• Geoff Mulgan

How not to waste a crisis - possibilities for government after COVID-19

Updated: Apr 4, 2020

Wars are always dramatic accelerators of change. So are crises of any kind. Coronavirus could turn out to be just be a one-off blip, with normal service resuming once the worst of it is over. But it could prove to be a step change that’s used to accelerate changes that were long overdue.

I am not an expert on epidemics so will make no comment on how this one might pan out. But we have already seen an extraordinary reassertion of big government, with COVID-19 serving as an extreme stress test for governments of all kinds. Some patterns are already becoming clear (and will be usefully documented in this new tracker from the Blavatnik School at Oxford). So far governments in east Asia have proven the most adept, others less so (according to The Lancet, for example, ‘the US and UK Governments have provided among the world's worst responses to the pandemic, with sheer lies and incompetence from the former, and near-criminal delays and obfuscation from the latter.’)

It's too soon to make definitive judgements. No-one knows what the picture will look like in a few months’ time, and how, overall, the very different approaches of Sweden and Israel, Taiwan and Japan, will be assessed. Here I attempt something different: a first look at what might happen in relation to government once the crisis is over, and some tentative thoughts on what approaches may be adapted from COVID-19 to other problems like climate change.