Sep 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bloomberg's top editor talks the pandemic's long-tail risk to the West

Cover of the book "The Wake Up Call"

Cover: HarperCollins

A new book, "The Wake-Up Call" — by Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait and The Economist political editor Adrian Wooldridge — warns the West about what can happen to great powers that mishandle a pandemic.

Axios talked to Micklethwait on Friday night, on his ride from Bloomberg's tower in London to the English countryside:

It's really important whether we find a vaccine. It's really important what happens to the economy. But in 20 years' time, if a historian looks back at this year and they say, "Wow, 2020 was the year when Asia clearly began to get ahead of the West," that will be a much bigger deal. 
The aim of our book is to say to the West: "Wake up." Most of the things Asia are doing are things we can copy — not anything to do with autocracy, just simple things like improving schools and so on.

Micklethwait told me the West's decline isn't inevitable:

If you look at bits of the West, they are still massively superior. You look at all the brains and talent in Silicon Valley, that's not really comparative in places like China. The challenge for the next American president is to try and reunite a wider version of the West, which brings in all the democracies of the world. ...
America has to wake up when it comes to the public sector side. What COVID showed is merely having a very dynamic private sector is not enough. Unless people start to think about how to reform American government, America will fall behind. ...
I do very strongly believe in the power of American regeneration.

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