180 episodios

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

    • Gobierno

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.

    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
    When a Few Financial Institutions Control Everything, with John Coates

    When a Few Financial Institutions Control Everything, with John Coates

    In his recent book, "The Problem of Twelve: When a Few Financial Institutions Control Everything," Harvard law professor John Coates sheds light on the secrecy, lack of public accountability, concentrated power, and the disproportionate influence of a select few institutions in our financial system.

    Coates joins Bethany and Luigi to dissect the potential dangers of this era of financial consolidation and explore possible solutions, including accountability and transparency, to ensure a more equitable economic system. Specifically examining the "Big Four" index funds (Vanguard, State Street, Fidelity, and BlackRock) — that collectively hold more than twenty percent of the votes in S&P 500 companies — and the transformative rise of private equity funds, they discuss the challenges posed by concentrated financial power and its impact on markets, economies, and society at large. 

    • 49 min
    Is Short Selling Dead? With Jim Chanos

    Is Short Selling Dead? With Jim Chanos

    The Wall Street Journal wrote that “Wall Street's best-known bear is going into hibernation" after the legendary short seller Jim Chanos announced he would close his main hedge funds late last year, in part due to diminishing interest in stock picking. Short selling, which bets on drops in asset prices, wins when companies and governments fail and has gained a predatory reputation over the years. Just last week, the China Securities Regulatory Commission vowed "zero tolerance" against what they called "malicious short sellers," according to Reuters.

    One of our listeners wrote to Bethany with this question: “What does it say about capitalism if Jim Chanos can’t find enough investors willing to profit from its frauds, fads, and failures, not to mention the competitive forces that are necessary for a functioning market? Is short selling dead?” To discuss this, Luigi and Bethany sat down with Chanos himself, who has been cast as the “Darth Vader of Wall Street,” the “Catastrophe Capitalist,” and the “LeBron James of short selling.” Together, they discuss the relationship between short sellers and our information environment, the fallout from the "meme stock" craze, the effects of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies, and how short selling can contribute to market efficiency and resilience. Do short sellers play a positive role by uncovering corporate fraud, mismanagement, and systemic risks? What safeguards are necessary to prevent short-selling abuse and ensure fair and transparent markets?

    • 50 min
    Manufacturing Influence, with Emily Hund

    Manufacturing Influence, with Emily Hund

    According to the latest industry statistics, the global influencer economy grew from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $21.1 billion in 2023 — and it's only expected to grow exponentially from here with advances in artificial intelligence. In 1988, Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman investigated how mass media sways audiences to conform to social norms without coercion, or what they called “manufacturing consent.” In her new book, “The Influencer Industry: The Quest for Authenticity on Social Media,” Dr. Emily Hund investigates how social media influencers have manufactured a new media economy to which we’ve unwittingly consented.

    Hund, a research affiliate at the Center on Digital Culture and Society at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, joins Bethany and Luigi to unpack this new digital landscape where influence has become a powerful currency, shaping not only news consumption and consumer behavior but the very fabric of modern capitalism. Together, they discuss whether influencers are empowered entrepreneurs rewriting market rules or victims of a system that commodifies identity. What are the hidden incentives driving influencer messaging and, thus, the news and content we receive?

    Read an excerpt from Hund's book (Princeton University Press, 2023) on ProMarket.

    • 43 min

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