POSITIVE ONE.
YOU HAVE TO LOOK LONG AND HARD
TO FIND ANY COUNTRY AT THIS
POINT THAT FEELS SATISFIED WITH
THE WAY IN WHICH IT REACTED AND
HANDLED THE CRISIS.
YOU MIGHT SINGLE OUT PERHAPS
SOUTH KOREA OR NEW ZEALAND.
BUT ON AVERAGE, I THINK, TAKEN
AS A WHOLE, THE LESSON THAT WE
ALL HAVE TO ENDURE IS A HUMBLING
ONE. THAT EVEN THOUGH WE CAN
UNDERSTAND THAT A CRISIS LIKE
THIS MIGHT BE ON ITS WAY, WHEN
IT CAME TO THE CRUNCH, WHEN
THINGS GOT REAL EARLY IN 2020,
THE REACTION WAS JUST NOT OF THE
PROMPTNESS AND THE URGENCY AND
THE SERIOUSNESS THAT WOULD HAVE
BEEN NECESSARY TO AVOID THE
CATASTROPHE OF MARCH AND APRIL
2020.

Paikin says,
DO YOU THINK THERE
ARE RELIABLE CONCLUSIONS WE CAN
COME TO YET ABOUT HOW THE
PANDEMIC WAS HANDLED, LET'S SAY,
BY THE UNITED STATES VERSUS
EUROPE VERSUS CHINA?

Adam replies,
WELL, I THINK AT THIS POINT
IT'S EVIDENT THAT IN TERMS OF
CONTAINING THE EPIDEMIC, DEALING
WITH IT AT ITS FIRST STAGES, THE
CHINESE WON THE RACE.
THEY BEAT EVERYONE ELSE TO
IMPOSING SHUTDOWNS, CONTROLLING
THE PANDEMIC, CONTAINING IT
WITHIN ONE CITY AND ONE
PROVINCE.
OBVIOUSLY, THEY'RE ALSO
RESPONSIBLE FOR HAVING FAILED TO
RECOGNIZE THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE
SITUATION AT THE END OF 2019,
AND THEY THEREFORE FOUND
THEMSELVES IN THIS SITUATION OF
HAVING TO ADOPT EMERGENCY
MEASURES.
BUT THEN, FACED WITH IT, HAVING
IDENTIFIED IT, THEY ARE REALLY
THE ONLY TRULY LARGE GOVERNMENT
THAT REACTED RAPIDLY AND AT THE
RIGHT SCALE.
BETWEEN THE EUROPEANS AND THE
UNITED STATES, I THINK YOU'D
HAVE TO SAY IT'S A BIT OF A
TOSSUP.
IT'S HARD TO CALL THERE BEING
STAGES WHERE IT FELT AS THOUGH
EUROPE WAS ACTING IN A MORE
CONCERTED WAY, OR AT LEAST PARTS
OF EUROPE, GERMANY FOR A WHILE,
EASTERN EUROPE FOR A WHILE,
WHILST OF COURSE IN THE U.K.,
IN SPAIN, ITALY, EVEN AT THE
VERY BEGINNINGS OF THIS CRISIS,
THINGS WERE GOING VERY BADLY,
AND THE UNITED STATES SIMILARLY
HAS BEEN ON A BIT OF A ROLLER
COASTER IN THE SENSE THAT THE
ORIGINAL STAGE WAS A DISASTER ON
THE EAST COAST; THEN THERE WAS,
AS IT WERE, THE FURTHER DISASTER
OF THE WINTER OF 2020-2021; BUT
THEN THE RELATIVE SUCCESS OF THE
VACCINE ROLLOUT, FOLLOWED NOW BY
ANOTHER WAVE IN THE SOUTHERN
STATES. SO IT'S BEEN A PATCHWORK
EPIDEMIC I THINK WHEREVER IT'S HIT.
BUT NEITHER THE U.S. NOR EUROPE
REALLY, HAS ANY REASON FOR
SATISFACTION AT THE OUTCOME
HERE.

Paikin replies,
YOU MENTIONED GERMANY.
LET ME FOLLOW UP ON THAT.
THEIR WELL-KNOWN
INDUSTRIOUSNESS.
DID THAT GET THEM THROUGH IT
BETTER THAN OTHERS?

