Return to Transcripts main page
FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Interview with Michael Hayden; The Once and Future Prime Minister; Interview with David McCullough; Interview with Stephen Dubner. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired May 10, 2015 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:09] SCIUTTO: Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jim Sciutto.
Before we go, I want to wish a very special Happy Mother's Day to my wife, Gloria, mother to our two boys, soon-to-be mother to another little girl. I spend every day in awe of what she does and the love she shows. I know there are many other fathers and sons and daughters out there who feel the same way. Happy Mother's Day to all of you.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
ZAKARIA: We'll start today with the attempted attack in Texas. Was it ISIS directed? What turns seemingly normal young men into jihadists? I'll ask the former CIA director, Michael Hayden.
Also, inside ISIS territory. What is it like to be behind enemy lines? I'll show you a clip from my new CNN special "BLIND SIDED: HOW ISIS SHOOK THE WORLD."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want to fight the Americans. That's their dream.
ZAKARIA: And how to make sense of the British elections. We will talk to the editor of "The Economist" reporting from London.
Then, 112 years ago, the Wright brothers' plane took off from a beach in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, and the world changed forever. Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough on one of the greatest innovations in human history.
And gold, cash, jewelry. Banks are filled with some of the most valuable items in the world. So does it make sense to just rob them? That answer and much more from Steven Dubner of "Freakonomics" fame.
ZAKARIA: But first here's my take. Israel's new coalition government formed with the slimmest possible majority in its parliament seems to ensure that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will act even more cautious and conservatively than he has recently.
This is a tragedy because Israel faces a strategic opportunity that is extraordinary and may not last. At first glance, it might seem absurd to talk hopefully about opportunities for Israel. The Middle East is in turmoil, Islamic radicalism is invading once-stable lands. Hezbollah and Hamas are actively engaged in the region, and the Iranian nuclear danger persists. Add to this the repulsive anti- Semitism that is on the rise around the world, tolerated and encouraged in too many Muslim communities, and it looks like a very dangerous time for the Jewish state.
That's what Netanyahu implied when explaining to NBC's Andrea Mitchell why he had backtracked on his support for a Palestinian state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: What has changed is the reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: The reality has changed, but on closer examination, one can see that it has changed dramatically in Israel's favor. First there is the disappearance of the Arab threat. A phenomenon that is unprecedented. From its first day in existence, Israel has faced the threat of extinction by Arab armies. This is the danger against which the Jewish state has planned, armed, and trained for most of its national life.
Today that danger is gone. The armies from Israel's main strategic adversaries -- Iraq, Syria, Egypt -- are now in disarray while the Israeli Armed Forces have become the region's superpower. In a league ahead of all the rest. More importantly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the smaller Gulf states now find themselves in a tacit alliance with Israel against Iran.
Second, Israel's major enemies are under greater pressure than ever before. Iran and Hezbollah have committed themselves to defend the Assad regime in Syria, a daunting challenge in the long run given that Assad represents the Alawites who comprise under 15 percent of Syria. Reports suggest that Iran is bleeding resources and Hezbollah losing hundreds of fighters in Syria.
Watching these conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, one cannot but think that Israel's enemies, Shiite and Sunni extremists, are busy killing each other.
Of course, there is Iran's nuclear program, though it has significantly slowed. Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, it's worth remembering that Israel has a powerful nuclear deterrent, by some accounts as many as 200 nuclear warheads, many of them on submarines. Similarly, it has built a wall that has reduced terror attacks against Israel to virtually zero. Its Iron Dome Defense System has blunted the threat from Hezbollah and Hamas' rockets.
[10:05:25] And then there is Israel's economy, which continues to surge forward, outstripping all the others in the region. So while it faces real challenges and dangers, Israel today has policies in place to thwart, deter, and defend against them with admirable force and effectiveness. The danger for which it has no defense is the fact that it continues to have control over Gaza and the West Bank, lands with 4.5 million people who have neither a country nor a vote.
The feeling on the Israeli right which now rules the country seems to be that if it ignores the Palestinian problem and keeps moving along, somehow it will solve itself. But it won't, and the tragedy is that this is the moment with so many stars aligned in Israel's favor that enlightened leadership could secure Israel permanently as a Jewish Democratic state that is at peace with its neighbors.
