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Can We Argue With 'The Value of Everything’?

An invitation to academics to my right.

August 26, 2019
 
 

The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy by Mariana Mazzucato

Published in September of 2018.

In The Value of Everything, Mariana Mazzucato makes three interlocking arguments. 

The first is that the measure of economic activity should not be profit or growth, but instead societal and family and individual well-being. 

The second argument is a book-length rebuttal to the idea that the purpose of a company is to maximize shareholder, as opposed to stakeholder, value. 

Third, Mazzucato takes on the belief that government spending on social programs and infrastructure and R&D is akin to non-productive consumption. She argues that government plays a key and irreplaceable role as an investor in building societal wealth.

The question is if this Mazzucato, a professor at University College London (UCL), will convince anyone to change their mind? 

I have a hard time imagining a more eloquently argued, data-driven, or historically contextualized book than The Value of Everything

Mazzucato has done an excellent job of synthesizing the history of economic thought. The book excels in its explanation of how we got a place where GDP growth and stock valuation is prioritized over other outcomes, such as reducing childhood poverty or improving public health or expanding educational opportunities. 

As convinced as I was by the Value of Everything, I fear that a book like this perfectly plays into my prior beliefs. I’m all for public investment in education (especially higher education), public health, and infrastructure. I already know the role that defense spending played in the development of the technologies that you and I depend, from the internet to the smartphone. 

What I’m looking for is a book explicitly aimed at persuading liberal-to-moderate types (like me) that we are wrong in how we think about economics. Almost as good would be a book that takes the thinking of Hayek and his intellectual followers seriously, and then attempts a new synthesis with a set of economic ideas.

As with every excellent economics and public policy book that I read from the centrist-to-lefty side of the spectrum, I want to know the counter-arguments. The right person with to discuss The Value of Everything would be someone on the right. 

My ask to professor Mazzucato, and other economic thinkers that I admire, is to acquire a research and writing partner who disagrees with you. Once paired up, try to listen to and understand the arguments against your thinking - and then see if scholarship can be created at a place of common ground.

Does this ever happen in academia? 

If you are a right-of-center academic, would you be willing to read and talk about The Value of Everything

What would you like us to be reading that has shaped your beliefs on the role of government and companies in society?

What are you reading?

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