Adam states,
WHAT SEEMS TO HAVE HELPED IS
DECENTRALIZED HEALTH MANAGEMENT
IN THE EARLY STAGES, BUT THEN IT
TURNED OUT THAT THEIR HEALTH
ADMINISTRATION SEASON IS
INCREDIBLY CREAKY.
I MEAN, THE SCANDAL OF THE
GERMAN EPIDEMIC IS THAT THE
ENTIRE SYSTEM APPEARS TO RELY ON
FAX MACHINES.
AND WHEN IT CAME TO, AS IT WERE,
THE SURVIVABILITY OF GERMAN
SOCIETY, THE VIABILITY OF
SUSTAINING FOR LONG SOCIAL
DISTANCING AND ABOVE ALL SCHOOL
CLOSURES, GERMAN SOCIETY SHOWED
PROFOUND VULNERABILITY.
THIS IS A HIGHLY ADVANCED, ONE
OF THE RICHEST COUNTRIES IN
EUROPE, WHICH SIMPLY DOES NOT
HAVE ADEQUATE DIGITAL
INFRASTRUCTURE.
THEY MADE CRITICAL DECISIONS
FIVE OR SIX YEARS AGO TO STICK
WITH COPPER WIRES FOR THEIR
TELECOMMUNICATION SYSTEM, AND
THIS HAS SERVED THEM VERY POORLY
IN AN AGE OF 5G.
SO EVEN THE GERMANS HAVE
DISCOVERED AND AS IT WERE ARE
BEING FORCED TO FACE THROUGH THE
PANDEMIC A SERIOUS RECKONING
WITH THE INADEQUACY OF THEIR OWN
INFRASTRUCTURE.

Paikin says,
LET'S TALK ABOUT
ECONOMIC AFTER-EFFECTS.
I GUESS WHAT'S MADE THE PAST
YEAR AND A HALF SO EXTRAORDINARY
IN WORLD HISTORY IS THAT
GOVERNMENTS ALL OVER THE WORLD
DECIDED, THEY MADE A DECISION TO
PUT THEIR ECONOMIES INTO DEEP
SLEEP IN SOME RESPECTS, AND WE
FACED ECONOMIC MELTDOWNS, THE
LIKES OF WHICH, WELL, MAY HAVE
BEEN UNPRECEDENTED IN THE WAY IT
HAPPENED.
HOW MUCH WORSE, THOUGH, DO YOU
THINK THE ECONOMIC CRISIS COULD
HAVE BEEN?

Text reads, “One Crisis After Another. Lessons Learned”

Adam replies,
IT COULD TRULY HAVE BEEN
APOCALYPTIC, I THINK.
THE PACE OF THE DOWNTURN, THE
PACE OF THE CONTRACTION OF
ECONOMIC ACTIVITY IN MARCH AND
APRIL OF 2020 IS SIMPLY WITHOUT
PARALLEL IN THE RECORDED
ECONOMIC HISTORY OF THE WORLD.
WE HAVE NEVER SEEN THAT KIND OF
CONTRACTION BEFORE.
BY THE SECOND WEEK OF
APRIL 2020, WE ESTIMATE THE
GLOBAL GDP HAD CONTRACTED BY 20%
IN A MATTER OF WEEKS.
SO THAT'S GREAT DEPRESSION-STYLE
CONTRACTIONS, NOT OVER A PERIOD
OF YEARS BUT LITERALLY IN A
MATTER OF DAYS AND WEEKS.
3.3 BILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE,
THAT'S ABOUT 90% OF THE GLOBAL
WORKFORCE, WERE UNDER ONE OR
ANOTHER TYPE OF CONSTRICTION,
LIMITATION, SOCIAL DISTANCING
REGULATION, OR JUST OUTRIGHT
FURLOUGH.
THE EDUCATION OF OUR YOUNG
PEOPLE COLLECTIVELY WORLDWIDE
CAME TO A STANDSTILL.
SO THE LONG-TERM DAMAGE FROM
THAT WILL BE GRIEVOUS.
BUT IT COULD HAVE BEEN EVEN
WORSE IF THERE HADN'T ABOUT THE
HUGE CENTRAL BANK AND FISCAL
POLICY TAXING AND SPENDING
MEASURES PUT IN PLACE ACROSS THE
WORLD, NOT JUST IN THE RICH
COUNTRIES BUT IN MANY MIDDLE
INCOME EMERGING MARKETS AS WELL.

Paikin says,
WELL, LET ME FOLLOW UP ON THAT.
WHAT IN YOUR VIEW WERE THE
SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT
INITIATIVES UNDERTAKEN TO HAVE
MADE THE CATASTROPHE YOU JUST
DESCRIBED MORE MANAGEABLE?

