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.
The "Woke" Capitalism Game With Vivek Ramaswamy
We're taking the holiday off to be with our families, but that doesn't stop the economic news. And there is no story bigger than the collapse of the crypto exchange, FTX. One aspect that attracted our attention was Sam Bankman-Fried, the young CEO of FTX, officially bought into a philosophy called Effective Altruism, where you make the most money to give it to the poor. However, in a text exchange with a Vox reporter SBF said "this dumb game we woke westerns play where we say all the right things and so everybody likes us". It reminded us of what Vivek Ramaswamy said about woke capitalism on the show last year. We've decided to replay that show for you, and we'll be back in two weeks with a brand new episode of Capitalisn't.
Vivek Ramaswamy, a scientist, lawyer, and former venture capitalist and entrepreneur, has a new book out: "Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America's Social Justice Scam". In this book, he argues that "wokeism" has become a way for corporations to wrap themselves in a mantle, which then furthers the idea of crony capitalism and extends their power into spaces they were never meant to be in.
Luigi Zingales and Bethany McLean sit down with Ramaswamy to discuss his perspectives on the role of virtue, ethics, and politics in business and society.
The Capitalisn't of Elon Musk's Twitter
Is the world better off now that Elon Musk owns Twitter? The $44 billion acquisition is the largest leveraged buyout of a technology company in history, and also the first time in well over a decade that the ownership of a global social media platform has changed hands. It also begs the evergreen question that this podcast explores: Is the saga an example of Capital-Is or Isn't?
Bethany and Luigi debate and discuss the many different aspects of the deal: how Musk might be forced to run Twitter as a traditional business even if he initially claimed otherwise, his content moderation experiments to prevent it from becoming a "free-for-all hellscape", the effects of mass layoffs, and much more.
A Different Story Of Inflation With John Cochrane
In June 2022, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said, "we [now] understand better how little we understand about inflation." So what do we actually know about inflation?
In this episode, Luigi and Bethany explore the origins of inflation with John Cochrane, Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and author of the popular "Grumpy Economist" blog. They discuss Cochrane's new book, "The Fiscal Theory of the Price Level", where he offers a novel understanding of monetary policy by merging fiscal theory with the standard models of interest-setting central banks. Through a discussion of foundational economic principles such as Milton Friedman's theories – and the role of government debt, taxation, and spending levels – they shed light on what might drive inflation, and also on the requisite balance between democratically-elected institutions and independent central banks in the functioning of capitalism.
[Unedited]: Thomas Piketty On Creating A More Equal Society
French economist Thomas Piketty is one of the leading intellectuals documenting inequality, with his 2013 book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” becoming widely read and cited. His new book, "A Brief History of Equality," is more optimistic: In it, Piketty documents how our world has become relatively more equal since the end of the 18th century.
In this unedited conversation, Piketty talks to Bethany and Luigi about the lessons from this movement toward equality and where it could go next – especially regarding policy choices such as taxes, reparations, and redistribution toward more racial, democratic, and global equality. Among others, they discuss: Would people favor massive redistribution? What kind of institutions would be required to oversee markets? Can true progress be achieved without equality?
Antitrust-Isn't: The Story Of Declining Enforcement In America
Academics and policymakers alike draw a significant correlation between some of today's biggest problems - such as economic inequality - with rising corporate concentration and the ever-decreasing lack of antitrust enforcement. How did this narrative come to be? Is it necessarily correct, and how has it persisted over time? A new paper provides just this data, and it's co-authored by our very own co-host Luigi Zingales, along with Filippo Lancieri, JSD alum, and Eric Posner, Professor, both from the University of Chicago Law School.
Using data around public demand, Supreme Court nominations, State of the Union speeches, and more, Luigi and his co-authors reveal that the key driver behind declining enforcement wasn't the Chicago School of Economics, but rather, special interests. In this episode, Luigi and Bethany chart this story right from the beginning, its lessons for today, ways to change the current state of affairs, and most importantly, why antitrust matters.
Link to paper: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4011335
Show note: For aspiring pre-doctoral students who wish to work with Luigi for two years on this research and more, he is hiring a Research Professional! Check out the job description and apply/share: https://www.chicagobooth.edu/research/stigler/about/job-opportunities.
Capitalism In Our Attention Economy With Albert Wenger
Albert Wenger is Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures, which has invested in some of today's most exciting technology companies. In his new book, “The World After Capital", he argues that capitalism cannot allocate all resources efficiently in the digital age – where the new shortage isn't capital, but rather, human attention. While economically incentivized activities will not go away, he says, we must make room for the things we cannot put a price on. He proposes increasing three freedoms: economic, informational, and psychological, to ensure the continuation of human knowledge production. His book is available free of charge at https://worldaftercapital.org/.