The questions I mostly frequently ask myself are "How does anything good scale?" and "How is anything good and large-scale sustained?"
The most trivial answer to this is "Markets and incentives!" which is not wrong, but also seems like an underwhelming answer. Markets and incentives do solve many coordination problems and have reduced large amounts of suffering. However, they also seem to have limits in terms of their predictive power. I would like to read books which discuss how cooperation can be leveraged when incentivized markets (free from rent-seeking!) are insufficient.
In "Mission Economy", Marianna Mazzucato claims cooperation flourishes outside of markets when the government needs to explicitly define missions. She uses The Apollo Mission as an example, but this answer felt slightly under-specified. By the end of the book, I couldn't distinguish a good "mission" from a bad one. Even worse, I can't even tell if a mission is being carried out badly, other than ham-fistedly comparing it to The Apollo Mission, even though there's a ton of vague prose spent on the topic.
What books should I read to get a better pragmatic understanding? Is there a “handbook for social change” regardless of scale?
Some candidates I'm currently considering:
- The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Mark Levinson
- A historical book about water treatment, electricity distribution or libraries?
- A historical overview of unions. Supposedly unions have driven a number of beneficial labour reforms, but they also can result in stagnation and corruption?