Adam answers,
WELL, THE ONE WHICH, AS IT
WERE, WE COULD NOT HAVE SURVIVED
THROUGH TO APRIL OR MAY WITHOUT
WAS THE SPECTACULAR INTERVENTION
BY THE AMERICAN FEDERAL RESERVE
IN THE MARKET FOR U.S. TREASURIES.
THIS IS REALLY THE PIGGYBANK OF
THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM, AND
IT WAS NOT WORKING IN MARCH.
NOT ONLY WERE PRICES AND
INTEREST RATES MOVING IN REALLY
PERVERSE DIRECTIONS, PRICES WERE
GOING DOWN, INTEREST RATES WERE
GOING UP, BUT YOU COULDN'T
TRANSACT, YOU COULDN'T SELL
PORTFOLIOS, YOU COULDN'T SELL
HOLDINGS OF TREASURIES INTO THE
U.S. MARKET.
AND THAT IS A DISASTER TO THE
GLOBAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM.
IF THAT HAD BEEN ALLOWED TO
CONTINUE, WE WOULDN'T REALLY
HAVE GOTTEN THROUGH TO APRIL OR
MAY WITHOUT MAJOR BANK FAILURES
AND OTHER TYPES OF FINANCIAL
MELTDOWN.
BUT BEYOND THAT, WHAT MATTERED
MOST CLEARLY FOR THE VAST
MAJORITY OF PEOPLE WAS THE
ABILITY OF SOCIETIES, BOTH RICH
AND MIDDLE INCOME, TO SUSTAIN
PEOPLE DURING THE SHUTDOWN.
TO ENABLE THEM, AS IT WERE, TO
HAVE A DEGREE OF LIFE SUPPORT
WHILST ORDINARY BUSINESS,
ORDINARY WORK WAS INTERRUPTED.
AND IN EUROPE WE SAW VARIOUS
TYPES OF SHORT-TIME WORKING
SYSTEM ADOPTED.
IN AUSTRALIA, I BELIEVE IN
CANADA AS WELL, ON A MODEL THAT
THE GERMANS HAD PIONEERED IN
2008-9 WHICH SAVED PEOPLE FROM
THE HUGE INSECURITY OF IMMEDIATE
UNEMPLOYMENT, WHICH IS WHAT
FOLKS SUFFERED IN THE UNITED
STATES.
THEY, IN TURN, WERE HELPED BY
THE RAPID EMERGENCY IMPROVISED
ROLLOUT OF A KIND OF RAMSHACKLE
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE SYSTEM.
SO THOSE ARE THE SORTS OF
MEASURES WHICH, BY THE SUMMER,
MATTERED MOST FOR MOST PEOPLE
WORLDWIDE.

Paikin responds,
IT'S ALWAYS A BIT
DANGEROUS FOR HISTORIANS TO SAY,
"AS A RESULT OF ALL THIS, IT HAS
USHERED IN THE END OF..."
BUT IT DOES RAISE THE QUESTION:
GIVEN THE BIG GOVERNMENT
RESPONSE, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER
GOVERNMENTS WERE DEMOCRATIC,
REPUBLICAN, LIBERAL,
CONSERVATIVE, HAS IT HASTENED,
IN YOUR VIEW, AN END TO THE
THINKING THAT NEOLIBERALISM CAN
SOLVE ALL OUR PROBLEMS?

Adam says,
I THINK CERTAINLY IT ENDED
THAT KIND OF THINKING.
THE QUESTION OF WHETHER IT
REALLY WILL END THE PRACTICE IS
ANOTHER MATTER.
I THINK NEOLIBERALISM AS A BODY
OF COHERENT ECONOMIC DOCTRINE IS
DEAD.
THIS IS REALLY, AS IT WERE, THE
STAKE IN THE UNDEAD BODY OF
NEOLIBERALISM IN THAT RESPECT.
I THINK IT DIFFICULT TO SEE IT
COMING BACK.
THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS,
THOUGH, THAT THE VAST MAJORITY
OF THESE MASSIVE INTERVENTIONS
THAT WERE MOUNTED LAST YEAR WERE
REALLY THERE TO UNDERWRITE
SOCIETY AS WE KNOW IT AND THAT
SOCIETY ITSELF HAS OF COURSE
BEEN SHAPED BY THE IMPACT OF NOW
BASICALLY HALF A CENTURY OF
POLICIES THAT WERE ORIENTATED
TOWARDS SMALL GOVERNMENT AND THE
MARKET.
THE STRUCTURES OF INEQUALITY,
THE PATTERNS OF WHO OWNS WHAT
WHERE AND WHICH MINORITIES
BENEFIT MOST FROM THIS SORT OF
MEASURE, THOSE WERE ALL
REINFORCED, REPLICATED, IN A
SENSE CONTINUED, AND THAT'S
REALLY ONE OF THE SORT OF IRONIC
LEGACIES OF 2020, IS THAT THESE
GIGANTIC POLICY MEASURES WERE
ADOPTED REALLY TO KEEP
EVERYTHING IN PLACE.
IT'S A SORT OF EXTRAORDINARY
CONSERVATISM THAT THINGS SHOULD
REMAIN THE SAME.
EVERYTHING AT THAT MOMENT HAD TO
CHANGE.
AND IN THAT RESPECT I THINK
CONTINUITY IS THE NAME OF THE
GAME HERE.