It's a golden opportunity, and it is staring Prime Minister Netanyahu in the face.
For more, go to CNN.com/fareed, and read my "Washington Post" column this week. Let's get started.
A Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. The point was to be provocative, and, alas, it worked. Two gunmen, both American Muslims, stepped out of their car outside the event and opened fire with assault weapons. Both were killed. ISIS later took credit for the attack.
Whether or not the claim is valid, it does raise the question, just how much of a threat is ISIS to the American homeland? To discuss, I'm pleased to be joined by Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former director of the National Security Agency.
Welcome back to the show, Mike.
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: Thank you very much, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: When you heard about this attack and you learned it was two Americans, one, you know, a convert, people who didn't seem to have in one case much of a background with violence in some, one case there was a background. What did you make of it all?
HAYDEN: Fareed, unfortunately, sadly, it fit exactly the profile that a lot of folks like me expected. The people very difficult to detect, inspired by the ISIS message. Alone, alienated, looking for something bigger than self. That movement, this event, came together, prompted them to do what they did.
Unfortunately, Fareed, I think this is not the last time we'll see this. This is going to go on for a while and is going to be a bit of the new normal here in the United States. Even in the United States.
ZAKARIA: You say even in the United States because so far the United States has had relativity low numbers of these kinds of alienated young youth, the kind you described more in Europe, particularly in some of the larger countries in Europe. Why do you say even in the -- do you think something has changed or it's just the law of numbers, at some point, you know you're going to find some people even here?
HAYDEN: It's the law of numbers, Fareed, and you're absolutely right. And you've commented on this quite articulately I think in terms of our ability, we're better at integrating than almost all of our European allies. That means the pool from which people like this can be drawn is going to be proportionately smaller here in the United States than it is in most of our European allies. But the pool isn't dried up. The pool isn't zero. We are, unfortunately, going to see this.
ZAKARIA: Do you feel when you watch this play itself out that we are in a situation where things are getting worse, they're getting better, is this just a kind of tide that is running?
I think people are looking for some guidance here to understand, you know, where are we in this narrative of this -- of this violent radical Islam and its -- and the attacks and counterattacks.
HAYDEN: Fareed, I think the tide's coming in, and we're going to see more of what we saw in Texas last week. Now the good news is, it's very, very unlikely that we're going to see the kinds of attack that al Qaeda really wants to conduct, that carefully planned, slow moving, complex, mass casualty attack against an iconic target.
[10:10:07] That's actually a counterterrorism success, and we ought to actually quietly celebrate that. But these low-level attacks, that's what's left to them, and that's where they're going to go.
Fareed, in a very unusual way, you might want to characterize al Qaeda as an elitist terrorist organization, and ISIS as a populist one. And we're seeing the violence from ISIS not coming from the top down but from the bottom up.
ZAKARIA: So when we think about ISIS, how should we think about it? Because, as you say, it does seem to have this populist streak where it is able to inspire and allow to bubble up these kinds of -- these kinds of attacks. Is that -- is that ultimately its aim? Is it -- is it really a side order effect? It really seems focused more on the caliphate? What is it doing here?
HAYDEN: It is more focused on the near enemy, and that's another distinction with al Qaeda, who is always more focused on the far enemy. That's us. But if you're asking me, Fareed, what is it we need to do about ISIS now. Number one is, we need to try to defend ourselves against the kinds of attacks we saw in Texas last week, admitting that some of those are going to get through. Second, we need to keep pressure on ISIS main in Iraq and Syria.
And right now, Fareed, we're at best mowing the grass there. We aren't doing any weeding or real landscaping. So I think we need to be more robust. And then finally, Fareed, something suggested by one of your earlier questions, we don't -- we shouldn't be bashful to talk about the core of this question. In many ways, this is about Islam. And we should have an adult conversation about one of the world's great monotheism, recognizing we're all children of Abraham, we're all people of the book. But this is a struggle within Islam and until that struggle is
resolved, we're going to have to do these other things to defend ourselves at home and abroad.
