A Debate

It is – in its own right – an interesting question why and how some ‘books make a career’ – in this case referring to Mazzucato’s ‘The Entrepreneurial State’. I am always skeptical when hearing about such ‘bestsellers’ and actually really hesitant to read, let alone to buy them. Having been invited to take part in a debate on the book I read the text – and now I am somewhat surmised to see that my ‘prejudice’ is in actual fact very much a ‘judice’, i.e. a reflection confirmed by this reading experience. There is not much new in it – it surely summarises important points, and even more sure is that it’s radical character has to be seen in ensuring that there will be no radical change.

Some points from the debate my be of some wider interest – and what follows is not a systematic critique of Mazzucato’s work or even one of the ‘one book’.
The foundation from which her argument is developed remains by and large unclear: there is a bit of economics, some political economy, some political theory and some philosophy and … a lot of confusion caused by not developing from all the wealth of borrowings a systemic approach. Thus, the possible wealth of a merger is lost to eclecticism. And the loss – or wasted opportunity – is even larger when considering the shallow reception of some of the references … – yes, of course, the Smithian ‘invisible hand’, which is taken out of its original context and supposedly suggests that Smith rejected any state intervention – generally and fundamentally and for everybody and at any time. It is not quite true, and leaving aside that there is a
Book V: Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth
there is in my reading of Smith another relevant point. He left with us another major piece of work, namely the
THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS. An Essay towards an Analysis of the Principles by which Men naturally judge concerning the Conduct and Character, first of their Neighbours, and afterwards of themselves. TO WHICH IS ADDED, A Differentiation on the Origin of Language
In some way this was one of the genius acts: splitting the task in order to maintain through the backdoor its unity … – and much later this allowed him, namely Smith, to turn up in Beijing, with this remark I am obviously alluding to the highly interesting book
ADAM SMITH IN BEIJING. Lineages of the Twenty-First Century by Giovanni Arrighi. 
Discussing in this context secular stagnation: if one really wants to address this in a radical way, one has to take note of much more radical views, as expressed already a long time ago, for instance by Keynes – here reference is usually made to his writing on the
Economic Possibilities of our Grandchildren
and even earlier by Mill [for instance in chapter xi ‘Of the Law of the Increase of Capital’ in his
Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy].
Such radical ideas, however, are just what Mazzucato strictly rejects – instead she searches for ways that ensure that there is no ‘quasi-blasphemic’ attitude and politics towards the gods of eternal growth. And her proposal is that, if laymen’s activities are not sufficient, the entrepreneurial state could emerge as high priest, collecting the lost sheep, developing new grazing lands for their new thriving.
Indeed, there are interesting facts on the cowardliness of the stray sheep …, risk averse behaviour which are expressed in the statement
I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,
allegedly said 1943 by Thomas Watson, chairman and CEO of International Business Machines (IBM). The entirety of the  story, beyond the exiting individual chapters, is not much more than overcoming the stagnation of the history of great men by pulling now women on the same stage, while actually the real problems are about the need of changing the stage. Green growth remains commodity growth, regulated and controlled data extraction remains data extraction, prone to abuse and in need of a real public, common ownership, going much beyond the provision of a seedbed for renewed private profitability, retrieving new sources of value production needs a new understanding of what value is about, going beyond the concept of exchange values only.
The one fundamental problem with the work I see is as follows: As one of the colleagues mentioned during the discussion here in Vienna, he reads the text as reference to the rejection of private entrepreneurs to accept sitting down at the roulette table. And I would agree with such interpretation to some extent – to the extent to which we are talking about the simple game, played by simple minds. The limitation of such metaphor is soon showing up: While accepting ‘The Entrepreneurial State’, thus following Mazzucato’s suggestion, we would be accepting the specific hegemony, i.e. the need and justification of downgrading ourselves to the Dostoyevsky’ian Gamblers, in other words: the acceptance of a new round of what became known as casino capitalism.
It is the acceptance of the reality that I saw expressed in the slogan which was spray-painted on one o the walls:
…. Human capital of all countries, accumulate …


中南林业科技大学班戈学院, 2016

2016年5月28-30日,我院教师彼得.赫尔曼(Peter Herrmann)教授参加了在上海国际会议中心举办的上海论坛2016年会。

彼得.赫尔曼教授在 “中国与拉美:跨越太平洋的发展伙伴”高端圆桌会议上发表了 “增长和发展——互补还是矛盾?全球议程面临的挑战”(Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda)的主旨演讲。他指出,在面临国际发展挑战过程中,需要重视经济学教学的作用;呼吁政府在大力发展经济的同时考虑环境问题,出台长期的可持续经济政策;同时,他还提到,近期一些服务贸易协议文件的泄露可能会对中国经济发展造成严重的威胁。

本次圆桌会议旨在加强中国和拉美国家的多边合作,谋求两国的共同发展。会议邀请了政府、学术界、智库、企业机构等不同主体,共同研讨中国与拉美合作的前景和合作的模式,建言如何提升中拉整体合作水平和促进中拉多边关系发展。会议由复旦发展研究院金砖国家研究中心主任、复旦大学国际关系与公共事务学院副教授沈逸担任主席,巴西前驻华大使Luiz Augusto de Castro Neves先生和中国前驻巴西大使陈笃庆担任会议嘉宾。



How to write a bestseller and get a Pulitzer Award?

