Five years ago, when Bruce Lourie and I started work on our first book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, it wasn’t immediately obvious to some why two environmentalists would concern themselves with toxins in the human body. The topic didn’t fit neatly into the “environmental issue” pigeon hole. “Isn’t that the domain of yoga enthusiasts and nutrition nuts?” we were occasionally asked.
First she was against Northern Gateway — now she’s for it. What a difference an election makes.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s reversal on the Northern Gateway pipeline project is typical of these cynical times we live in, when the lure of quick oil wealth outweighs any responsibility for the threat of climate pollution.
The book goes a long way towards debunking myths about private sector innovation. There is a persistent view that private entrepreneurs are the lions of the economy, fearlessly setting new directions and taking risks. Mazzucato argues that the private sector is important, but should really be viewed as a pussycat, with the state more aptly described as the lion that takes risks and drives innovation.
In 1939, the United States and much of the world were still struggling to exit the Great Depression that had begun a decade earlier. In that context, Alvin Hansen – the prominent economist and disciple of John Maynard Keynes – famously argued before the American Economic Association that the underlying problem was not cyclical, but rather “secular stagnation.”
Mr. Hansen anticipated an extended period of sluggish growth and high unemployment, due to a structural shortage of demand compared with already existing productive capacity. Under such circumstances, there were few profitable investment opportunities for business, resulting in excess savings and idle resources.
On the one hand, the right celebrates private sector entrepreneurship and so-called free markets as the only sure road to prosperity. The private sector led “creative destruction” process is seen as the key source of capitalist dynamism and growth. On the other hand, progressives tend to stress the role of the state as a needed regulator of economic activity, as a Keynesian backstop to stable growth, and as a vehicle for achieving a fairer distribution of income and wealth. Proponents of a more active government role in the economy are often portrayed by the right as enemies of a successful economy.