Don't assume there'll be a 'a post-COVID-19 era' - historian Niall Ferguson tells World Vs Virus

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 22JAN16 - Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History, Harvard University, USA gestures during the session 'Priorities for the United States in 2016' at the Annual Meeting 2016 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2016.  WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/ Michael Buholzer

If you believe in a rapid economic recover, Niall Ferguson has a bridge to sell you. Image: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/ Michael Buholzer

Robin Pomeroy
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  • Niall Ferguson warned in January that we were facing a likely pandemic.
  • Economic recovery will be slower than many think, he says.
  • And we'll have to learn to live with COVID-19, rather than hope to eliminate it.
  • Plus: the three books you should read during lockdown.
  • Subscribe to World Vs Virus on Apple, Soundcloud or Spotify to get it every week.

"I don't think we should assume there'll be a post-COVID-19 era, any more than there's a post-influenza era, or a post-tuberculosis era, or a post-AIDS era."

That's the assessment of historian Niall Ferguson, the main guest of this week's World Vs Virus podcast.

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"There are a whole bunch of diseases that we simply learn to live with as a species, because we can't eradicate them and we can't successfully vaccinate against them. It's better at this point to imagine a world with COVID-19, rather than a world after it," he says.


And the author of The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World has a stark prediction for the financial recovery in the post-COVID - or perhaps rather 'with-COVID' - world.

"We are now in the biggest economic shock since the Great Depression, and it's moving faster. The big question is: can we get out of it equally quickly?

"If you look at the forecasts that investment banks produce – and indeed governments – you get these wonderful V-shape projections suggesting that we'll be back to where we were at the end of 2019 by some point in 2021. If you believe that, I'll sell you a bridge ... because there's no way this is going to be a V-shaped recovery."

Also on the podcast: 3 books for a time of COVID:

Tariq Al Olaimy, of think-do-tank 3BL Associates shared three books he thinks anyone should read now.

  • Made For Goodness, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tutu
    Why he recommends it: The book stresses that it's possible to act with trust and love, even when events might suggest otherwise. "In times of crisis, we can always aspire to be more compassionate and more generous," Al Olaimy says.
  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
    Why he recommends it: The book challenges the reader to consider trees as complex beings, providing a new perspective on conservation efforts and the idea of 'public-planet partnerships'. "For me, reading this book is like taking a walk in a forest with the trees, whispering it's secrets for how we can best work together."
  • Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown
    Why he recommends it: This one-of-a-kind book is part science fiction, part manual for running an organization by the principles of nature. The notion of 'flocking' caught his eye as a metaphor for social distancing, Flocking, he explains, is: "Staying separate enough not to crowd each other, aligned enough to maintain a shared direction and cohesive enough to always move towards each other and build together."

Find all previous episodes of World Vs Virus here.

Subscribe on Apple, Soundcloud or Spotify.


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