Paikin asks,
WERE THERE ANY GOVERNMENTS
AROUND THE WORLD, IN
YOUR VIEW, THAT USED A
NEOLIBERAL APPROACH TO FIGHTING
THE PANDEMIC, LAISSEZ-FAIRE,
HANDS OFF, MORE MARKET APPROACH,
NOT USING THE CENTRAL BANK THE
WAY YOU JUST DESCRIBED, AND WHO
HAD SUCCESS WITH IT?

Adam replies,
WELL, THE TWO COUNTRIES THAT
REALLY STAND OUT AND IT'S A BIT
OF A PUZZLE REALLY ARE MEXICO
AND INDIA.
WE DID FIND OURSELVES IN THE
SITUATION IN 2020 IN WHICH
MEXICO, A SUPPOSEDLY LEFT-WING
ADMINISTRATION IN MEXICO CITY,
WAS TAKING LESSONS FROM THE IMF
ON THE NEED TO INCREASE ITS
FISCAL RESPONSE.
AND I THINK THE RESULT IN MEXICO
IS QUITE CLEAR.
WE SAW A SURGE OF POVERTY THERE,
ALLEVIATED ABOVE ALL BY THE
SPILLOVER EFFECTS FROM THE
AMERICAN STIMULUS.
SO MEXICO IS FAMOUSLY, YOU KNOW,
TOO FAR FROM GOD AND TOO CLOSE
TO THE UNITED STATES.
AND IN THIS PARTICULAR INSTANCE,
IT BENEFITTED TO A DEGREE FROM
THAT STIMULUS.
REMITTANCES TO MEXICO SURGED.
INDIA INITIALLY SAW VIRTUALLY NO
RESPONSE, AND AS A RESULT, 2020
BECAME A CATASTROPHE FOR THE
POOREST INDIANS, OF WHICH THERE
ARE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS.
SO MUCH SO THAT BY THE BEGINNING
OF 2021, THE MODI ADMINISTRATION
HAD HAD TO CHANGE TACK.
BUT THEY REALLY ARE THE
OUTLIERS.
THIS IS A CRISIS WHICH ACROSS
MOST OF THE WORLD, AS IT WERE
SOLICITED, A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING
THAT REALLY GOVERNMENT HAD TO
HELP, THE STATE HAD TO
INTERVENE HERE.

Text reads, “One Crisis After Another. Radical Change Looming?”

Paikin adds,
LET ME PLUCK A QUOTE
OUT OF YOUR BOOK IN WHICH YOU
DESCRIBE THIS AS "AN EXCEPTIONAL
AND TRANSIENT CRISIS, NO DOUBT,
BUT ALSO A WAYSTATION ON AN
ASCENDING CURVE OF RADICAL
CHANGE." WHAT IS THAT RADICAL
CHANGE THAT YOU SEE COMING
AROUND THE CORNER?

Adam replies,
WELL, I CLEAVE TO THE VIEW
HELD I THINK BY MANY
EPIDEMIOLOGISTS AND VIROLOGISTS
THAT THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
OF A SURGE OF MUTATIONS AND
INCREASINGLY DANGEROUS EPIDEMIC
DISEASES THAT WILL BE GENERATED
BY OUR UNBALANCED RELATIONSHIP
WITH NATURE.
THEY'VE BEEN PREDICTING THIS
SORT OF CRISIS FOR SOME TIME.
WE'VE HAD FORERUNNERS.
WE HAD THE SARS EXPERIENCE.
WE HAD THE SWINE FLU MOMENT.
WE HAD MERS.
THERE'S EVERY REASON TO THINK
THAT THERE ARE MORE AND MORE
DANGEROUS THINGS COMING DOWN THE
PIKE, AND TO THAT EXTENT 2020 IS
A SORT OF TEST RUN, AN OVERTURE,
A PREFACE, IF YOU LIKE, TO WHAT
MAY BE A NEW ERA OF CHALLENGES
OF A DIMENSION THAT WE'VE NEVER
FACED BEFORE.
IN SOME WAYS THIS IS EVEN MORE
RADICAL AND FAST-MOVING THAN
CLIMATE CHANGE BECAUSE
POTENTIALLY RATHER THAN
AFFECTING A HUGE REGION LIKE A
GIANT HURRICANE DOES OR A
DROUGHT, THIS POTENTIALLY
AFFECTS LITERALLY EVERYBODY ON
THE PLANET.

Paikin responds,
A TEST RUN?
THE PAST YEAR AND A HALF YOU
THINK COULD BE A TEST RUN?

