Quotes from the book for discussion

Although there are no discussion questions available, I am including a number of quotes from the book to stimulate discussion. 

  1. Lenin is supposed to have once said, “There are decades when nothing happens, and then there are weeks when decades happen.”
  2. The post-pandemic world is going to be, in many aspects, a sped-up version of the world we knew.
  3. A world on steroids can suffer unpredictable side effects.
  4. Athens was democratic, Sparta a more rigidly run warrior society. Sparta eventually prevailed, and it’s not a stretch to say that, had there been no plague, Athens might have won, and the course of Western history would have been different—with a vibrant democracy becoming a successful role model rather than a flame that burned brightly, but then flickered out. Plagues have consequences.
  5. Deadly pathogens, either man-made or natural, could trigger a global health crisis, and the United States is wholly unprepared to deal with it.
  6. Pathogens, viruses, and diseases are equal-opportunity killers. When the crisis comes, we will wish we had more funding and more global cooperation. But then, it will be too late.
  7. This emergency has highlighted one of the oldest truths about international life—that ultimately, countries are on their own. There is no supreme authority, no world government, no Leviathan that maintains order. …In fact, history is filled with periods of war and peace. …But in the end, in extremis, they walk alone.
  8. The pandemic, for its part, can be thought of as nature’s revenge. The way we live now is practically an invitation for animal viruses to infect humans.  …The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that three-quarters of new human diseases originate in animals. That was the case for AIDS, Ebola, SARS, MERS, bird flu, swine flu, and, most likely, the novel coronavirus. Because in many parts of the world, people are living closer to wild animals.
  9. Developing countries are modernizing so quickly that they effectively inhabit several different centuries at the same time. In the shadows of the skyscrapers are wildlife markets full of exotic animals, a perfect cauldron for animal-to-human viral transfer.
  10. “We are doing things every day that make pandemics more likely,” said Peter Daszak, an eminent disease ecologist.
  11. “Outbreaks are inevitable but pandemics are optional,” says Larry Brilliant, the American physician who helped eradicate smallpox forty-five years ago. What he means is that we may not be able to change the natural occurrences that produce disease in the first place, but through preparation, early action, and intelligent responses, we can quickly flatten its trajectory.
  12. You cannot defeat a global disease with local responses.
  13. For the twentieth century, the great political debate was about the size and role of government in the economy—the quantity of government. But what seems to have mattered most in this crisis was the quality of government.  In other words, some of the countries that beat the virus had big governments, while others had small ones. What was the common element? A competent, well-functioning, trusted state—the quality of government.
  14. As a result, at the heart of American government, there is a ceaseless series of quid pro quos—money raised for favors bestowed.
  15. For four decades, America has largely been run by people who openly pledge to destroy the very government they lead. Is it any wonder that they have succeeded?
  16. The creation of a national strategy for the pandemic, for example, was complicated by the existence of 2,684 state, local, and tribal health departments, each jealously guarding its independence. This patchwork of authority is a nightmare when tackling a disease that knows no borders.
  17. If there is an iconic idea at the heart of the country, it is that America is a place where anyone can make it, where children grow up expecting to do better than their parents, where a person from any background can become president, or even better, a billionaire.  …from Barack Obama to Steve Jobs. But they turn out to be brilliant exceptions, not representative of the fate of most Americans.
  18. Now that the world has experienced a global pandemic, it should have become painfully clear that people need to listen to experts.
  19. Marc Andreessen, the inventor of Mosaic, the first major web browser, published an essay in the Wall Street Journal under a perplexing headline: “Why Software Is Eating the World.” …Even the most seemingly traditional companies are taking advantage of software.
  20. In other words, by almost all measures since the 1990s, globalization has galloped forward and in the last few years it has taken one or two steps back. That’s not deglobalization – that’s a pause.