Meet the Leftish Economist With a New Story About Capitalism

from NYTs

Mariana Mazzucato was freezing. Outside, it was a humid late-September day in Manhattan, but inside — in a Columbia University conference space full of scientists, academics and businesspeople advising the United Nations on sustainability — the air conditioning was on full blast.

For a room full of experts discussing the world’s most urgent social and environmental problems, this was not just uncomfortable but off-message. Whatever their dress — suit, sari, head scarf — people looked huddled and hunkered down. At a break, Dr. Mazzucato dispatched an assistant to get the A.C. turned off. How will we change anything, she wondered aloud, “if we don’t rebel in the everyday?”

Dr. Mazzucato, an economist based at University College London, is trying to change something fundamental: the way society thinks about economic value. While many of her colleagues have been scolding capitalism lately, she has been reimagining its basic premises. Where does growth come from? What is the source of innovation? How can the state and private sector work together to create the dynamic economies we want? She asks questions about capitalism we long ago stopped asking. Her answers might rise to the most difficult challenges of our time.

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4 Responses to Meet the Leftish Economist With a New Story About Capitalism

  1. Stephen Hoffman December 3, 2019 at 4:04 pm #

    The perspective provided by Dr. Mazzucato is the exact definition of what it means for someone to think differently. This issue addresses a long-held notion about the way wealth is perceived in society, providing a different perspective to an idea that has not evolved or differentiated in years. While it is important to help those who are struggling, to try to lift people out of poverty through resources like social programs and welfare payments, it is important for politicians to remember that the job of the government in the economy needs to also be to stimulate innovation, much like Dr. Mazzucato argues in her work. By creating a progress-driven economy, we incentivize the bright minds of the world to take risks in their journey towards innovation and success. This allows for greater inventions and innovative business strategies that the economy needs to be encouraging.

    Dr. Mazzucato’s steps to work with legislators on helping to see this perspective take a formative hold in our governmental processes are encouraging, as she is clearly getting the attention of the right people in order to advance these beneficial ideas. The element that is particularly interesting is her implementation into Elizabeth Warren’s plans. Warren, currently a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the upcoming presidential elections, faces criticism largely over her policies that some consider anti-capitalistic. However, with the integration of these ideas into her policies, she may be able to answer to some of these claims and gain an advantage over the other candidates lacking some of the punch behind their economic ideas. The bipartisan support the idea has received so far is an encouraging sign that some form of agreement can be made to implement these ideas into the economic system of the future, which could stimulate the economy even further. The inclusion of the green new deal in this discussion is vital, as climate has forced us to reimagine our economic policy in terms of its effects on the earth, making these issues interconnected and opening the door for constructive solutions to long-standing problems using the new perspectives presented by Dr. Mazzucato.

  2. Daniel J Cambronero December 6, 2019 at 11:59 am #

    Of course we are destroying the environment with our economic activity, and air conditioning is a big part of that. And this contrast between scientists studying in a cold room is like the irony of each of them traveling to his conference instead of videoconferencing from wherever they work, burning tons of jet fuel to do so.

    The first thing an indigenous tribe in the Amazon does when setting up a new village is burn the jungle down to the ground, in order to drive out noxious insects and troublesome plants. We have always done this. Now there are so many of us it threatens the planet’s ability to absorb our activities and continue to grow.

    The environment is vital, and yet it always loses democratic elections—look at Jay Inslee, governor of Washington state, who was the first democratic candidate to pull out of the race this year. These questions are so challenging to our system of civilization that they outflank us time and again. Finding a way to make our comfort and wealth acquisition and interpersonal politics adapt to environmental considerations has been fitful and probably always will be. What we need are practical solutions that can win in democratic elections, and what it will take is probably a demonstration of economies of scale in some new technology that satisfies all the stakeholders and changes our behaviors indirectly.

  3. Alexander Nowik December 6, 2019 at 10:10 pm #

    Capitalism is the system we have right now. And if we are going to stay with that system, then we need to use it for greater social benefit, instead of just a select few corporations. If we are going to have such a large socialized government, then shouldn’t they be heading innovation, not staunching it? Perhaps instead of just place a choke hold on certain parts of the market the Government doesn’t like, it should help fund the parts that it does. For example electric cars were primarily funded by the government, and now Teslas are a popular brand of car that is influencing how people think about the potential of Eco-friendly cars. Her point on investing is also interesting because she talks about how the government constantly is having to “bail out” the market, becoming the “last resort investment” into the market, and that we should change the way we think about that. And I definitely think it would make more sense in a lot of ways, if we have our tax dollars going towards growing the economy, instead of into federal bureaus whose only jobs are to restrict the market.

  4. Connor Strack January 24, 2020 at 5:28 pm #

    Mariana Mazzucato provides a perspective on the state of the current capitalist economy that I believe most people trying to become more familiar with the subject should meditate on and try to understand. Capitalism has its fair share of issues stemming from its profit incentivizing, unequal nature of going about things, but advocates for a fairer system often tend to not be grounded in reality, and have little to no comprehension of the drivers of the system that has formed the most successful economies to ever exist. The same criticism can be made for citizens anywhere on the political spectrum, making this an amazing article to show anyone who is open to other opinions on how the economy actually functions. I believe the author did an excellent job emphasizing the importance of the state in providing funding for some of the most ambitious and society altering projects that have changed how we live. this point is ignored time and time again in favor of wealth distribution too often. Although wealth distribution is a valid issue that needs to be addressed in on way or another, a strategic mind would definitely begin talking about wealth creation as this economist has. By basing her economic arguments in the reality of a competent state that has pushed us in the right direction of economic growth quite often, a new dynamic is presented to small government advocates which give them an exponentially more appealing reason to consider that the world is not as black and white as they may think it is.

    To further the author’s point, the U.S. government’s role in creating modern day Silicon Valley, a hotbed of technological innovation that may very well be the birth place of the next invention to change the world, is a prime example of why we cannot under utilize such an influential power that has a track record of developing profitable business. Directing public dollars towards the right things and outlining how we should invest as a nation to create the best economy possible is a conversation that will attract people from any background. There cannot be levels of influence of this magnitude without a consideration for the risk associated, and that is where I think much contemplation is required to refute established organizations like the Cato Institute whose expressed purpose is to heavily refute any narratives that involve government power. There was a lack of explaining the downside of government intervention and how it can inhibit growth in the article, but I imagine that is more indicative of the article rather than the economist.

    Mazzacuto does an excellent job at presenting her view of the economic debate in a way that everyone can understand. I am extremely happy that political candidates have taken this to heart, as I am sure that it will make for much more substantive conversation across parties than we are generally used to. I also appreciated her calculated progressive points like “If we continue to depict the state as only a facilitator and administrator, and tell it to stop dreaming, in the end that is what we get” where we get a more blunt statement of what kind of government she wants, but also it follows a long explanation of wealth creation that undoubtedly makes her opponents much more receptive to the things she is saying.

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