On justice and equality as contributors to post-pandemic resilience

20200501 Post Event Notes / Saturday, May 2nd, 2020


An annotated bibliography for readers who want to go deeper into these public policy issues, discussed at the webinar on “Beyond the Pandemic”, 1 May 2020.

I spoke about the importance of resilience in an interconnected, interdependent world that will face more collective action problems, how we have become market societies that valorise market-based efficiency as the main metric of good policies, and how, after the pandemic, considerations of justice and equality have to be given greater weightage in public policy.

1.                   On resilience, the sustainable use of the global commons (e.g. global public health, climate change mitigation, environmental resources), and the institutions or rules that are needed to govern them, Elinor Ostrom’s Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action is one of the canonical texts. A summary of Ostrom’s pioneering work can be found at The Only Woman to Win the Nobel Prize in Economics Also Debunked the Orthodoxy by David Bollier.

2.                   I highlighted the parallels between a pandemic and climate change, as problems of the global commons that we systemically under-estimate and under-prepare for, in Covid-19 and Climate Change have a lot more in common than you think, published by TODAY.

3.                   On how we have become not just market economies, but also market societies that valorise efficiency: the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel’s What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets is a powerful critique of the marketisation and privatisation of things that we used to consider social or public. A summary of the book can be found at The Atlantic.

4.                   I argue that efficiency needs to be balanced with considerations of resilience and justice in Beyond the pandemic: efficiency, resilience, justice, published by Academia.sg.

5.                   On the balance between a strong state and a strong society, The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson should remind us why Singapore cannot just rely on a strong government. The Financial Times’ Martin Wolf wrote an excellent review of the book here.

6.                   I referred to the idea of a narrow corridor between a strong, dominant state on the one hand, and on the other, a strong society capable of constraining the state’s excesses and correcting for its failures, in Managing the coronavirus crisisdrawing the right lessons, published by Academia.sg and the South China Morning Post.  

7.                   Finally, I suggest a five-step plan for exiting the lockdowns and argue for a rethink of our overly networked world, in The coronavirus has shown us the global economic system is no longer fit for purpose, published by the South China Morning Post. 

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