Adam states,
ABSOLUTELY. I THINK THIS IS THE
SORT OF CRISIS THAT WE NEED TO
UNDERSTAND THE POTENTIAL OF,
UNDERSTAND THAT NEXT TIME IT
COULD BE EVEN WORSE. AND
WE'RE NOT DONE WITH THIS ONE
YET. AFTER ALL, THE DELTA
VARIANT IS A RESULT OF THIS
DISEASE CONTINUING TO MOVE
THROUGH THE GLOBAL POPULATION.
IT CONTINUES TO DO THAT AT AN
EXTREMELY ELEVATED AND DANGEROUS
RATE.
WE DO NOT HAVE A PROGRAM TO
FULLY AND RAPIDLY VACCINATE ALL
7.8 BILLION OF US.
AND AS A RESULT, WE ARE
BASICALLY RIDING OUR LUCK.
EVEN WITH THIS EPIDEMIC, LET
ALONE WITH PANDEMICS TO COME.
AND THIS ONE IS ONE OR TWO
MUTATIONS AWAY FROM BEING A FAR
MORE LETHAL DISEASE THAN IT IS.
BUT BILL GATES IS ABSOLUTELY
RIGHT TO SAY THAT THIS PANDEMIC
RISK IS THE ONE THAT COULD
ACTUALLY CLAIM THE LIVES OF
A BILLION PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET
IN THE FUTURE.
IF YOU LOOK BACK TO THE 17TH
CENTURY, IN THAT CENTURY A THIRD
OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION
SUCCUMBED TO A COMBINATION OF
CLIMATE CHANGE, IN THAT CASE
GLOBAL COOLING, AND THE
PANDEMICS THAT RIPPED THROUGH
EURASIA AND LATIN AMERICA AND
NORTH AMERICA IN THAT PERIOD.
SO, YES, THIS I THINK HAS TO BE
SEEN AS THE HARBINGER, AS THE
FORERUNNER OF A NEW ERA OF
COMPREHENSIVE GLOBAL CRISES.

Text reads, “One Crisis After Another. The Next One”

Paikin says,
WELL, EVERY TIME YOU
MENTION BILL GATES OR ANTHONY
FAUCI, THERE ARE A SIZABLE
NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THE UNITED
STATES WHOSE HEADS EXPLODE
BECAUSE THEY'RE CONVINCED THAT
THIS IS SOMETHING THAT THOSE TWO
GENTLEMEN HAVE ORCHESTRATED IN
ORDER TO ENRICH THEMSELVES.
WHICH SIMPLY GETS ME TO A
QUESTION ABOUT, IF THIS WAS A
TEST RUN AND THIS IS ABOUT TO
BECOME A MORE NEWISH NORMAL FOR
US GOING FORWARD, HOW IN
HEAVEN'S NAME DO WE WORK OUR WAY
OUT OF IT WHEN THERE ARE SO MANY
PEOPLE WHO SIMPLY DON'T BELIEVE
WHY IT HAPPENED?

Adam replies,
I AGREE THAT THIS HAS TESTED
THE LIMITS OF PUBLIC
RATIONALITY, YOU MIGHT SAY.
IT REQUIRES US TO MOBILIZE A
STRANGE COMBINATION OF, AS IT
WERE, SCIENTIFIC SCEPTICISM AND
COMMITMENT TO RATIONALISM ON THE
ONE HAND, AND ON THE OTHER AT
CRITICAL MOMENTS SIMPLY TO TRUST
THE JUDGMENT OF PEOPLE WHO
CLEARLY KNOW FAR BETTER THAN WE
DO, AS IN, FOR INSTANCE,
DR. FAUCI, WHO MAY HAVE CHANGED
HIS MIND ABOUT FACE MASKS OVER
THE COURSE OF THE CRISIS, BUT
THEN AS JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES
FAMOUSLY OBSERVED: "WHAT DO YOU
DO WHEN THE DATA CHANGE?
I CHANGE MY MIND."
AND IT'S NAVIGATING THAT TERRAIN
THAT IS A HUGE CHALLENGE FOR
PUBLIC DISCOURSE, FOR ALL OF US
INVOLVED IN THE MAKING OF PUBLIC
OPINION, TO CONVEY THE NECESSARY
COMBINATION OF, AS IT WERE,
SKEPTICAL COMMITMENT TO THE
VALUES OF CRITICAL SCIENTIFIC
INQUIRY AND, ON THE OTHER HAND,
AT CRITICAL MOMENTS A
WILLINGNESS TO SIMPLY DO AS
WE'RE TOLD BECAUSE THAT IS THE
EFFICIENT AND QUICK WAY TO MOVE
THROUGH THIS CRISIS.
I AGREE, HOWEVER, THAT THERE ARE
DEPRESSING CONCLUSIONS TO BE
DRAWN FROM THE CURRENT MOMENT.
ONE UPSIDE, I THINK, IS THAT
THERE ARE VERY FEW THINGS THAT
ARE MORE EFFECTIVE IN CONVINCING
PEOPLE THAT VACCINES ARE
IMPORTANT AND WORK THAN
IMMEDIATE EXPOSURE TO A LETHAL
INFECTIOUS DISEASE.
WE SEE FAR LOWER RATES OF
VACCINE SCEPTICISM IN THE
POPULATIONS OF LOW INCOME
COUNTRIES AND EMERGING MARKETS
WHO ARE CLAMOURING FOR ACCESS TO
THIS VACCINE THAN WE DO IN SOME
OF THE RICH POPULATIONS OF THE
WORLD.
IN ANY CASE, BECAUSE THIS IS AN
INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND IT WORKS
THROUGH CONTACT, THE CRUCIAL
THING IS TO GET 60 TO 70 PERCENT
OF THE POPULATION SAFE BEHIND A
WALL OF IMMUNITY AND THEN TO
RAMP UP THE CAPACITIES OF OUR
HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS TO DEAL WITH
THE FALLOUT FROM OUR INABILITY
TO REACH EVERYONE AND TO DEAL
WITH THE BREAKTHROUGH INFECTIONS
THAT WE'RE BOUND TO HAVE.
IT'S ABOUT INCREASING OUR
OVERALL TOLERANCE.
IT DOESN'T REQUIRE TOTAL
CONFORMITY BY 100 PERCENT OF THE
POPULATION.
IT REQUIRES SIMPLY A CRITICAL
MASS TO REACH THAT LEVEL OF
IMMUNITY TO PUT US ALL OUT OF
HARM'S WAY.