ZAKARIA: But do those other things involve getting involved in what is, as you say, a struggle within Islam? Should we be jumping in?
HAYDEN: I think, Fareed, we have broadly the correct strategy in Iraq. I think it's under resourced and I think it's overly restricted when it comes to our combat power. But in broad terms, I think the elements of the strategy are there. I see no coherent strategy in Syria, Fareed, other than the phrase I used earlier, we're mowing the grass. And of course, the grass grows up again.
ZAKARIA: Michael Hayden, as always, a pleasure to have you on.
HAYDEN: Thanks, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, an extraordinary look deep inside ISIS territory. What is it like for people who live and work so far behind enemy lines? Stay tuned and we'll find out.
[10:17:19] ZAKARIA: We have a special treat for viewers around the world, Monday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN and CNN International, you can catch our latest special. It's called "BLINDSIDED: HOW ISIS SHOOK THE WORLD."
I want to show a very revealing clip from the special. It centers around a German journalist named Jurgen Todenhofer who negotiated with ISIS to be given safe passage to visit Mosul, Iraq, the biggest city ISIS has captured. ISIS wanted to show Totenhofer that it could really run a state. The terrorists give out parking tickets and issue license plates, and the kids there go to ISIS schools.
Totenhofer met people from all walks of life including American who had come to fight. And amazingly he left Mosul alive but with a chilling message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA (voice-over): ISIS officials trotted out a few prisoners for Todenhofer to talk to. This man is one of a group of captured Kurdish soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if they catch you?
ZAKARIA: He told Todenhofer he was afraid. Shortly after, ISIS put Kurdish prisoners in cages, dressed in orange jumpsuits. They were paraded through the streets, and ISIS made a propaganda video out of it. It's hard to believe, but according to Todenhofer, there are people in Mosul who say they are better off under the Islamic State. Almost all are Sunni, and they have suffered at the hands of Iraq's Shiite government. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, instead of anarchy, they have now
law and order. And people don't like IS, but they like the security. So they take taxes, they take care of the poor.
ZAKARIA: Bizarrely, ISIS even reaches out to the disabled. This is a recruitment video for deaf jihadists who wish to join ISIS. Todenhofer's ISIS minders kept him away from only one group. He was not permitted to speak to or even go near a single woman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to think that you would win the war --
ZAKARIA: Perhaps the most astonishing thing Todenhofer heard from both ISIS soldiers and leaders is this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want to provoke the United States to bring ground troops to the country. It's a clear target. They want that the American spring their boots on the ground. They want to fight the Americans. That's their dream. The ultimate fight against Americans. That's what they want. That's what they hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[10:20:14] ZAKARIA: Please don't miss "BLINDSIDED." It airs Monday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for viewers of CNN and CNN International.
Next on GPS, the British elections. The once and future prime minister, David Cameron. I'll talk to the editor-in-chief of "The Economist" Zanny Minton Beddoes about the elections that surprised all the pollsters.
ZAKARIA: There will be no moving vans showing up in front of Number 10 Downing Street. To the great surprise of pundits and pollsters, Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party had a decisive victory in Thursday's British general election. In the wake of it, three of his top competitors resigned as heads of their party.
What does it mean for the U.K., the E.U., and the U.S.?
For that I want to bring in one of my favorite Brits who has recently moved back home to take on a big new job. Zanny Minton Beddoes is the editor-in-chief of "The Economist" magazine.
[10:25:03] Zanny, pleasure to have you on.
ZANNY MINTON BEDDOES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ECONOMIST: It's always great to be here, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: What did you make of the fact that everyone was so surprised? Why -- was the polling wrong? Did people forget that this was a first past the post system?
BEDDOES: The polls were completely wrong. All the advanced polls were very wrong. The real shock came at 10:00 p.m. London time when the exit poll was announced. And the exit polls suggested there would be a big increase in the number of seats for the Tory, and that was a huge, huge surprise. And then as the night went on, and it was a long and an incredibly exciting night, the Tory leaders grew bigger and bigger, and as you know they ended up with a small overall majority.
And that's really extraordinary for an incumbent government which was -- currently together with the Liberals Democrat in coalition, they now have gained enough seats to have a small majority on their own.
