183 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
    • 4.6 • 34 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.

    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
    The New Business Of News, with Ben Smith

    The New Business Of News, with Ben Smith

    Given the recent mass layoffs, acceleration of media consolidation, continued decline of local journalism, and rapid uptake of generative AI, the news industry—fundamental to institutional accountability in capitalist democracies—appears to be in deep crisis. Joining Bethany and Luigi to make the case that journalism can not only survive but thrive is Ben Smith, longtime journalist, former New York Times media columnist, co-founder of global digital news publication Semafor, and the author of "Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral."

    How much of today's state of journalism can be attributed to mistakes and how much to inevitability? Where does the marriage between social media and news go next? How can journalism remain financially viable? Offering a nuanced perspective on the opportunities and pitfalls facing the news industry today, the three of them discuss the future of journalism in the age of clicks and a path back to a media landscape that informs, educates, and holds power to account.

    • 49 min
    Poverty in America: Terrible Scourge or a Measurement Error?

    Poverty in America: Terrible Scourge or a Measurement Error?

    Perhaps the biggest evidence that capitalism in America doesn’t work, at least not for everyone, is growing income inequality and the persistence of poverty. But what is the current state of poverty and inequality in the United States? Why do debates still persist about whether poverty has been eradicated? What do the numbers and official statistics tell us, and should we believe them? What do personal stories and experiences with poverty tell us that data cannot? If poverty has indeed been eradicated, what led to that achievement – and if it still persists, what more can be done to abolish it?

    Last year on this podcast, we did a series about this topic, and we found these episodes to be surprising and more informative than most of the debates about poverty you’ll hear on the news. So, we wanted to condense that series down into a single episode that captures all of the highlights. The first speaker is former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), who argues in his recent book, "The Myth of American Inequality," that poverty is vastly overstated because official government data does not include transfer payments. The second is Princeton sociologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Matthew Desmond, who argues in his recent book, "Poverty, by America," that poverty is a terrible scourge, that we have made no progress, and that it is a moral outrage.

    The result is a nuanced, surprising, and informative debate on a multifaceted but important issue – leaving our hosts, as well as, by extension, our listeners – to formulate their own takeaways on what we can all do about them.

    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
34 Ratings

34 Ratings

Mynamaisnonofyourbusiness ,

All the best Kate and thank you both!

I live the UK and although most of your topics are US related I think your podcast gives great inside into the issues we face today from economical perspective and how they are connect to our social context.
Thank you for the amazing podcast and all the best to you Kate, hope you get to bring about some needed change in new chapter.

DannyMount147 ,

Taken a huge downturn

Podcast used to be good but now interviewing cronies and people who are famous but have little expertise. New cohost is terrible too.

hummus monster ,

New co-host doesn’t cut the mustard

At least the one on the Friedman show.

I love this show. But whoever the cohost was on that one was not good.

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