Paikin responds,
UNDERSTOOD.
LET ME PLUCK ANOTHER EXCERPT
FROM YOUR BOOK AND RAISE A
QUESTION EMERGING FROM THAT.

Text reads, “The future challenge laid down by 2020 seems clear. Either we find ways to turn the billions invested in research and development and futuristic technologies into trillions, either we take seriously the need to build more sustainable and resilient economies and societies and equip ourselves with the standing capacities necessary to meet fast moving unpredictable crises, or we will be overwhelmed by the blowback from our natural environment.”

Paikin adds,
I KNOW YOU TOUCHED
ON THIS BUT I THINK WE NEED TO
BE A LITTLE BIT MORE SPECIFIC
ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK THAT
BLOWBACK LOOKS LIKE AND WHEN IT
MIGHT HAPPEN?

Adam states,
WELL, IT TAKES MANY DIFFERENT
FORMS AND THERE ARE TWO WHICH
ARE TOP OF STACK RIGHT NOW.
ONE IS THE CLIMATE CRISIS, WHICH
IS ONGOING.
IT'S NOT SOMETHING ABOUT THE
FUTURE, IT'S SOMETHING THAT'S
ALREADY HAPPENING IN LARGE PARTS
OF THE WORLD WHETHER IN THE FORM
OF DROUGHT OR EXTREME WEATHER OF
ANY TYPES. AND THE OTHER ONE THAT
WE HAVE SO FAR ENCOUNTERED IS
PANDEMIC DISEASE.
WE WILL ALSO, IN FUTURE, BE
DEALING WITH THE WIDE AND
RAMIFYING CONSEQUENCES OF THE
LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY.
WE ARE DEALING IN MANY PARTS OF
THE WORLD WITH DESERTIFICATION
OF ESSENTIAL AGRICULTURAL LAND
WHICH IS CRUCIAL FOR THE GLOBAL
FOOD SUPPLY, ESPECIALLY AS THE
WORLD POPULATION SHIFTS AND
MOVES GRADUALLY UP TOWARDS
TEN BILLION WHERE WE HOPE IT
WILL STABILIZE.
AND FINALLY, WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH
THE EXTRAORDINARY AND AWESOME
IMPLICATIONS OF MASSIVE LEVELS
OF POLLUTION, THE MOST DRAMATIC
ELEMENT OF THIS PERHAPS BEING
THE POLLUTION WITH PLASTIC OF
LARGE PARTS OF THE WORLD'S
OCEANS.
ALL OF THESE ARE, AS IT WERE,
CONSTANTLY PRODUCED BY OUR OWN
BEHAVIOUR.
AND GIVEN THE OBSTACLES, THE
CONCERTED COLLECTIVE ACTION,
GIVEN THE EXTREME DIVISIONS
WITHIN OUR POLITICS,
PARTICULARLY IN THE WEST, IT
SEEMS TO ME THAT SCIENCE IS OUR
BEST HOPE.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ARE THE
SILVER BULLET.
WE CAN'T NECESSARILY PERSUADE
EVERYONE TO TAKE THE VACCINE,
BUT WE DON'T NEED TO.
WE NEED TO GET 70% TO DO SO.
IN THAT CASE THE CRUCIAL THING
TO DO IS TO SERIOUSLY INVEST IN
THE PIPELINE OF INNOVATION, OF
SCIENTIFIC SOLUTIONS, OF
PHARMACEUTICALS THAT WILL
DELIVER US THOSE SOLUTIONS.
WE NEED TO UPGRADE OUR ABILITY
TO SEQUENCE GENOMES.
WE NEED TO MULTIPLY THE NUMBER
OF LABS WE HAVE.
WE NEED TO MOVE FROM A SITUATION
WHERE WE'RE NOT CERTAIN WE CAN
DO CORONAVIRUS VACCINES TO A
SITUATION IN WHICH WE'RE
ROUTINELY DEVELOPING THEM JUST
IN CASE, CONSTANTLY MAPPING THE
RANGE OF VIRUSES THAT ARE OUT
THERE AND BUILDING THE KIND OF
RESERVE CAPACITY THAT WE WOULD
NEED TO PRODUCE VACCINES AT AN
ADEQUATE SCALE, AND WE'RE
TALKING EIGHT BILLION DOSES OF
VACCINE IN A MATTER OF MONTHS.
WE NEED NOT ONE SERUM INSTITUTE
IN INDIA BUT WE NEED SIX OF THEM
DOTTED AROUND THE LOW INCOME AND
EMERGING MARKET WORLD SO THAT
THEY CAN ALL RAMP UP PRODUCTION
SIMULTANEOUSLY. NOW, THAT'S
INVESTMENT AND THAT COSTS MONEY.
BUT THIS IS MONEY WELL SPENT.
WHAT WOULD BE BETTER, AS IT
WERE, TO BUILD A WORLD OF LABS,
A WORLD OF RESEARCH INSTITUTES
AND PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTION
CAPACITY?
THIS IS GOOD STUFF TO BE
SPENDING MONEY ON, AND THE
ESTIMATES OF THE COSTS INVOLVED
ARE NOT ASTRONOMIC BY THE
STANDARDS OF MODERN FINANCIAL
MARKETS.
HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS
SPREAD OVER A PERIOD AND AROUND
THE WORLD WOULD DO THE TRICK,
AND IT WOULD BE MONEY WELL
SPENT.