ZAKARIA: And why do you think -- what's the central message here presumably as the British economy is doing pretty well and the incumbents got rewarded?
BEDDOES: Well, they saw that going on. I think there are a lot of shy Tories around. People who probably didn't tell the pollsters they were going to vote Tory. People who are concerned about the economy, and yes, they wanted the stability of the economy, they wanted the recovery to carry on, and they were scared by the alternative.
ZAKARIA: Do you think this tells us something about a kind of global trend? You know, Britain has always been, particularly with America, in sync in political cycles, Thatcher and Reagan, Blair and Clinton. Does the fact that the Tories did well and that, you know, the left Labour did badly, does it suggest that Elizabeth Warren is not really the harbinger of the future for the United States?
BEDDOES: You know, that's a very tempting parallel to make. But there are actually quite big differences across the Atlantic. And as you said, I've only just come back to this side of the Atlantic and I'd hesitate to make that comparison. But what is certainly true is that the British voters looked at the kind of future that Ed Miliband laid out and they said that they didn't want it.
But let's not exaggerate too much, and the Tories had a fantastic victory. No doubt a triumph for the Tories. But they are going to be quite a weak government, I think, because their majority is very, very small. And if you have a very small majority, you are incredibly beholden to your MPs to keep that, and they have a lot of very, very kind of euro-skeptic, tricky MPs who are not going to be willing to toe the party line.
So I don't expect this to be an easy ride for David Cameron at all. He's done amazingly well, far better than anybody expected, but it's going to be a weak government. It's got a lot of very tough things to do. So there's going to be some uncertainty going forward.
ZAKARIA: For me watching from this side of the Atlantic, what was striking is this was an election, a British election, in which foreign policy almost didn't figure at all. Not only Britain's role in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East, but not even really much about Europe. It became more about immigration. Is Britain turning inwards? Was this a momentary thing?
BEDDOES: No, I think there's a secular shift going on which is that Britain has a diminished role in the world, and both parties weren't intending to change that. And under David Cameron's first administration, Britain's role in the world, I think, shrank quite dramatically. And then you can tell me if you agree. But certainly from this side of the Atlantic, it felt as though Britain was playing a much smaller role in the global stage.
Who is the go-to person in Europe now? Frankly, it's Angela Merkel. Whether it's Ukraine or any other crisis in Europe. But what is really surprising is how little role Europe played in Britain's own relationship with Europe. Because the one thing that a Tory government now means is that we're going to have a referendum in this country before the end of 2017 on our membership of the European Union.
David Cameron pledged that he would renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU by the end of 2017 and then bring that renegotiated settlement to an up or down referendum to the British people. And that's a huge amount of uncertainty that lies ahead. And I think people in the -- in this sort of early hours after this extraordinary victory, that kind of stuff hasn't fully sunk in yet.
ZAKARIA: Zanny Minton Beddoes, always a pleasure to have you on. Hope to see you stateside soon.
BEDDOES: I hope so, too.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, what is the great innovation of the 20th century, the one that had the biggest impact on the world? Some would argue it was the airplane. Perhaps you'll agree. And in just a moment, the great historian, David McCullough, will tell us the fascinating story behind the first flight and the Wright brothers.
ZAKARIA: Who would have thought that two bicycle mechanics could change the world? That's exactly what happened on December 17th, 1903, when Orville and Wilbur Wright found themselves airborne in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. From Orville's initial flight of 120 feet, we have now evolved to 3.1 billion passengers flying yearly on more than 32 million flights, more than 3.6 trillion miles in total, according to the U.N.'s aviation agency. So how did it all begin? Well, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, David McCullough, has worked his magic again. This time on the story of the Wright brothers in a new book published this week. Welcome back to the show, David.
DAVID MCCULLOUGH, TWO-TIME PULITZER PRIZE WINNER: Thank you, sir, very much. It's delightful to be back.
ZAKARIA: Tell me about the times that this was all happening in. Because the Wright brothers weren't the only tinkerers or inventors. You talk about Kodak and Singer.
