Feeling lucky?     Search     Sign up / Login  
Capitalisn't on Smash Notes

Capitalisn't podcast.

March 27, 2020

Capitalism is the engine of prosperity. Capitalism sows the seeds of its own demise. Could both be right? Economists Luigi Zingales (University of Chicago) and Kate Waldock (Georgetown) share the sort of irreverent banter you’d hear between economists at a bar, if economists were capable of sarcasm and social enough to go out to bars.



Episodes with Smash Notes

If shareholders are the owners of a company, they should be able to get that company to do what they want. But what happens when shareholders want something other than profits at any cost?

In a major moment for what's come to be called "shareholder capitalism", activist hedge fund Engine No. 1 successfully claimed three seats on Exxon's board of directors this year. Their explicit mission is to force the energy goliath to turn away from carbon and toward more clean forms of energy.

On this episode, we speak with the founder of Engine No. 1, Chris James, about how they approached the proxy fight, his views on shareholder capitalism, and the future of activist hedge funds.

There are plenty of lingering questions about the development of the coronavirus vaccine. How was the pricing decided? Did the public-private partnership with the government work? Who's right in the debate over patent rights and profit sharing?

There's no better person to put these questions to than David Meline, the CFO of Moderna. He joins our podcast this week to talk through the political economy of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Occupy Wall Street, Italy's Five Star Movement, the indignados in Spain—we've seen an increase in anti-elite protests by a disabused public over the last two decades. But what has caused this "revolt of the public"?

Martin Gurri, Visiting Fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center and former CIA media analyst, argues that elites have overpromised and under delivered all while losing their monopoly on information flows. But have our emperors been revealed to lack clothes, or did they never have them to begin with?

In the last few decades, American wages have stagnated for everyone except those at the very top. Yet, during this same period, worker productivity and corporate profits have soared. Why these two trends have coincided has perplexed economists. But, in a new book, economist Jan Eeckhout proposes a simple answer: market power. We discuss his proposal and possible solutions for this problem on this episode.

Have you ever heard the term "regulatory capture"? It's a famous economic theory that the regulation and regulators we create to keep certain industries in check can be captured and bent to the desires of those very industries. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the paper that first proposed this theory. It's called "The Theory of Economic Regulation" and it was written by none other than the namesake of the center that produces this podcast, George Stigler. We recently hosted a conference of some of the most prominent economists to reflect on why the ideas of this paper are still revered and relevant today.

Pres. Biden is pursuing some of the largest spending proposals in U.S. history, which should be sparking concerns about inflation and interest rates. But most prominent bankers and economists have told us not to worry. Fmr Central Banker Mervyn King says they shouldn't be so confident.

On this episode, we speak with Lord King about his concerns of coming inflation, how he thinks central banks didn't learn the right lessons after 2008, and why he thinks the industry has become too reliant on models.

What is causing the widening wealth gap in America? People point fingers in many different directions, but a fairly new idea is to blame The Federal Reserve.

In a new book, "Engine of Inequality: The Fed and The Future of Wealth In America", Karen Petrou, a managing partner at Federal Financial Analytics, argues that The Fed's ultra-low interest rate policy has benefited the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

When it comes to probing the problems of Big Tech, either as a journalist or academic, access is key. Necessary data is highly guarded, often in a "black box", and these companies carefully select what they share and with whom. Few people understand this better than Kara Swisher who has been fearlessly covering and critiquing Big Tech since the 1990s. She's a New York Times opinion writer, host of the podcast "Sway" and co-host of the "Pivot" podcast.

The only thing worse than crony capitalism may be crony capitalism controlled by a centralized communist authority. This is the system that has led to massive wealth disparities in China, even as the country has seen record growth.

Former New York Times correspondent, David Barboza, has gotten a first-hand look at how this system in China has led to rampant corruption and he even won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting.

On this episode, we talk with Barboza about how this system works, why American companies are sometimes complicit in it, and the effect it could have on the rest of the world.

Barboza now publishes "The Wire China" a digital new magazine focused on covering China both in and out of the country.

Concerns about the political power of Big Tech and lack of competition are at an all-time high. The business model of Facebook, Google, Twitter, ect. seem to be creating a race to the bottom for the discourse in our social and political lives.

Many have argued we should turn to anti-trust laws as a way to solve this problem, but Nobel laureate Paul Romer says they may not be enough. In this episode, Romer presents his argument for why the implementation of a digital advertising tax could address the size and business model of these tech firms.

The consulting firm McKinsey has agreed to pay nearly $600 million for its role in advising Purdue on how to push opioids sales, even at the cost of human lives. The details of their work are gruesome and should demand self-reflection among all those who work in big business. Has the profit motive gone out of control, and do business schools have a role to play in creating this culture?

Anand Giridharadas says yes to both questions. He's the author of the renowned book "Winners Take All" and the publisher of "The Ink" on Substack. He joins us in this episode to discuss McKinsey, the culture of profits at all costs, and how businesses use philanthropy to distract us from the price we all pay.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard the story of GameStop and Robinhood. Most writers and outlets have claimed this is either a positive David vs Goliath story or a dangerous new trend. On this episode, we're joined by Matt Stoller, Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project, who has an entirely different view.