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The Post-COVID State

Given the nature and scale of the demands being placed on modern states, it is clear that "business as usual" will no longer suffice, even if it remains the easiest option. For citizens in the world's democracies, the choice ultimately will be between various forms of abdication and concerted action.

CAMBRIDGE – The world is experiencing one of the most transformative moments of the last 75 years. The social, economic, and political consequences of the COVID-19 crisis have already been truly momentous, and they have most likely only just begun to be felt. In the United States, more than 40 million workers have filed unemployment claims since mid-March, and more and more families are being pushed to the brink of poverty. Around the world, millions more are facing even more precarious conditions, with 40-60 million people expected to fall below the extreme poverty line of less than $1.90 per day.

Most governments have proved dangerously unprepared for the crisis, which has exposed deep-seated weaknesses in public-health and social-security systems in rich and poor countries alike. Social and political tensions that have long been simmering just beneath the surface of the global economic order have begun to boil over, as evidenced most vividly by the protests in the US over the recent killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by four police officers in Minneapolis.

As has been widely noted, the unacceptably high number of COVID-19 deaths, especially in the US and the United Kingdom, are closely tied to the grotesque levels of inequality in both countries. Just before the pandemic struck, 12-15% of the US population was receiving food assistance, over 42% of adults qualified as obese, almost 9% of the population was still lacking health insurance, and 20% were covered by Medicaid (government-provided health insurance for the poor).

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