MCCULLOUGH: Well, it was a time of productivity and entrepreneurial ingenuity and invention. It was a renaissance time in its way. It was invention of the light bulb and the telephone and the elevator and the cash register and the mousetrap and everything imaginable, large and small.
[10:35:00] MCCULLOUGH: And there was a sense that there was really no limit to what man could do. And there was no war. We were not at war. The country didn't have a debt. It had a surplus. And there was this confidence about the future that was in itself therapeutic and energizing. And these two young men who never went to college, never even finished high school, were so certain that they could crack this problem, they could solve this problem that defied mankind for thousands of years, and they set themselves to their mission. And I think their illustration of many strong qualities of the time and of America at the time and still today.
ZAKARIA: And what's also unusual about them is they're a team. We think of invention as a solo act, Edison inventing the light bulb. Here you have a team, two brothers, where there's clearly a senior partner and a junior partner, but yet they worked very much as a team.
MCCULLOUGH: One of the clearest lessons in history is that very little of consequence is ever accomplished alone. It's almost always a joint effort. So, not only were they a team, but they had people working with them who were part of the team. Their assistant mechanic, Charlie Taylor, is the one who built the first aluminum motor which was used on the first plane that ever flew. And the plane could not have done it without a very lightweight engine. And this man, who'd never built an -- a gasoline motor before in his life nor had the rights built this motor in a matter of a few months.
And it worked. And there was innovation at every step. The use of a wind tunnel, the design and structure of a propeller. The data on -- tabulations on wind resistance and all the rest that the others had been going by, all of which the Wright brothers discovered to be incorrect, worthless as Orville said. They had to start from scratch on all of that.
ZAKARIA: You talk a lot about the lessons for today. Because we sometimes think we're also living in a fertile moment, a lot of invention. What do you think are the real lessons?
MCCULLOUGH: The problems can be solved by people who are determined to use their brains to the utmost, determined to not let failure or disappointment take them - take the heart out of their efforts, and -- and confidence and character.
ZAKARIA: What do you mean by character? What struck you about the character of the Wright brothers?
MCCULLOUGH: They never criticized their critics. They never got cross with people who ridiculed them. They never said anything derogatory about their rivals. They were thorough gentlemen. And they were open-minded to new ideas, to new perspectives, and they knew how to use the English language. Very, very important part of their success. Their father brought them up to read, read everything, read good writers, and learned to write and to speak eloquently. So, they could communicate what they were about in a way that nobody else had yet achieved. And they did this with great modesty. There was no preening about how nifty they were at all. And they never changed, even when they became the most famous people on earth, famous twosome on earth. Didn't change them in the slightest. They had no interest in the limelight. They tried to avoid it if at all possible.
ZAKARIA: So in order to be an innovator - you know, this is one of the words, everyone- everyone wants to be an innovator. And you would say based on these two ultimate innovators, how would you complete that sentence? In order to be an innovator you need to ...
MCCULLOUGH: Well, you need to read about Wilbur and Orville Wright because they had it tough compared to what most of us have today. They had no money. They had no foundation behind them. They had no backer, financial backer. They had no inside track with anyone. And they had to do it all themselves. And they did it all themselves.
MCCULLOUGH: And they -- and they had faith that they are going to accomplish it.
I think that most people don't understand how much hard work goes into whatever -- what everyone does. One can never underestimate the importance of hard work and success. And one can never underestimate the importance of not giving up when you fail, when some things go wrong, when you're caught in an accident or caught in some unexpected defeat. And they never just laid down and whimpered and whined or blamed it on other people or gave up. They would not give up. And I think in many ways that's why they succeeded.
Their happiest time was when they still had -- hadn't done it yet. When -- their most miserable experiences on the outer banks in North Carolina, beset by mosquitoes and terrible windstorms and crashes and -- everything going, that was the happiest they had ever been. Wilbur uses a line in his notebook on observing birds. No bird ever soared in a calm. Adversity is what lifts us. If everything is easy, if everything is comfortable, if everything comes without effort or without frustration or unexpected setbacks, you're probably not going to succeed.
ZAKARIA: David McCullough, a great, great pleasure. And this book will - this book is destined to soar on the best-seller list as every one of your books does.
