Mission Economy Book Summary - Mission Economy Book explained in key points
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Mission Economy summary

Mariana Mazzucato

A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism

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20 mins
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    Mission Economy
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    We need to transform our political economy with an approach as visionary as the 1960s moon mission.

    In 2020, the world plunged into the Covid-19 crisis. Faced with disaster, many governments approached the crisis with a method best summed up by three words: whatever it takes.

    This was surprising: even governments usually fond of economic austerity injected billions and billions into supporting healthcare and the economy.

    But what sort of system were they propping up? The sad truth is, the political economy was suffering from plenty of deep, structural problems even before the coronavirus came along.

    Fixing those problems requires some seriously big-picture thinking, with a mighty sense of purpose – or, as the author Mariana Mazzucato puts it, a sense of mission. And what better inspiration than the iconic mission that culminated more than 50 years ago, with one small step?

    The key message here is: We need to transform our political economy with an approach as visionary as the 1960s moon mission.

    “The most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.” That’s how President Kennedy described the moon mission in 1962. It took seven years, cost $28 billion – about $283 billion in 2020 terms – and it involved north of 400,000 people.

    How could any government afford that? Here’s the thing: it wasn’t about the cost – it was about the mission itself. Simply put, the government was committed to spending whatever it took.

    But that paid off, and not just in terms of the moon landing itself. All the work the mission required resulted in spillover effects that still surround us today.

    Here are just a few examples. The making of the spaceship’s computer stimulated the development of modern software. An aluminized polyester material called Radiant Barrier, which was invented to keep the astronauts warm, now insulates our homes. And the management methods needed to organize NASA’s vast teams were emulated by Boeing for the 747.

    In other words, one ambitious, overarching mission created countless knock-on effects.

    That’s not how government thinking works these days – but it should be. Far too often, government projects are dictated by the size of the budget, even when they don’t have to be. But put the mission first, and the sky's the limit – quite literally.

    It’s not easy to change our way of thinking like this – in fact, according to the author it requires us to completely overturn our thoughts around both government and capitalism. But it might be the only way to build a future world that’s as resilient as we need it to be.

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    What is Mission Economy about?

    Mission Economy (2021) explains how we can rethink our approaches toward government and capitalism through the concept of missions – huge, ambitious projects that inspire people across society to think big. These blinks show how we can change the world by taking inspiration from one of the most famous missions of all: the moon landing.

    Who should read Mission Economy?

    • Visionary thinkers who want to transform society
    • Economists and politics fans in search of bold new ideas
    • Critics of capitalism who want to see change

    About the Author

    Mariana Mazzucato is an economics professor at University College London, and founding director of the university’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She has won awards including the John Von Neumann Award in 2020 and the All European Academies Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values in 2019. She also advises policymakers all around the world on innovation and sustainable growth, and wrote the books The Entrepreneurial State and The Value of Everything.

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