Mariana Mazzucato is superstar economist who teaches at the University College in London. She has written several bestsellers such as “The Entrepreneurial State” and “The Value of Everything”. Her latest book “The Big Con” takes aim at the big consultancy firms:
“Her new book, The Big Con, written with Rosie Collington, argues that consultancies are hobbling governments’ ability to perform that role….she says: “For me, the big wake-up call was Brexit [preparations], because [the consultants] were everywhere.” In 2019-20, the British government spent nearly £1bn on strategy and other consultants…
Consultancies and outsourcers, Mazzucato argues, know less than they claim, cost more than they seem to, and — over the long term — prevent the public sector developing in-house capabilities. “We’re not against consultants. The problem is when an industry [has] no incentive to get government to be independent. A therapist who has their client in therapy forever obviously isn’t a very good therapist.” Consultants are not “neutral” about the role of the state, either, Mazzucato argues, citing their private sector work. They promoted slimming the state after 2008.”
To underscore how damaging using consultants can be, Ms Mazzucatto cites America’s Apollo program in the 1960s (which climaxed with “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”): “To highlight the risk of consultants, her current theme, Mazzucato goes back to the Apollo space programme, where Nasa’s director of procurement in the 1960s warned that the agency was at risk of being “captured by brochuremanship”…
A cost-benefit analysis of the Moon landings would have grounded the crew, she says. “If we applied today’s criteria, there would have been no justification for trying.” The Apollo missions helped to bring about today’s camera phones and baby formula. But the UK Treasury’s methodology for public investment “dismisses” the possibility of such positive spillovers.”

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