Niall Ferguson on Doom, Disaster and Democracy | Amanpour and Company

Renowned historian Niall Ferguson has bad news: We’re getting worse, not better, at handling disasters like the pandemic. This is the argument he lays out in his new book “Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe”, which sets 2020 into wider context and asks why many countries’ initial responses to coronavirus were too slow. He speaks with Walter Isaacson about how we got here and what the next big disaster might be.

Originally aired on May 11, 2021.


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Amanpour and Company features wide-ranging, in-depth conversations with global thought leaders and cultural influencers on the issues and trends impacting the world each day, from politics, business and technology to arts, science and sports. Christiane Amanpour leads the conversation on global and domestic news from London with contributions by prominent journalists Walter Isaacson, Michel Martin, Alicia Menendez and Hari Sreenivasan from the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Doom: Niall Ferguson on the Politics and Policies of the Pandemic

Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe, his new book on the decisions made by governments and public health officials around the world during the COVID pandemic. In this wide-ranging discussion, Ferguson describes what governments and leaders got right and got wrong—very wrong—over the 15 months since the coronavirus spread from China. Were the lockdowns instituted around the world prudent and life saving, or did they cause more damage by crippling economies and creating massive unemployment and enormous government debt across the globe? How can vaccines be created and distributed faster and more efficiently than this one? Finally, what lessons can we learn from this pandemic that can be applied to or even prevent the next one? Yes, Niall is certain there will be another one.

YES Online Conversation with Fareed Zakaria and Niall Ferguson

Yalta European Strategy in partnership with the Victor Pinchuk Foundation continues its series of online conversations on global challenges and what they mean for Ukraine. The 2nd conversation focused on how #COVID19​ transforms the world and how countries can use the crisis to build a better future. Fareed Zakaria, Host, Fareed Zakaria GPS, CNN, discussed his book “Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World” with Niall Ferguson, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Victor Pinchuk, founder of YES, Victor Pinchuk Foundation, EastOne group, opened the conversation.

In his introductory remarks, Victor Pinchuk said: “Because we will meet for our traditional YES annual meeting only in 2021, until then, some of the world’s greatest minds and important decisionmakers agreed to get together online, to analyse global challenges and what they mean for Ukraine. Today, we have the great pleasure of welcoming Fareed Zakaria and Niall Ferguson. From your combined intellectual firepower, we expect some excellent advice.”

Speaking on how COVID-19 transforms the world, Fareed Zakaria said: COVID-19 has been the great accelerator. It has taken trends that were already happening, and massively accelerated them. But I think sometimes that when you accelerate a phenomenon or a structural change so far, so fast, it can have a fairly dramatic effect that might not have happened, had the same thing happened slowly. (...) The pandemic has been the great accelerator, not the transformative wave that some others are talking about.” He added: “This pandemic has really affected everyone. It is very difficult to imagine a phenomenon that has literally changed the lives of every human being on the planet. That gives you a sense of the magnitude.”

Answering Neil Ferguson’s question about effectiveness of democracies versus authoritarian states, Mr. Zakaria pointed out: “We in the West are losing faith in democracy for no reason. It is not democracy that is failing us in the sense that democracies cannot perform public functions, they can. What we have developed in the west is atherosclerosis: we have created bureaucracies that are strange, highly politicized, and then we are surprised that those institutions and democracies don’t function well. But this is not about democracy. Democracies can do it. It is not about the quantity of government, it is about the quality of government.”

Discussing the challenge for Ukraine that finds itself in the middle of competition within a bipolar world, Fareed Zakaria noted: “Fundamentally, Ukraine’s problem is that it needs to be secure and independent. For that, it needs the support of the West in a fairly unqualified way. The second part is that Ukraine has to reform. It has to find a way to viably build its institutions and create an open economy, deal with corruption, all those things. And that requires a degree of independence and protection. The West has to help by providing some security and some guarantees, but ultimately, the Ukrainians have to do this.”

The YES Annual Meeting 2020 was postponed due to the #COVID​-19 pandemic. YES and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation remain committed to integrating Ukraine with the world and put the country on the international agenda. Since 2004, Yalta European Strategy has been the main non-governmental platform for connecting the world and Ukraine. The YES Annual Meetings have brought together world political, business and thought leaders to discuss Ukraine’s future and pressing global challenges.

Coleman Hughes on Counterfactual History with Niall Ferguson [MINI CLIP]

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