MCCULLOUGH: Thank you, sir.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," have you ever thought about robbing a bank? Well, my next guest will tell you whether it's a good idea or not. Seriously. Stephen Dubner, one half of the Freakonomics duo, crunches the numbers on that and a lot more. He'll tell you what you need to know when we come back.
ZAKARIA: For ten years, we have learned and laughed with the "Freakonomics" guys. If you're not familiar with them, you should be. They have a terrific blog, a great podcast, and a series of really interesting books. It's all about using economics to explain life and the choices we all make. The title of the latest book is "When to Rob a Bank." And one half of the "Freakonomics" duo, Stephen Dubner, is here to explain everything we need to know about that very important decision.
So, let's get right into it. Why is it that people -- I mean, what I was surprised by is that actually there are lots of bank robberies. There are 5,000 bank robberies a year in the United States.
STEPHEN DUBNER, ONE HALF OF THE FREAKONOMICS DUO: Yeah, but as crimes go, if you're going to lead a life of crime, which I'm not saying you are, but if you were to decide to, bank robberies - the ROI and bank robberies are very poor.
ZAKARIA: Wait, ROI means return ...
DUBNER: Return on investment, yeah. So, if you are going to do a crime, embezzlement is much - so, bank robbers earn on average about $4,000 in the U.S. per robbery. And they can expect to get arrested after only three robberies. So it's really not a career move. If you are -- we did look - the bank robbery data was fascinating, however. Times of day, days of the week. And it turns out that mornings are much more successful, but the majority of bank robbers work in the afternoon. So, either they're not profit maximizers - you know, they haven't studied economics -- or they just can't get up in the morning. I guess if they could get up in the morning, they wouldn't have to be robbing banks for a living.
ZAKARIA: And Fridays are the most popular day.
DUBNER: Fridays are the busiest day for robberies. But again, not necessarily any more successful than the other days. But the bottom line is bad crime.
ZAKARIA: And do you think that -- you're trying to make people think of it as a kind of rational economic decision.
DUBNER: That's exactly right.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that bank robbers are motivated by a kind of rational set of decision-making tools, or ...
DUBNER: I do. I think it's a real mistake to assume that people who we think are not as smart as us or who are criminals or who are politically opposed to us aren't rational. I think that's a big problem in the political debate. You know, it's bizarre to me that most people in any realm of the political debate can't accept the idea that people can have different preferences than them and that they can still be legitimate. So, it's as if every disagreement is built on this bankrupt idea that because you disagree with me, your idea must be wrong. And so what we try to do with "Freakonomics" is explore the incentives that people respond to. And people have heterogeneous preferences and incentives, and so you need to understand that if you want to make progress on solving problems.
ZAKARIA: Here's one idea you have which I really love and have always thought would work. So, we have in our political system this crazy situation where people are politicians or high officials and they get paid very, very little for that. They get paid less than an entering, you know, person at a good law firm or a bank. And they're wielding enormous amounts of power for years and years. And they leave, and effectively they then cash in by going and joining a lobbying firm or something like that.
ZAKARIA: What do you say is, wouldn't the rational thing be to pay them properly while they're in government so that, a, their decisions can be entirely for the national interests and not for potential future employment, and b, you don't have the sorry spectacle of them all running out and doing it. You suggested this to John McCain.
ZAKARIA: What was his response?
DUBNER: It was very interesting. First of all, you just stated it better than we did, I'm afraid, in the book. That's exactly right. Any job that you want people -- any difficult, complex job that you want people to perform at a very high level, you need to offer the right incentives. And some countries do pay their politicians a lot more. So what I proposed to Senator McCain was not only should we probably pay politicians a lot more, but allow them to be compensated based on the merits of how well they do. In other words, offer something like a stock option. So, if let's say, a senator, a congressperson or secretary of education, if Arne Duncan puts into place a program that is intended to raise school test scores by five or ten percentage points, I would love nothing more than if that actually were to get accomplished ten years from now.
DUBNER: And you have to set it up to be measurable and you have to set it up for deliverables and all that, which we know how to do. Then I would love to write to Secretary Duncan and 100 of the people who worked on it with them a check for a million, $2 million, $5 million. You know, the rest of the world works that way. Instead, however, we have the wrong incentives in politics. I would pay politicians a lot more and offer them some - you know, a vesting opportunity in the projects that they work on.
