Mariana Mazzucato on the mission economy

MissionEconomyHere is a brief quote from Mariana Mazzucato’s latest book, which neatly sums up her main arguments. She wants policymakers to reform capitalism by establishing stronger and more participatory state-led innovation, drawing lessons from the ‘mission’ that resulted in the first moon landing, and led to a whole host of spin-off technologies in the years that followed.

“Mission-oriented thinking cannot be based on the status quo. The mission attitude is not about picking individual sectors to support but about identifying problems that can catalyse collaboration between many different sectors. It is not about handing out money to firms because they are small or because they are in need, but structuring policies that can crowd in different solutions (projects) by multiple types of organizations. It is not about fixing markets but creating markets. It is not about de-risking but sharing risks. It is not about picking winners but picking the willing. And it is not simply about setting the ‘rules of the game’ but about changing the game itself so that a new direction can foster change – change towards a green transition and/or the digitalization of the population.”

Mariana Mazzucato (2021), Mission Economy – A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism, Allen Lane, p.159.

Pathways to a progressive capitalism

To some the notion of a capitalism that can fulfill progressive goals is anathema. In today’s world of multiple crises, we may seem some way from such a society. But there are plenty of innovative thinkers who do not think that replacing capitalism is the only way to solve our major economic, social and environmental problems. That is not to say that capitalism will necessarily be with us forever. It remains a historically specific mode of organisation of the economy, and at some point humanity may evolve past it. But there is no doubting its tremendous power to transform the world, for good and ill. Reform-minded progressives are about harnessing this power to achieve and sustain what is in their eyes the good, and to undo and prevent the negative aspects. Continue reading

Marxism without guarantees – the economics of Resnick and Wolff

Richard Wolff is perhaps the most prominent Marxist economist in America today. He hosts the weekly program Economic Update, which can be found on YouTube and elsewhere. Whether or not one agrees with his views, he comes across as a thoroughly engaging communicator. With his colleague, the late Stephen Resnick, he developed an original approach to Marxist political economy over the last few decades. He sees political activism and public education as the way to promote and achieve the socially transformative goals which arise from his academic work.

Although I have found there to be much to admire and absorb in Marx and plenty of his multifarious followers, I would not call myself a Marxist. Wolf unashamedly does so, in his quest to end exploitation in the workplace, which he and Resnick see as the key to unlocking the workings of capitalism and ending it in order to achieve greater social justice in a transformed society. Continue reading

Economics and nature – approaches, problems, solutions

599px-The_Blue_MarbleIt is sometimes easy to forget the ‘other’ crises facing the world as we become absorbed in dealing with Covid-19. Opinions may differ, but climate change and, more broadly, humanity’s impact on planetary ecology, have not gone away. Stark inequalities of income and wealth, within and between many nations, are also key to much dissatisfaction, distress and conflict.

This post will look at some of the approaches used to study the economics of the ‘environment’, or ‘nature’, as some would have it. It identifies some of the problems addressed by these approaches, as well as some possible solutions, and raises some questions usually neglected by mainstream economics. These include ideas studied by political economy, such as treating economic growth and development as a process of socioeconomic (and natural) transformation, rather than a linear process of factor substitution and accumulation subject to random shocks. Continue reading