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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

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.

A well-functioning capitalism needs a well-functioning democracy which depends on a well-functioning media. So, is our media functioning well today...has it ever? To talk through this question, we sit down with renowned journalist and media critic, Matt Taibbi.

In 1998, the U.S. government filed antitrust charges against Microsoft. Today, with a new Department of Justice antitrust case filed against Google, it's worthwhile to track the eerie similarities between these cases in order to understand how one informs the other and vice versa. In order to walk us through both cases, we invited two people on the show who were on opposing sides of the Microsoft case: Robert Topel Distinguished Service Professor of Economics from the University of Chicago and expert witness for Microsoft, and David Boies, the lawyer who represented the Government in the 98' case.

We’re taking time off to be with our families, even if it’s only over a screen, so we're sharing a shorter episode with you this week. Inspired by our recent election, Bethany and Luigi sit down, just the two of them, to talk through why a robust and strong democracy is essential for capitalism to work. We hope you enjoy this conversation, and we’ll see you with brand new episodes after the holidays.

Few people have deeply investigated the inner workings of our problematic student debt system. One person who has is Constantine Yannelis, Assistant Professor of Finance at The University of Chicago. With a proposal by the Biden Administration to forgive some portion of student debt possibly on the table, Yannelis takes us behind the curtain of our student loan system to explain why this may not be the best policy and what other options we have available.

It's not hard to find original conversations about the dangers of "Big Tech", but it is rare to find original solutions. On this episode, we sit down with renowned professor and author, Francis Fukuyama, who has developed a fresh answer to the question of how to rein in the big digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

During confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees, the debate is always focused on social questions like abortion, but rarely economic questions—the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett was no exception. But the Supreme Court can have a massive influence on our economy and how we conduct business. On this episode, we're joined by appeals lawyer, Roman Martinez, who has personally argued many cases in front of the Court, to interrogate the relationship between the Supreme Court and the economy, and how the new court may rule on business issues.

This week, another University of Chicago Podcast Network show called "Big Brains" asked Luigi to share his biggest takeaways from the 2020 election. They covered why the polls got the election so wrong, what messages the record turnout send to our politicians, and what Joe Biden may change in the economy. We’re going to share that episode with you this week, and recommend you give Big Brains a listen and subscribe. We hope you enjoy and we’ll see you next week for a new episode of Capitalisn’t!