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Meet the most terrifying economist on earth: Mariana Mazzucato

Journalist Ben Van Alboom's takeaways from 'Moonshot Ambitions with Mariana Mazzucato' - 28.01

Don’t say “government spending”, say “government investment.” It is one of the simple interventions Mariana Mazzucato proposes to face the complex challenges of the future. “Because we will need all the help we can get.”

Mariana Mazzucato is undeniably one of the leading economists on the planet. Which doesn’t necessarily mean she’s adored everywhere. Leading technology magazine Wired may call her one of the 25 architects of the future, according to the British newspaper The Times, the Italian is the world’s most terrifying economist.

Whoever is right – Wired, of course – everyone from billionaire Bill Gates to progressive icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is hanging on her every word. Just like everyone else at Media & Culture Fast Forward. Why? Because she has fresh ideas and, unlike many other economists, she is not convinced that governments should just give free rein to companies. What’s more: even the cultural sector must play a role in what the world will look like in the future. “Only if we all work together, we will get somewhere,” Mazzucato believes.

And we really need to get somewhere urgently, says the economist. “Without making it a Formula 1 race.” Just as important: we have to agree on the direction and the way of working. “Because otherwise it’s all about talking about ambitions. However concrete these ambitions may be. Like the Green Deal. Or Building Back Better. So we know quite well where we want to go, but neither the private sector, nor the public sector has a good idea of ​​how to get there. That is why I think it is important to also involve the cultural sector. The creativity needed to reinvent society and the stories needed to convince everyone of this, can come from the cultural sector.”

Another good example is the BBC, says Mazzucato. “The British public broadcaster never based its course on the assumption that it should only do what the private sector doesn’t do. Therefore, they have not only been making documentaries about giraffes in Africa, but also reinvented the soap genre with EastEnders – a soap about workers, in contrast to Dallas and Dynasty. Because that’s the great thing about a public broadcaster or the cultural sector. They can develop and make products which the private sector would refuse because they don’t think there’s any money in it. Nevertheless, these products can prove to be incredibly valuable or even successful.”

“So yes,” the economist continues, “the public sector is capable of proactively setting things in motion, rather than just reactively correcting. And the more complex a challenge, the more actively everyone – including the public sector – must be involved. Look at what happened in the 60s: Kennedy wanted to go to the moon and ten years later we did it. But that has only happened through a gigantic collective effort – from governments and companies – but also from billions of people who shared their dreams.”