Mission Economy (ALLEN LANE) 3 stars

a pitch and not much more

3 stars

This book is easy to read and has a compelling central idea. It talks about what made the moon race work so well and indicates how to replicate the success. However, I worry that through the very writing of this book, the very mission-ness of the idea gets lost. I am sure that McKinsey already has a long presentation deck on what makes a mission a mission and how to properly set up a mission and execute it (and spend billions in the process). Using the moon race as an example is easy because it obviously succeeded and happened a long time ago, but it's also a cop-out to not have to say why similar efforts (many of them started with the advice of Mazzucato herself) are failing. The contemporary examples she cites are not compelling; she points towards the "Energiewende" (energy turn) in Germany as a positive example, a term describing the change from fossil fuels to renewables. However, while the term itself is well known, it is no mission. To the extent that it at some point was a mission, it has failed: coal plants continue to run, and Germany is building fewer renewable energy farms than it used to.

Similarly, Mazzucato has worked on the "UK Industrial Strategy" [1]. What has happened to it? Has it failed? Is it succeeding? Or do we only call things "mission" if they end up working – if so, why bother defining the term as a goal at all?

All in all, the concept of a mission economy is compelling, but all the hard parts seem to be in execution and navigating a political climate in which you cannot rely on a cold war to get everyone's support for your mission. Those parts do not get addressed by the book.