Paikin says,
LET ME FOLLOW UP ON
THAT AND ASK ABOUT MONEY WELL
SPENT BECAUSE -- WELL, THESE
NUMBERS WILL SEEM SMALL TO YOU
AS AN AMERICAN BUT FOR CANADIANS
THEY ARE ASTONISHING.
I MEAN, OUR GOVERNMENTS
TRADITIONALLY RAN DEFICITS OF
ABOUT $30 BILLION ANNUALLY FOR
SEVERAL YEARS UNTIL THIS PAST
YEAR WHEN THE GOVERNMENT OF
CANADA INTRODUCED A BUDGET
DEFICIT OF $345 BILLION, WHICH
WAS SO ASTRONOMICALLY OFF THE
CHARTS OF ANYTHING ANYBODY COULD
IMAGINE, OUR NATIONAL DEBT IS
NOW NORTH OF A TRILLION DOLLARS,
AND I GUESS TWO THINGS: NUMBER
ONE, ARE WE EVER GOING TO BE
ABLE TO PAY THAT MONEY BACK?

Adam answers,
WELL, NO, BECAUSE THE CRUCIAL
THING IS WITH PUBLIC DEBT IS YOU
DON'T HAVE TO BECAUSE THE
CANADIAN NATION, WHICH
EFFECTIVELY OWES THAT MONEY TO
ITSELF, IS INFINITELY LIVED.
SO THIS ISN'T LIKE A HOUSEHOLD
WHERE YOU AND I HAVE A MORTGAGE
AND AS YOU ARE GETTING ON IN
LIFE AND YOU MOVE INTO MIDDLE
AGE, YOU SUDDENLY BEGIN TO SIZE
UP THE TIMELINE OF THAT THIRTY
YEAR MORTGAGE AND YOU REALIZE,
WELL, YOU KNOW, YOU NEED TO GET
GOING ON PAYING IT DOWN.
A NATIONAL DEBT IS A COMMUNITY
DEBT OWED BY A COMMUNITY WHICH
IS INFINITELY LIVED.
IN THE CANADIAN CASE, IT'S
CONTINUOUSLY EXPANDING THROUGH
DEMOGRAPHIC GROWTH AND THROUGH
IMMIGRATION, AND SO THAT DEBT
WILL BE SPREAD OVER TIME AND
OVER SUCCESSIVE GENERATIONS, AND
IF WHAT IT'S DOING IS PAYING FOR
CANADIAN SOCIETY TO GET THROUGH
A HISTORIC SHOCK LIKE THIS SO
THAT LIFE CAN CONTINUE AND
WHAT'S CALLED THE SCARRING IN
ECONOMY AND SOCIETY IS NOT TOO
GRIEVOUS, SO THAT PEOPLE CAN
MAINTAIN THEIR HOMES AND
CONTINUE SUPPORTING THEIR
CHILDREN AND THEIR CHILDREN'S
EDUCATION, THEN AGAIN, THIS IS
MONEY WELL-SPENT.
THIS IS A BURDEN THAT WILL, AS
IT WERE, ULTIMATELY BE
SUSTAINABLE IN TERMS OF
CANADA'S LONG-RUN ECONOMIC
GROWTH.
AND IN ANY CASE, IS THERE ANY
SIGN AT ALL OF STRESS?
THE SIGN OF STRESS YOU WOULD
EXPECT TO SEE IS THAT INTEREST
RATES ARE NUDGING UP AS YOU
BORROW MORE.
AND THE REVERSE IS THE CASE
ACROSS THE WORLD.
EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE ENGAGED IN
GIGANTIC BORROWING BECAUSE THERE
HAS ALSO BEEN A HUGE SURGE IN
SAVING DURING THE COURSE OF THE
EPIDEMIC AND VAST AMOUNTS OF
MONEY THAT WERE UNSPENT THAT
NEEDED TO BE PUT AWAY, THE DEBT,
IN A SENSE HAS FUNDED ITSELF.
THERE IS VERY LITTLE SIGN TO
DATE OF ANY STRESS IN ANY OF THE
MAJOR DEBT MARKETS WORLDWIDE.

