"We really need to reframe what government is for."
It’s hard not to notice that we’re flunking tests, right and left, and running out of strategies against global-size troubles. COVID, we said, was our test for the age of viruses. At summer’s end the variants are gaining and most of the world is unvaccinated. Afghanistan became a 20-year test of the notion that a public-private force of money, drones, a few troops, and contractors on the ground could win an asymmetrical war against the Taliban, and terror. We didn’t. And now comes Mariana Mazzucato, the brassy Italian-English-American who says: it’s our thinking that’s got to change, and find its way back to the idealism and scale of JFK’s space program.
We’ve got COVID, climate, chaos in the rush from Afghanistan, plus cruelties of capitalism and a cultural rift in the heart of the country. Who are we by now? Who remembers a certain cool competence in the self-image of Americans? And who can imagine recovering it? Mariana Mazzucato wants to tell you: she can! Born in Italy, raised in the US, holding forth now from University College London, she’s got an audience on both sides of the Atlantic. Her message is: we’ll change our luck only by transforming ourselves with ideas and dreams at the grand scale of the emergencies in energy, jobs, health, and justice. When she speaks of a Moonshot Mission to change capitalism, she’s evoking John F. Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon in the ’60s. On the 2021 agenda, I’m asking her to grade our wins and losses in the struggle with COVID so far, and the prospects in our struggle to save the climate.
Economist at University College London and author of Mission Economy.