The US needs a national purpose

Ezra Klein interviews Mariana Mazzucato, aka “the world’s scariest economist… on a mission to save capitalism from itself.”…

After listening to this podcast i wonder whether one of the US’s fundamental problems is that we don’t have a sense of national purpose, and therefore don’t know what role government should play.

In the 19th Century, our national purpose was manifest destiny, conquering the continent. In much of the 20th Century, our national purpose was defeating the Soviet Union.

As national purposes go, they had problems. You might want to ask a Native American about what they think of manifest destiny. Or find anybody who’s been tortured by one of the dictators we supported, and ask them what they think of the Cold War. But, still, these were national purposes and they united much of the citizenry.

Now, the US has no national purpose. It seems that the only thing that most of us can agree on is making money is good, so society and government has been structured around the markets and profit. But I think many people would agree that a life spent primarily pursuing profit is no life at all.

Here come the shownotes:

The Times of London called Mariana Mazzucato “the world’s scariest economist.” Quartz describes her as “on a mission to save capitalism from itself.” Wired says she has “a plan to fix capitalism,” and warns that “it’s time we all listened.

”Mazuccato is an economist at University College London and Founder and Director of UCL’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She’s the author of The Entrepreneurial State and The Value of Everything — two books that, together, critique some of the most fundamental economic assumptions of our time, and try and chart a different path forward.

This is a moment that demands critique. The workers who are being called “essential” now were treated as disposable before — paid low wages, offered little respect. The difference between states with innovative, capable public sectors and states where government agencies have been dismissed and defunded is on terrible display.

The debates Mazzucato has been trying to open for years are now unavoidable. So let’s have them.

Mitch Wagner @MitchWagner