At The Financial Times: Matthew Taylor on a more progressive manifesto for Labour, some thoughts by Political Reporter

Beware of the manifesto bearing Public Intellectual/Politician or should we call Mr. Taylor by his actual name? a former ‘ Chief Adviser on Political Strategy to the Prime Minister’? See Mr. Taylor’s impressive CV here:

The temptation is to compare Mr. Taylor’s fascination with  Professor Mariana Mazzucato, author of The Entrepreneurial State, with Mrs. Thatcher’s penchant for passing out copies of Road to Serfdom? If Utopianism is the object of the Right’s contempt for Marx and his epigones, and even Keynes or Piketty, where might the thinking reader put Mr. Taylor’s enthusiasm? Here are some links about Professor Mariana Mazzucato and her book:

Reviews of her book:

The Economist is a bit fretful of Professor Mazzucato’s thesis, yet after the initial repetition of press release chatter, in the end warms to the notion of The Entrepreneurial State: that oscillates politically between   Jeffersonian/Hamiltonian imperatives and a control of the costs of ‘entitlements’ as a measure of necessary reforms. The last paragraph of the review is telling:

Quibbles aside, Ms Mazzucato is right to argue that the state has played a central role in producing game-changing breakthroughs, and that its contribution to the success of technology-based businesses should not be underestimated. She is also right to point out that the “profligate” countries that are suffering the most from the current crisis (such as Greece and Italy) are those that have spent the least on R&D and education. There are many reasons why policymakers must modernise the state and bring entitlements under control. But one of the most important is that a well-run state is a vital part of a successful innovation system.

Jeff Madrick, at the NYRB has unstinting praise for Professor Mazzucato: ‘ It is one of the most incisive economic books in years.’ Mr. Madrick doesn’t share Mr. Wortsell’s penchant for concise and clear definitions. He also reviews ‘Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy: Markets, Speculation and the State’ by William H. Janeway. Insights are many and worth your time and attention, although his almost worshipful stance to Janeway reaches to the level of the obsequious- he seems star struck, dazzled by Janeway’s ability to make money. The real insights offered by Mr. Madrick is that he devotes time to Mr. Janeway’s book that offer a history of government involvement with innovative technologies. A long excerpt worthy of quotation:

Mazzucato claims not that business entrepreneurs and venture capitalists did not make crucial contributions, but that they were, on balance, more averse to risks than government researchers. One successful venture capitalist, William Janeway, fully acknowledges the fundamental contributions of government research in his book, Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy. He is concerned that the antigovernment attitudes of recent decades may prove dangerous. “The very success in ‘liberating’ the market economy from the encroachment of the state,” he writes, which defines today’s conventional economic wisdom, as the quote by Summers suggests, “has potentially dire consequences for the Innovation Economy.”

Janeway is a well-informed economist as well as a successful venture entrepreneur, and he argues for the importance of government in the nation’s economic growth. With the development of huge, highly profitable corporations in steel, oil, aluminum, chemicals, and communications by the late 1800s, he notes, crucial research was increasingly dominated by the private sector. Janeway cites the business historian Alfred Chandler to show that this is not an example of the free market at work. Rather, the huge, unchallenged profits of large oligopolistic companies enabled them to make long-term investments in research. Chandler called it the “visible hand.” Still, while Bell Labs and Xerox PARC, as well as research labs at General Electric, DuPont, and Alcoa, among others, made important, even legendary discoveries, they were also partly financed by Washington.

See Mr.Tim Worstall‘s rather tart dismissal at Forbes, as he looks at the idea of ‘public goods’ as argued by Professor Mazzucato. His conclusion is expressed as kind of doubt that is hard to argue with.

But if we’ve got a patent there then it’s not a public good any more, is it? For the patent itself means that whatever it is is now excludable. This is an either or proposition. Either something is a public good because we cannot exclude people from it and therefore it must be that we cannot get a patent on it. Or, alternatively, we can get a patent, it is excludable, therefore it is a private, not public, good. It cannot be both patented and also a public good.

And it’s on the basis of this sort of argumentation that she wants to upend the system of fostering innovation and invention. I think not, don’t you? Whether we agree or not with the State taking a larger role let’s at least wait until someone comes up with some logically consistent arguments.

One could wonder, out loud, whether Professor Mazzucato’s book is a predictor of the Political Corporatism, that, in America, is the course charted by President Obama and his Republican allies in Congress? The TPA and TPP?

With my exploration of  Professor Mazzucato’s book/Progressive Manifesto, Mr. Taylor returns, in his essay, to the political world of Labour politics, and a very sophisticated plea for a leadership headed by the ‘Progressive’ Ms. Kendall not by ‘Left Wing Firebrand’ Mr. Corbyn, to foreshorten it!

Political Reporter

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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