Paikin replies,
IN WHICH CASE HOW
IMPORTANT A QUESTION IS IT DO
YOU FEEL THAT NEEDS TO BE
ANSWERED WHICH GOES SOMETHING
ALONG THE LINES OF, YES, WE
UNDERTOOK AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF
DEBT AND SOME OF IT WAS PROBABLY
POINTLESS SPENDING, SOME OF IT
WAS PROBABLY SLOPPY OR BAD OR
WHO KNOWS EVEN FRAUDULENT
SPENDING. IS IT IMPORTANT TO
UNDERSTAND THE DISTINCTION
AMONGST ALL OF THAT?

Adam responds,
IT'S WORTHWHILE, OF COURSE,
AND A GOVERNMENT WHICH ENGAGES
IN LARGE-SCALE SPENDING SHOULD
CLEARLY BE ACCOUNTABLE AND IT'S
PROFOUNDLY REGRETTABLE IF PEOPLE
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS KIND OF
PUBLIC LARGESSE BECAUSE IT
DISCREDITS IT.
BUT I FIND IT VERY HARD TO
BELIEVE THAT CANADA WILL BE
UNLIKE ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE
SENSE THAT THOSE KIND OF
ELEMENTS OF THE SPENDING ARE
TRIVIAL BY COMPARISON WITH THE
OVERALL EFFECT.
AND FURTHERMORE, IF THE AIM OF
THE GAME IS TO STIMULATE THE
ECONOMY AND KEEP THINGS GOING,
UNLESS THE PEOPLE ENGAGED IN
THIS KIND OF DEVIOUS BEHAVIOUR
BURY THE MONEY IN THEIR BACK
GARDEN. IT, IN FACT, FLOWS BACK
INTO THE NATIONAL ECONOMY IN ANY
CASE.
SO THOUGH IN THE FIRST CASE IT'S
CLEARLY A REGRETTABLE MIS
APPROPRIATION AND MISUSE OF THE
FUNDS, IT'S (A) SMALL AND
(B) OVERALL IT WILL
NEVERTHELESS GENERATE SOME
DEGREE OF STIMULUS BECAUSE THE
FOLKS WILL SPEND IT ON GROCERIES
OR A NEW TELEVISION OR ON CHILD
CARE, WHATEVER, AND IN THAT CASE
THE MONEY FLOWS BACK.
OF COURSE, THOUGH, ANY KIND OF
PUBLIC BODY WHICH SPENDS MONEY
ON THIS SCALE MUST BE
ACCOUNTABLE, AND RIGOROUS
INQUIRIES SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT
AND CHECKS AND IF NECESSARY
SANCTIONS IMPOSED.

Paikin adds,
YOU ALWAYS GIVE US
SO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT WHICH IS
WHY I'M SO GRATEFUL THAT YOU
CONTINUE TO TAKE OUR CALLS AND
APPEAR ON OUR PROGRAM.
ADAM TOOZE, HISTORY PROFESSOR.
HIS LATEST IS CALLED "SHUTDOWN:
HOW COVID SHOOK THE WORLD'S
ECONOMY," AND WE'RE GRATEFUL
THAT IT'S BROUGHT YOU TO US FROM
NEW YORK CITY TODAY.
THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Adam responds,
THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Text reads, “One Crisis After Another. Produced by: Wodek Szemberg @wodekszemburg”

Watch: One Crisis After Another