Wanted: Tsarist resilience of the U.S. government


Everyone knows the “Black Swan”, which is an extreme one-time event that cannot be predicted. Think of the assassination of Grand Duke Franck Ferdinand in World War I or the stock market crash of 1987, which set a record for a single-day price drop. But what about the risks around us that are hidden in front of us?

Is anyone really surprised by the colony pipeline ransomware attack?or PG&E grid failure? Or was it Hurricane Katrina in 2008, the severe financial crisis, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, or the Covid-19 pandemic?

From policy makers and corporate executives to activists and journalists, many people have foreseen these risks. Details of these “gray swans”, such as the insurance company Aon Dubbing They may be unpredictable in the report. But the event itself is not.

Indeed, they represent Another threat that requires a new approach to risk management. If the pandemic makes one thing clear, it is that seemingly fragmented issues, including climate change, supply chain disruption, inflation, financial stability, inequality and nationalism, are actually intricate.

Coupled with ever-increasing digital connectivity, you will have what complexity theorists call “infinite” problems, rather than a series of finite problems. These are not the types of risks that can be resolved individually or even ultimately. They need to think about the nature of the fundamental problem, and ultimately change our life, work and governance.

Take for example The vulnerability of the U.S. agricultural system exposed by the pandemic. Because of the two isolated supply chains, even if farmers throw away their harvest, there are queues at the grocery store. One provides restaurants and the other provides grocery stores, and they are both highly concentrated.

In the meat supply chain severely damaged by the virus, only five counties meet most of the country’s demand. California’s San Bernardino and Riverside, the two most important states, are vital to the logistics of transportation in various industries. These places are also rife with natural disasters and economic inequality (California’s inland empire was forced to zero due to the housing crisis). Risk center, anyone?

The analysis of the meat industry by the non-profit public interest research organization MITRE shows that solving this complex problem involves challenges. You need to consider antitrust policies (why are the three company suppliers so large?) and agricultural subsidies. If we want to reduce carbon emissions, why pay farmers to grow crops that are mainly eaten by cattle?

National security is another issue-should China have as much pork production as the United States? The same is true for healthcare for vulnerable populations, as are technologies that are open enough to allow communication across multiple systems but need to be secured. The list is endless. That is only part of the agricultural sector. Apply this analysis to water, energy, finance or the Internet, and there are more and more complex spaghetti bowls.

There are many people who want to bring thinking about this complex system into the post-Covid world. I recently participated in the OECD’s “New Approach to Economic Challenges” event Explore whether the country’s short-term response to the influenza pandemic is generating greater resilience or simply exacerbating the failure of existing systems. Industry experts in places such as Darpa, the innovation department of the U.S. Department of Defense, are also thinking about how to make more resilient systems.

The Biden administration certainly has more ideas for such a joint system than any White House I can remember. But the United States can and should do more to deal with the gray swans.

An invaluable guide to these topics is a lengthy paper entitled “Expected Governance”, which suggests ways to help the administration deal with the “increasing speed and complexity of major challenges.” It was written in October 2012 by Leon Fuerth, a veteran diplomatic service officer, who was the National Security Advisor to Bill Clinton’s Vice President Al Gore.

As Fuerth said: “If we want to maintain a well-functioning republic and a prosperous country, no matter how skilled, the US government cannot rely on crisis management indefinitely. We must hurry before the incident, otherwise we will be The risk of catching up with events… Our 19th-century government was not built for the nature of the 21st century’s challenges.”

The report provides some wise suggestions. This is my own.America needs one elasticity The Czar of the White House, in direct contact with the president, can reduce the bureaucracy of the public sector, think across institutions, and begin to focus the government more on what is already being done, in a way that will reshape the U.S. economy in a structural way It’s different.

Such people should come from a national defense background, where the synchronization of complex systems from infrastructure and logistics to technology and personnel is a daily affair.

This may pose a theoretical challenge to the United States, because the United States usually shields its military from what happens within its borders. This is another systemic challenge to be solved in future columns.

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