In the Financial Times John Kay reviews the new book by Mariana Mazzucato. The book is called Mission Economy. A Moonshot Guide to Change Capitalism.
Mazzucato, like she did before, argues for governments “creating market” and “steering” capitalism in one direction or another. Ambitious goals should fuel mission-oriented capitalism, with government at the helm.
Kay has many excellent points but I particularly commend these:
But Apollo was a success because the objective was specific and limited; the basic science was well understood, even if many subsidiary technological developments were needed to make the mission feasible; and the political commitment to the project was sufficiently strong to make budget overruns almost irrelevant. Centrally directed missions have sometimes succeeded when these conditions are in place; Apollo was a response to the Soviet Union’s pioneering launch of a human into space, and the greatest achievement of the USSR was the mobilisation of resources to defeat Nazi Germany. Nixon’s war on cancer, explicitly modelled on the Apollo programme, was a failure because cancer is not a single illness and too little was then — or now — understood about the science of cell mutation. Mao’s Great Leap Forward, a vain bid to create an industrial society within five years, proved to be one of the greatest economic and humanitarian disasters in human history. At least 30m people died. The ‘new frontier’ of the late 1960s turned out to be, not space, but IT — characterised by a striking absence of centralised vision and direction Democratic societies have more checks and balances to protect them from visionary leaders driven by missions and enthused by moonshots, but the characteristics which made the Great Leap Forward a catastrophe are nevertheless still evident in attenuated version. With political direction of innovation we regularly encounter grandiosity of ambition and scale; the belief that strength of commitment overcomes practical problems; an absence of honest feedback; the suppression of sceptical comment and marginalisation of sceptical commentators.
Read the whole thing.