Examining issues both obvious and subtler, Zakaria sets out how and why the world has changed forever. The speed with which the Covid-19 virus spread around the world was shocking, and the fallout has been staggering. In fact, writes the author, “it may well turn out that this viral speck will cause the greatest economic, political, and social damage to humankind since World War II.” The U.S., in particular, was exposed as woefully unprepared, as government leadership failed to deliver a clear, practical message, and the nation’s vaunted medical institutions were caught flat-footed: "Before the pandemic…Americans might have taken solace in the country’s great research facilities or the huge amounts of money spent on health care, while forgetting about the waste, complexity and deeply unequal access that mark it as well." While American leaders wasted months denying the seriousness of Covid-19 and ignoring the advice of medical experts, other countries—e.g., South Korea, New Zealand, and Taiwan—acted swiftly and decisively, underscoring one of the author's main themes and second lesson: "What matters is not the quantity of government but the quality.” Discussing how “markets are not enough,” the author astutely shoots down the myth that throwing money at the problem can fix the situation; as such, he predicts a swing toward more socialist-friendly policies. Zakaria also delves into the significance of the digital economy, the resilience of cities (see the success of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taipei in suppressing the virus), the deepening of economic inequality around the world, how the pandemic has exacerbated the rift between China and the U.S. (and will continue to do so), and why “people should listen to the experts—and experts should listen to the people."
A cleareyed, concise look at current and future affairs offering pertinent points to reflect and debate.