185 episodes

Is capitalism the engine of destruction or the engine of prosperity? On this podcast we talk about the ways capitalism is—or more often isn’t—working in our world today. Hosted by Vanity Fair contributing editor, Bethany McLean and world renowned economics professor Luigi Zingales, we explain how capitalism can go wrong, and what we can do to fix it.


Cover photo attributions: https://www.chicagobooth.edu/research/stigler/about/capitalisnt.

If you would like to send us feedback, suggestions for guests we should bring on, or connect with Bethany and Luigi, please email: contact at capitalisnt dot com. If you like our show, we'd greatly appreciate you giving us a rating or a review. It helps other listeners find us too.

Capitalisn't University of Chicago Podcast Network

    • Government
    • 4.7 • 26 Ratings

Is capitalism the engine of destruction or the engine of prosperity? On this podcast we talk about the ways capitalism is—or more often isn’t—working in our world today. Hosted by Vanity Fair contributing editor, Bethany McLean and world renowned economics professor Luigi Zingales, we explain how capitalism can go wrong, and what we can do to fix it.


Cover photo attributions: https://www.chicagobooth.edu/research/stigler/about/capitalisnt.

If you would like to send us feedback, suggestions for guests we should bring on, or connect with Bethany and Luigi, please email: contact at capitalisnt dot com. If you like our show, we'd greatly appreciate you giving us a rating or a review. It helps other listeners find us too.

    Joseph Stiglitz's Vision of a New Progressive Capitalism

    Joseph Stiglitz's Vision of a New Progressive Capitalism

    In the last 60 years, few economists have contributed more to exposing the failures of capitalism than Joseph Stiglitz. Formerly the chief economist of the World Bank and chair of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton, Stiglitz won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001 for his work showing that the possibility of having different information can lead to inefficient market outcomes.

    On this episode of Capitalisn't, Stiglitz joins Bethany and Luigi to discuss his latest book, "The Road to Freedom: Economics and the Good Society" (W.W. Norton, 2024). The book, as Bethany describes it, is a "full frontal attack on neoliberalism" that provides a prospective roadmap towards a more progressive form of capitalism. Together, the three discuss the role of mis- and disinformation in producing market inefficiencies, the importance of regulation, institutional accountability, and collective action in correcting market failures, and the role of neoliberalism in today's global populist uprising. In the process, they underscore the close link between economic and political freedom.

    • 49 min
    Capitalism-Was: What Happened to the American Dream? With David Leonhardt

    Capitalism-Was: What Happened to the American Dream? With David Leonhardt

    Is the famed American Dream still attainable for the immigrants and working class of today? What made America the land of opportunity — and if it isn't the same anymore, what happened to it?

    Joining co-hosts Bethany and Luigi to discuss these questions is David Leonhardt, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of "Ours Was the Shining Future." In his book, Leonhardt describes what he calls today's "rough-and-tumble" capitalism and distinguishes its laissez-faire characteristics from a more bygone, democratic version. Charting shifts in manufacturing, labor power, and the perennial tension between immigration and wages, Leonhardt and our hosts deliberate over the ramifications of this story for progressive and populist movements in a tumultuous election year and offer potential pathways to rekindle the promise of prosperity and upward mobility.

    • 48 min
    The Money Behind Ultra-Processed Foods, with Marion Nestle

    The Money Behind Ultra-Processed Foods, with Marion Nestle

    Critics of the food industry allege that it relentlessly pursues profits at the expense of public health. They claim that food companies "ultra-process" products with salt, sugar, fats, and artificial additives, employ advanced marketing tactics to manipulate and hook consumers, and are ultimately responsible for a global epidemic of health ailments. Companies are also launching entirely new lines and categories of food products catering to diabetes or weight management drugs such as Ozempic.

    Marion Nestle, a leading public health advocate, nutritionist, award-winning author, and Professor Emerita at New York University, first warned in her 2002 book "Food Politics" that Big Food deliberately designs unhealthy, addictive products to drive sales, often backed by industry-funded research that misleads consumers. This week on Capitalisn't, Nestle joins Bethany and Luigi to explore the ultra-processed food industry through the interplay of four lenses: the underlying science, business motives, influencing consumer perceptions, and public policy.

    • 47 min
    The Economics of Student Protests

    The Economics of Student Protests

    Over the last few weeks, university politics has captured headlines as students across the country occupy sections of their campuses and demand that their schools divest from Israel in protest of its contentious war in Gaza. Last week for Compact Magazine, Luigi and Nobel Laureate Oliver Hart stressed that one lesson from these protests is that universities need to make transparent their investment strategies and how they contribute to the school’s financial operations, including financial aid.

    Increased transparency can inform ethical debates about divestment, but can it solve them? Even if students get what they want, will it matter? Or should they be focusing their efforts elsewhere to maximize impact? Who gets to make the decisions about the ethics of college endowment investments, and how should votes be divided between different stakeholders — students, faculty, alumni, and donors? This week on Capitalisn’t, Bethany and Luigi record a late-breaking episode tackling these foundational questions that underlie the governance of today's universities.

    • 35 min
    Is Private Credit In The Public Interest? with Jim Grant

    Is Private Credit In The Public Interest? with Jim Grant

    The meteoric rise of private credit over the last decade has raised concerns among banks about unfair competition and among regulators about risks to financial stability.

    Historically, regulated banks have provided most of the credit that finances businesses in the United States. However, since the 2008 financial crisis, banks have restricted their credit lines in response to new regulations. In their place has arisen private credit, which comprises direct (and mostly unregulated) lending, primarily from institutional investors. Estimates peg the current size of outstanding private credit loans in the U.S. at $1.7 trillion.

    Private credit loans aren't traceable, and there are incentives to lend to riskier borrowers in the absence of regulation. This could lead to catastrophic spillover effects in the event of a financial shock. This week, Bethany and Luigi sit down with Jim Grant, a longtime market and banking industry analyst, writer, and publisher of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, a twice-monthly journal of financial markets published since 1983. Together, they try to answer if private credit is in the public interest.

    • 48 min
    Ralph Nader's Capitalism

    Ralph Nader's Capitalism

    "The only true aging is the erosion of one's ideals," says Ralph Nader, the former third-party presidential candidate who just turned 90 after more than 60 years of consumer advocacy and fighting for small business in America. From influencing the transformative passage of car safety legislation to advancing numerous environmental protection and public accountability causes, Nader has fought against the proliferation and insinuation of corporate power in our government.

    In between all of that, Nader has also found the time to develop a prolific writing career. In this week’s episode, Nader joins Bethany and Luigi to discuss his new book, "Rebellious CEO: 12 Leaders Who Got It Right." The three talk about the possibilities of ethically profitable business, Nader’s lifelong pursuit of justice, his views on the state of capitalism today, the political disillusionment of the public, and how we can reclaim democratic control of capitalism.

    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
26 Ratings

26 Ratings

EconoNerd ,

Nuanced and informative

This is a refreshing podcast providing balanced answers to topics of the moment

My fav yet ,

Great questions from unique angle

Luigi is one smart guy with unique insight. I really like the chemistry with new co-host Bethany McLean. She very smart and I like her journalistic approach to tough questions. I feel 20% smarter after each episode I listen to!

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