In This Review

Shutdown: How COVID Shook the World’s Economy
Shutdown: How COVID Shook the World’s Economy
By Adam Tooze
Viking, 2021, 368 pp
Purchase

In this first draft of history, Tooze surveys the economic effects of and public policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The author ranges widely over economics, finance, geopolitics, and epidemiology, displaying a firm grasp of both minutiae and the big picture. His focus is on central bankers, finance ministers, and the public policy responses they crafted under intense pressure. Tooze applauds them for heading off the worst but does not shy away from difficult questions about the implications of their actions for the future: he wonders whether central bank independence will remain viable given how central bankers stretched their mandates and what unprecedented budget deficits and heavy public debts imply for fiscal sustainability and fiscal rules going forward. Future scholars will see this book as a record of how informed observers saw the events of 2020 as they unfolded. Readers, having lived through those same events, might ask how they themselves would have written this history.