I am not sure if I missed something, or if it was just a rumor about some things that went wrong around that time?

What makes capital provision work so well in America is the security and regulation of our capital markets, where minority shareholders are protected. Lord knows, there are scams, excesses, and corruption in our capital markets. That always happens when a lot of money is at stake. What distinguishes our capital markets is not that Enrons don’t happen in America—they sure do. It is that when they happen, they usually get ex- posed, either by the Securities and Exchange Commission or by the business press, and get corrected. What makes America unique is not Enron but Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York State, who has doggedly sought to clean up the securities industry and corporate board-rooms. This sort of capital market has proved very, very difficult to duplicate outside of New York, London, Frankfurt, and Tokyo. Said Foster, “China and India and other Asian countries will not be successful at innovation until they have successful capital markets, and they will not have successful capital markets until they have rule of law which protects minority interests under conditions of risk… We in the U.S. are the lucky beneficiaries of centuries of conditions of risk… We in the U.S. are the lucky beneficiaries of centuries of economic experimentation, and we are the experiment that has worked.”

From: Thomas L. Friedman: The World is Flat; New York: Picador: 2007: 332 f.

Well, the Friedmans, be it Thomas or Milton, don’t understand that we face what James Galbraith calls

The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth

as reviewed here.
One important point is, and that is another way of thinking about the end of the normal, the need to question the normal or at least part of it. Three (we always strive for trinities) essential parts of the normal were: growth, growth, and some form of regulation – and indeed Friedman talks about such regulation. But what he does not say is that this had been about marginal forms of social distribution, limited control of excesses and in particular/not least about securing the conditions of and for growth. It is interesting that even this is now largely taken away. As we know since recently, namely the leak of the TISA-Annex on the Annex on State Owned Enterprises the role of securing the conditions of and for growth is now under the increasing pressure of being finally, formally and completely handed over to the ‘market’. This is globalisation not simply by imposing specific structures and conditions on other countries but by establishing the control
Freedom and democracy – the flattening of the world by fattening the few global players.

Does one ‘super-corporation’ run the global economy? Study claims it could be terrifyingly unstable

The Network of Global Corporate Control – Research Article

The Network of Global Corporate Control – Annex

Indeed, I took up on some of the issues of the supposedly flattened world not only recently in Havana (here for for a background paper), but now again during the Shanghai Forum, presenting on Growth and Development – Complement or Contradiction? Challenges for a Global Agenda– more information can be found here.

50 Cent – the price of behaving sustainably

Returning from Milano with Trenitalia, listening to

Joseph Stiglitz:
Restoring Growth and Stability in a World of Crisis and Contagion

Somebody passes, and puts a leaflet on every table a leaflet: itinerRe per le Frecce

EasyFood – comodamente al tuo posto

Tutti i menu a solo 1 €

On top of it: one is encouraged to pay by credit card. The young woman walks back and passes a short time later with the little “mobile bar”. I ask for a coffee but she makes me now again of the special offer which I refuse to buy – finally I just want a coffee.

Certo, 1.50

I stick to my decision, pay, take my coffee

No, grazie; senza zucchero.

take the headphones again and go on listening to the Stiglitz, presenting his ideas about how we get back on the growth path of the economy, increasing the GDP.

Still, I hear as well the words of non-understanding the lady says to the person sitting somewhere nearby:

I offered him this special menu, but he wanted just a coffee ….

both shaking their head.

… Restoring Growth …

As one can listen to Stiglitz without watching I look at the gentleman, enjoying his 1€-EasyFood-menu – he decided for

  • Caffè
  • Succo
  • Croissant
  • Biscotti

all taken out of the paper bag. At least he takes the sugar for his coffee which not everybody would do.

I am a bit torn, experiencing this ambiguity: I failed, did not properly contribute to growth which surely would in some way do good to the Italian economy; I just did not take up on the offer, throwing away

  • Succo
  • Croissant
  • Biscotti
  • Zucchero
  • the bag
  • the little “spoon”
  • the napkin

Sure, something good I see later: the leaflets are collected towards the end of the journey, and I hope it is for reusing them.

I do not feel too bad, I paid 50 cent, the additional charge for contributing a little bit to protecting the environment, which surely does in every day good to the Italian economy.

Two background noises that come to my mind on this occasion – do not say they do not belong here.

The first one

The other day I picked up the METRO. Il quotidiano gratuito.

The headline on page two:

Salvini balla da solo e punta a Palazzo Chigi

It is about the Lega Nord attempting to move south.

The headline on page three:

Medico e architetto ambulanti per forza

It is an article about a young couple, well educated and starting their career in precarity.

The second one

We all know about the recent success, La Repubblica writing about it under the hedaline

Cuba, la caduta del Mura

We talked about it more or less extensively with Soraya, Hugo, Orietta, José … many other colleagues and comrades from Bolivia, Cuba …. It had been the ever present matter – one that employed the mind. Sure, it is also allowing growth which surely would in some way do good also to the Cuban economy. But …, well, there is a but right?

PS: There is another point on Cuba, the the vulture capitalists already lowering the height of their flight.