A Debate

It is – in its own right – an interesting question why and how some ‘books make a career’ – in this case referring to Mazzucato’s ‘The Entrepreneurial State’. I am always skeptical when hearing about such ‘bestsellers’ and actually really hesitant to read, let alone to buy them. Having been invited to take part in a debate on the book I read the text – and now I am somewhat surmised to see that my ‘prejudice’ is in actual fact very much a ‘judice’, i.e. a reflection confirmed by this reading experience. There is not much new in it – it surely summarises important points, and even more sure is that it’s radical character has to be seen in ensuring that there will be no radical change.

Some points from the debate my be of some wider interest – and what follows is not a systematic critique of Mazzucato’s work or even one of the ‘one book’.
The foundation from which her argument is developed remains by and large unclear: there is a bit of economics, some political economy, some political theory and some philosophy and … a lot of confusion caused by not developing from all the wealth of borrowings a systemic approach. Thus, the possible wealth of a merger is lost to eclecticism. And the loss – or wasted opportunity – is even larger when considering the shallow reception of some of the references … – yes, of course, the Smithian ‘invisible hand’, which is taken out of its original context and supposedly suggests that Smith rejected any state intervention – generally and fundamentally and for everybody and at any time. It is not quite true, and leaving aside that there is a
Book V: Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth
there is in my reading of Smith another relevant point. He left with us another major piece of work, namely the
THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS. An Essay towards an Analysis of the Principles by which Men naturally judge concerning the Conduct and Character, first of their Neighbours, and afterwards of themselves. TO WHICH !S ADDED, A Differentiation on the Origin of Language
In some way this was one of the genius acts: splitting the task in order to maintain through the backdoor its unity … – and much later this allowed him, namely Smith, to turn up in Beijing, with this remark I am obviously alluding to the highly interesting book
ADAM SMITH IN BEIJING. Lineages of the Twenty-First Century by Giovanni Arrighi. 
Discussing in this context secular stagnation: if one really wants to address this in a radical way, one has to take note of much more radical views, as expressed already a long time ago, for instance by Keynes – here reference is usually made to his writing on the
Economic Possibilities of our Grandchildren
and even earlier by Mill [for instance in chapter xi ‘Of the Law of the Increase of Capital’ in his
Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy].
Such radical ideas, however, are just what Mazzucato strictly rejects – instead she searches for ways that ensure that there is no ‘quasi-blasphemic’ attitude and politics towards the gods of eternal growth. And her proposal is that, if laymen’s activities are not sufficient, the entrepreneurial state could emerge as high priest, collecting the lost sheep, developing new grazing lands for their new thriving.
Indeed, there are interesting facts on the cowardliness of the stray sheep …, risk averse behaviour which are expressed in the statement
I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,
allegedly said 1943 by Thomas Watson, chairman and CEO of International Business Machines (IBM). The entirety of the  story, beyond the exiting individual chapters, is not much more than overcoming the stagnation of the history of great men by pulling now women on the same stage, while actually the real problems are about the need of changing the stage. Green growth remains commodity growth, regulated and controlled data extraction remains data extraction, prone to abuse and in need of a real public, common ownership, going much beyond the provision of a seedbed for renewed private profitability, retrieving new sources of value production needs a new understanding of what value is about, going beyond the concept of exchange values only.
The one fundamental problem with the work I see is as follows: As one of the colleagues mentioned during the discussion here in Vienna, he reads the text as reference to the rejection of private entrepreneurs to accept sitting down at the roulette table. And I would agree with such interpretation to some extent – to the extent to which we are talking about the simple game, played by simple minds. The limitation of such metaphor is soon showing up: While accepting ‘The Entrepreneurial State’, thus following Mazzucato’s suggestion, we would be accepting the specific hegemony, i.e. the need and justification of downgrading ourselves to the Dostoyevsky’ian Gamblers, in other words: the acceptance of a new round of what became known as casino capitalism.
It is the acceptance of the reality that I saw expressed in the slogan which was spray-painted on one o the walls:
…. Human capital of al countries, accumulate …

How to write a bestseller and get a Pulitzer Award?

I am not sure if I missed something, or if it was just a rumor about some things that went wrong around that time?

What makes capital provision work so well in America is the security and regulation of our capital markets, where minority shareholders are protected. Lord knows, there are scams, excesses, and corruption in our capital markets. That always happens when a lot of money is at stake. What distinguishes our capital markets is not that Enrons don’t happen in America—they sure do. It is that when they happen, they usually get ex- posed, either by the Securities and Exchange Commission or by the business press, and get corrected. What makes America unique is not Enron but Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York State, who has doggedly sought to clean up the securities industry and corporate board-rooms. This sort of capital market has proved very, very difficult to duplicate outside of New York, London, Frankfurt, and Tokyo. Said Foster, “China and India and other Asian countries will not be successful at innovation until they have successful capital markets, and they will not have successful capital markets until they have rule of law which protects minority interests under conditions of risk… We in the U.S. are the lucky beneficiaries of centuries of conditions of risk… We in the U.S. are the lucky beneficiaries of centuries of economic experimentation, and we are the experiment that has worked.”

From: Thomas L. Friedman: The World is Flat; New York: Picador: 2007: 332 f.

Well, the Friedmans, be it Thomas or Milton don’t understand that we face what James Galbraith calls

The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth

as reviewed here.
One important point is, and that is another way to think about the end of the normal, the need to question the normal or at least part of it. Three (we always strive for trinities) essential parts of the normal were: growth, growth, and some form of regulation – and indeed Friedman talks about such regulation. But what he does not say is that this had been about marginal forms of social distribution, limited control of excesses and in particular/not least about securing the conditions of and for growth. It is interesting that even this is now largely taken away. As we know since recently, namely the leak of the TISA-Annex on the Annex on State Owned Enterprises the role of securing the conditions of and for growth is now under the increasing pressure of being finally, formally and completely handed over to the ‘market’. This is globalisation not simply by imposing specific structures and conditions on other countries but by establishing the control
Freedom and democracy – the flattening of the world by fattening the few global players.

Does one ‘super-corporation’ run the global economy? Study claims it could be terrifyingly unstable

The Network of Global Corporate Control – Research Article

The Network of Global Corporate Control – Annex

Indeed, I took up on some of the issues of the supposedly flattened world not only recently in Havana (here for for a background paper), but now again during the Shanghai Forum, presenting on Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda– more information can be found here.

How to bring them together ….?

Especially, though not only with the crisis, now lasting for a long time, showing only occasionally small and deceiving glimpses of improvement, the debate on two issues is increasingly gaining momentum:
  • a kind of renaissance, highlighting the importance of returning to a value basis of humane societies
  • a push towards a new economic model, suggesting in different ways to leave the traditional capitalist path of equalizing development and growth.

Each issue evokes in itself major debates, for instance reflecting on what humane orientations could be and if they ever existed; or if and to which extent capitalist development assumed per se such equation or if it is only THIS capitalism that kills – so the current pope.

These issues will be discussed on the symposium, organised by EURISPES, ANGELICUM and the EUROPEAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCE AND ARTS.
The aim should be to develop a cooperation that looks how to bring the different perspectives together.
All this had been also part of discussions during the last week in Munich at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, where I spent some time, not least to commemorate the work (and my personal collaboration and friendship) with Hans F. Zacher and Bernd Schulte.
One issue that came permanently up during these days – and had not least issued frequently by Hans F. Zacher had been the fact that the call for justice is not sufficient without a string backing in law. And hit shad been also an issue that guided Bernd Schulte’s long engagement on European law. The community of values is only as god and strong as it is based in law and guarantees legal rights to its citizens.