Jonathan Tepperman, the managing editor of Foreign Affairs, has a new book out titled The Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline. In it, Tepperman examines ten places all over the world where governments have faced seemingly intractable problems and managed to solve them—from eradicating extreme poverty in Brazil, to reforming immigration in Canada, to fighting corruption in Singapore. Through original reporting, interviews with the major players, and expert analysis, Tepperman reveals how leaders adopted bold reforms and took political risks to get results. Earlier this week, he spoke about the book with Foreign Affairs deputy managing editor Justin Vogt.
This is, in essence, a book about good governance. It's a collection of stories about governments that have faced major challenges and have come up with solutions through political processes. It runs against the grain of most contemporary commentary on government and politics, which tends to focus on dysfunction, corruption, incompetence, and the failure of state institutions. Did you intend the book as a defense of government, or as defense of politics, at a moment when everyone seems to hate those things?
I intended it as a rebuttal, or a rejection, of two things, or as a response to two things. First was this overwhelming consensus that this is a time of terrible decline for the world, which we see in the media and which we hear constantly from pundits and politicians. There are certainly plenty of reasons why one might draw that conclusion, but I've never felt that it's right; I’ve rejected it on a sort of intuitive level. So I started the book with the idea that this consensus was wrong, and then I went looking for reasons to prove my intuition, rather than the other way around. And I was fortunate enough that I was able to find lots and lots of evidence to back up this intuition that I had.
That gets me to the second part of my answer to
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