Is More Government Always a Hindrance?

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

In a TED Talk delivered in Edinburgh, Scotland in June of 2013, Marianna Mazzucato, a professor of economics at the Science and Technology Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, attempts to confront the belief that most of us hold in regards to the nature of both the public and private sectors when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship.

While the majority of us are of the opinion that the government, at its best, does nothing more than play the role of market fixer, and its worst, looks to stifle innovation, Mazzucato contends that this is not true.

As an example, she points to smartphones, which feature the ability to browse the internet, an innovation originally brought forth by the United States Department of Defense, while simultaneously pointing out its touchscreen capability, a concept partly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency. In the world of medicine, she highlights the pharmaceutical industry, where 75% of the revolutionary new drugs we see in hospitals were funded by the government.

Mazzacuto maintains that, in these instances, governments didn’t play the part of a market fixer but rather that of a market shaper, a title, she argues, we should all grow more more comfortable with.

Dynamic capitalism, she says, thrives on public-private partnerships and such an idea, one that has inarguably been shown to lead to a host of innovative ideas and products we see in our daily lives, thrives on letting go of our notion of the government as a Kafkaesque bureaucratic logjam.

When we talk about the public sector in this way, she argues, the government lives down to our expectations. Rather than complaining about this, though, she goes on, we should seek to build state organizations that reflect our entrepreneurial leanings. What we want to see in the private sector is what we should seek to emulate in the public sphere, she concludes. The key for governments, in these cases, is looking beyond merely taxes as way of producing revenue but rather retaining equity in the innovations they help foster.

If the government is willing and able to take risks, then we, by extension, should be able to reap the rewards

What do think about what Marianna Mazzucato has said? Do you believe the government is a hindrance to innovation and entrepreneurship? Should we seek to build more public-private partnerships in the world of business and beyond?