Kapuscinski Development Lecture with Joe Stiglitz; Post Pandemic World: Restructuring the Global Public Good

December 02, 2020

This is not an equal opportunity virus, it goes after those who are most vulnerable. It has exposed and exacerbated inequalities in our society.” 

On October 6th, the Istanbul Center hosted the Kapuscinski Development Lecture with Professor Joseph Stiglitz on “The Post Pandemic World: Restructuring the Global Public Good.” The lecture started with introductions by Jutta Urpilanien, European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Mirjana Spoljaric, UN Assistant Secretary-General, and Ipek Cem Taha, Director of the Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul. 

Joseph Stiglitz started his lecture by saying that countries around the world responded differently to the Covid-19 pandemic. The US, Brazil, and India failed in their respective responses to the crisis, whereas Denmark and New Zealand did a better job in controlling both the pandemic and its economic aftermath. So what accounts for the successes and failures of different countries in coping with the Covid-19 pandemic? Are there any generalizations, Stiglitz asked, that we can draw from this encounter? According to Stiglitz, countries that recognize the importance of science and institutions; and those that demonstrate a deep respect for their citizens have done better. As he discusses in his recent book, Power, People and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent, countries which respect science, social organization, credibility, and the institutions for the verification of truth have succeeded to raise the standard of living for their societies in the last 250 years. Not surprisingly, these countries managed to cope with the pandemic better than others. 

Stiglitz argued that 6 months after the outbreak of the pandemic, it became more clear that the US was particularly vulnerable to this crisis due to the existing inequalities such as the lack of access to health care and good nutrition. “This is not an equal opportunity virus,” Stiglitz continued, “it goes after those who are most vulnerable. It has exposed and exacerbated inequalities in our society.” 

Now, there is a global consensus that we don’t want to bounce back to where we were in January 2020. Speaking on the impact of Covid-19 on globalization, Stiglitz argued that the pandemic made us all realize, all of a sudden, that “viruses do not carry passports, they can go anywhere in the world.” However, the economic system that we have created is not resilient on global supply chains. At the height of the pandemic, the US was not able to produce masks, protective gear for health care workers, or ventilators. There is a need to create more resilient supply chains going forward. 

On the other hand, the pandemic also showed that we need global cooperation. The post-Cold War optimism that we would all convert to liberal democracies and free-market economies have been dashed with the pandemic. At an earlier conversation with economist Thomas Piketty hosted by the Columbia University’s Paris Center, Joe Stiglitz had argued that in the 1970s shareholder value maximization was believed to be the most important goal. At the time, Stiglitz wrote numerous articles that this was in fact a false assumption as the well-being of the society and environment were just as important. The Covid-19 crisis demonstrated the need for such regulatory frameworks towards the formation of a research-based, greener economy and equal society in the post-pandemic world.

This lecture was organized in partnership with the European Commission and United Nations Development Program.