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Economist and writer Richard Davies has been here before—quite literally, and many times.

As an economist at the Bank of England from 2006 to 2011, Davies advised U.K. negotiators at the G20 and IMF meetings that organized the EU’s response to the 2008 financial crisis. He was later a senior advisor to the U.K.’s finance minister during the runup to the 2016 Brexit vote.

Apparently that wasn’t enough economic chaos for him. After leaving government, Davies started the global tour that became the book Extreme Economies, a collection of nine case studies published in the U.S. in January. Davies wanted to learn how economies succeeded in adapting—or failed to adapt—to hard times, a mission that took him from post-tsunami Indonesia to post-industrial Glasgow.

“I looked for places that should have failed,” says Davies, “but ended up with a working economy; and places that should have thriving economies, but failed.”

Not surprisingly, Davies has been thinking a lot about the coronavirus pandemic, its economic consequences—and the outlook for recovery. He recently took …