Chicken little forecast

Still Chugging Along

Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.


Civil Calm, Vaccine Balm

What went right lately? The sexy story of which unsexy economic incentive might have just saved us all, voter wins from state and local ballots across the country, and more

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

This is an extract from our bi-weekly newsletter, What Could Go Right? Sign up to receive it here.

One wild ride—the election—is over, and just like that we’re back on the other one that we’re desperate to end: the pandemic. Before we get to COVID, though, a quick but thankful acknowledgement that the much-anticipated election violence did not materialize. (Hopefully you did not buy gunmaker stocks, which, as delightedly put by Al Jazeera, were “hit by civil calm.”) Whether you feel the potential for unrest was overstated or that avoiding war is a depressingly low bar to clear, we can still be relieved that we haven’t toppled over the edge. As sociologist Martin Eiermann wrote in Persuasion, “The foundations are holding.”
And now Pfizer’s announcement that their vaccine was 90% effective in late-stage trials. Following this in the news this week was like coming down from a drug high. First, The Economist: “this is the start of the end of the pandemic.” Burn your leisure-turned-office clothes! But wait . . . the data hasn’t been peer reviewed yet. There are massive production and distribution issues to consider. We might not be looking at a worldwide change of affairs until 2022. And yet the hope is tantalizing. Are we allowed to get excited or not?
One thing we’re careful to clarify about our mission is that we aren’t here to blindly boost good news (although we don’t think it costs much to be hopeful about vaccine progress). We are here to push the values that led to such progress in the first place. And one of those, believe it or not, is the story of economic incentives. Back in May, TPN Member Alex Tabarrok and other economists pushed for advance market commitment from the US government, which is exactly what happened: in July the Trump administration committed to buying 100 million doses of a future vaccine from Pfizer, an unusual decision that by mitigating the company’s financial risk allowed them to go full-steam ahead in pursuing a vaccine. 
So, advance market commitment. Perhaps an unsexy lesson to learn, but an important one to remember. And in the hope category, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson are all in late-stage COVID vaccine trials, and are expecting to report efficacy data before year’s end. Lost? Here’s an easy-to-follow vaccine development graph from our friends at GZERO Media.

One silly thing: there’s another “Jo Baiden,” and he’s the mayor of a small Japanese town:

Read the entirety of this week’s newsletter here.

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Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.