A few months after covid-19 burst onto the world stage, it seemed clear why some countries were doing well and others poorly. Places that had strong, effective governments — China, Taiwan, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Germany — suffered few deaths from the virus. Places with weak leadership and bureaucracies that were dysfunctional — the United States, Britain, Italy, Chile, Brazil — did poorly.
But now, one year into the pandemic, the situation is somewhat more complicated. Many European countries that had gotten the virus under control have now seen sharp spikes in cases. Some countries that were pummeled by the virus have done very well with vaccinations. How to make sense of these new facts?
It remains true that the single strongest ingredient to successfully handling the pandemic has been strong and effective governmental institutions, particularly in the public health domain. But it turns out, that’s not enough. In addition to the state, we have to look at society.