We all know the standard story: our economy would be more dynamic if only the government would get out of the way. The economist Mariana Mazzucato says we’ve got that story backward. She argues that the government, by funding so much early-stage research, is hugely responsible for big successes in tech, pharma, energy, and more. But the government also does a terrible job in claiming credit — and, more important, getting a return on its investment.
The Entrepreneurial State: debunking public vs. private sector myths (Anthem 2013) is stirring up much-needed debate worldwide about the role of the state in fostering long-run innovation led economic growth.
The book comprehensively debunks the myth of a lumbering, bureaucratic state versus a dynamic, innovative private sector. In a series of case studies—from IT, biotech, nanotech to today’s emerging green tech—Professor Mazzucato shows that the opposite is true: the private sector only finds the courage to invest after an entrepreneurial state has made the high-risk investments. In an intensely researched chapter, she reveals that every technology that makes the iPhone so ‘smart’ was government funded: the Internet, GPS, its touch-screen display and the voice-activated Siri.
Mazzucato also controversially argues that in the history of modern capitalism the State has not only fixed market failures, but has also actively shaped and created markets. In doing so, it sometimes wins and sometimes fails. Yet by not admitting the State’s role in such active risk taking, and pretending that the state only cheers on the side-lines while the private sector roars, we have ended up creating an ‘innovation system’ whereby the public sector socializes risks, while rewards are privatized. The book considers how to change this dysfunctional dynamic so that economic growth can be not only ‘smart’ but also ‘inclusive’.
In 2014 Professor Mazzucato was awarded the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy for her work on smart growth and the entrepreneurial state. The book was shortlisted for the prestigious Wirtschaftsbuchpreis in Germany and featured on the 2013 books of the year lists of the Financial Times and Forbes. It has been translated into Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Greek and Polish, and is forthcoming in Chinese, Japanese and Korean.