Pierson Castor is a rising senior studying politics & international relations as well as biblical studies


(This post is the next in Readings in Reconciliation.  Click to learn more about the segment and the series, From the Field.)


The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed much about the world’s current trajectory. It has also revealed the opportunity we have to ensure a bright future. But will we take it? Will we learn the lessons necessary to overcome our current state? These are the questions Fareed Zakaria asks in his book Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World. Zakaria discusses a variety of topics, such as free markets, urbanization, and technology. The biggest takeaway is that the world is changing; urbanization and technology will continue to have a growing impact on our lives. While this may be scary to some, it actually brings about new and exciting opportunities for humanity, if only we choose to utilize it. Though it may seem paradoxical considering the pandemic, the world is less isolated than ever before. This should inspire us toward solidarity and unity, not withdrawal.

One of Zakaria’s biggest themes is the size and scope of government. He writes, “Simply enlarging the size of government does little to solve societal problems. Good government is about limited power but clear lines of authority. It is about giving officials autonomy, discretion, and the ability to exercise their own judgment” (Zakaria 53). I certainly agree with this understanding, for I doubt that most of our current problems are the result of government overstepping its appropriate bounds. Rather, I believe the problem is us as the electorate enabling partisan politicians who constantly choose party over the public good. I wonder whether we shall ever acquire the will to reverse course and allow the government to meet the demands of the 21st century.

One area in which I slightly disagree with Zakaria is on the relationship between markets and government, which he describes as a pendulum swing. Since the Reagan administration, the dominant view in the United States has been that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” It is certainly this understanding with which I most align, but not because I doubt the need for government intervention. We live in a fallen world, and because free markets are a reflection of the people in them, markets are sometimes in need of correcting. Nevertheless, unlike other economic systems, capitalism recognizes the innate selfishness of man and utilizes it for the common good. Though it can sometimes allow for monopolies, it reduces the likelihood of concentrated power because of the government’s minimized role. Zakaria argues that the Covid-19 pandemic reveals the need for a stronger government role: “A weak, malfunctioning state, highly unequal access to health care, relief mechanisms that help people with capital and connections much more than those who work for their wages. The disillusionment began with the global financial crisis” (64). I wonder, however, whether Covid-19 revealed the need for a greater government role or necessitated it. In other words, do we need the government to take a more active role in our lives generally, or do we need it to temporarily step up and help us address this particular problem? I would argue the latter. After all, before the pandemic, the United States possessed the greatest economy in world history. It did not need government assistance until a public health crisis obstructed things.

All in all, this book has opened my eyes to a lot of the trends developing in the world, as well as the need for certain reforms. Covid-19 has revealed many inadequacies in our system, especially regarding infrastructure and health care. I think it is important that we address these problems, and I doubt we will have a greater opportunity than this present one. Additionally, I think this book—in explaining how the pandemic has added to particular divisions—reveals the need to listen to our fellow countrymen and seek a greater understanding of others’ struggles. The world is more interconnected than it has ever been, yet we can still go our entire lives blissfully unaware of what ails those in different parts of the country. Unless we task ourselves with stepping outside of the little bubbles in which we live, polarization, inequality, and hostility will increase. It is this lesson from the book that has most impacted me and my view of our current plight.


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