This year’s top five most-downloaded episodes of Capitalisn’t ranged from discussions of private equity and inflation to Capitalism itself. Download these episodes ahead of holiday travel for a stimulating listen.

5. Ukraine: A Restart of History

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, political scientist Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed the “end of history” and of humankind’s ideological evolution. The combination of Western liberal democracy and capitalism were seen as the final, convergent form of global human organization — surpassing geopolitical considerations.

As Russia invades Ukraine, history seems to have restarted. This time the tension is not between capitalism and socialism, but between liberal capitalism and autocratic capitalism, between globalism and nativism, between a state subordinated to economic interests and economic interests subordinated to the state. Amidst this unfolding situation, Luigi and Bethany discuss how sanctions, SWIFT, the energy sector, digital platforms, new geopolitical blocks, and more are coming together to possibly reshape the course of history.

4. The Private Equity Debate: Is it a Good Investment?

Is private equity a good investment? Jeffrey Hooke, Senior Lecturer at Johns Hopkins’ Carey School of Business, claims that private equity has not been a lucrative investment for institutional investors such as pension funds or university endowments. Chicago Booth Professor Steven Kaplan, who has studied private equity for over 35 years, disagrees.

Luigi and Bethany bring both Jeff and Steven on the show to debate this, and the evolution (or lack thereof) in reporting, transparency, and corporate governance in the private equity industry.

What data and metrics should we look at when measuring private equity performance? How should we compare studies and analyses across time and different data sources? Moreover, does adding value to investors also necessarily mean adding value to society?

Jeffery Hooke’s new book “The Myth of Private Equity” is out now.

3. Meritocracy: The Genetic Lottery

Last year, Capitalisn’t featured two episodes on the pluses and minuses of meritocracy. Supporters of meritocracy, such as Adrian Wooldrige, emphasize its ethical dimension. Critics, such as Michael Sandel, emphasize the luck component. At the end of the day, it is an empirical question, albeit a difficult one: How much of “success” is driven by effort versus luck?

Luigi and Bethany sit down with Kathryn Paige Harden, behavioral geneticist, professor of psychology, and author of the book “The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality”.

2. The Causes and Effects of Today’s Inflation

The Federal Reserve is likely to hike interest rates in March due to high inflation and the strong labor market. But where did this inflation come from? Is it transitory or is it here to stay? Whom does it hurt the most and what should be done about it? To discuss this, we invited Chicago Booth professor and former IMF chief economist Raghuram Rajan, who – when he served as India’s central banker – was charged with fighting inflation himself.

1. Capitalism as a Contradiction

Yanis Varoufakis is a vocal critic of capitalism. He is a Greek academic, writer, and politician – as former Minister of Finance, led negotiations during the government debt crisis of 2015. But even as the founder of the left-wing political party MeRA25 (European Realistic Disobedience Front) in 2018, he laments the bankruptcy of today’s left.

He describes capitalism as a contradiction with immense advantages (innovation, wealth, gadgets, technologies) but also with an inherent tendency to cause aesthetic, moral, psychological, and financial poverty. Luigi Zingales and Bethany McLean sit down with Varoufakis to understand his diagnosis of the ills of capitalism, not as an unjust system but one that is inefficient and freedom impeding.