ZAKARIA: I love the idea of a bonus for a job well done. If you say you're going to raise test scores and you do -- we spend tens of billions of dollars on education. If you are going to actually get some movement, why not give $10 million for Arne Duncan.
DUBNER: That's exactly right. We spent tens of billions without really even knowing what works, by the way. So, when I ran this by Senator McCain, he listened, he was nodding at me, saying, oh, that's really interesting. In the end, he shakes my hand, smiles and says, "and good luck, to hell with that."
DUBNER: So I think, you know, look, that's what it takes to be a politician. He understands what's doable and what's not, but that doesn't mean a guy like me can't dream. ZAKARIA: And you talked about the fact that there are countries that
do it. The one that I'm always fascinated by is Singapore.
ZAKARIA: Singapore benchmarks to private sector salaries. So, they pay their high government officials at the rates that partners at law firms would make or, you know, managing directors at investment banks would make. The prime minister of Singapore makes about $2 million. The -- it is worth noting that Singapore is, by most measurements, the most incorruptible country in the world.
DUBNER: That's absolutely right. If you offer incentives for the right kind of job, for the right kind of people, then that's -- it doesn't mean there won't be some corruption. That's absolutely right. There's also been some nice studies that we write about in the book in Mexico and elsewhere where they raised municipal elected officials' salaries even, and there - there they did a lot better, as well. I don't blame politicians for doing what they do. If I was the kind of person who wanted to get elected to Congress I'd probably - and if I were lucky enough to get and good-looking enough to get elected, I'd get there and then I would do exactly what they do -- consolidate power, raise money, consolidate power, get re-elected. Then afterwards, try to cash in.
But we should recognize that we don't like the results of that incentive system. And I would love for us to publicly advocate for something bigger and better than that.
ZAKARIA: Pleasure to have you on as always.
DUBNER: Thank you so much, Fareed. I appreciate it.
Next on GPS, it's Mother's Day in the United States. So, we have a special Mother's Day "GPS" quiz. Stay tuned.
ZAKARIA: The organization Save the Children released its annual State of the World's Mothers report. That brings me to my question of the week -- which of the following cities has the highest infant mortality rate? Is it Bratislava, Slovakia, Jerusalem, Athens, Greece or Washington, D.C.? Stay tuned, and we'll tell you the correct answer.
This week's book is a reminder. It's the beginning of commencement season in the United States, and if there are college graduates, past, present, or future, to whom you're thinking of sending a gift, may I recommend my new book, "In Defense of a Liberal Education." It's really about what kinds of skills we all need to succeed in today's world. I was thrilled that the book and its ideas got a warm reception and made the best-seller list. I would be even more thrilled if you bought the book and actually read it. If you like the show, you'll like the book. And now for the "Last Look." 12.5 million trees in California have
died thanks to the state's extreme drought, according to the U.S. Forest Service. What is the answer to this water crisis? Well, this week, state water regulators approved the first mandatory water cuts in California's history, requiring cities to slash water use by as much as 36 percent. That's a start, but in recent years, global focus has turned to a technology that could help water worries -- desalination, or converting sea water and other undesirable water to fresh water. You may think of desalination as a costly process with a large environmental impact, but the technology is gaining ground around the world and getting better. The amount of desalted water produced has more than tripled globally since 2000, according to MIT.
Take Israel, for example, which MIT points out, is now home to the world's largest and cheapest desalination plant. In just two years, half of that country's water will come from desalination. And back stateside, San Diego is building what will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere to come on line next year. The United Nations predicts that within a decade, 1.8 billion people will be living with absolute water scarcity.
Desalination is not a silver bullet to deal with water issues, but there is all this saltwater around us. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, "The Rhyme with the Ancient Mariner," there's a famous line spoken by the mariner as his ship is stuck out at sea, "Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink." Well, not a problem anymore if we can do desalination right.
The correct answer to the "GPS" challenge question is D. According to the State of the World's Mothers report, the most recent data says Washington, D.C., had the highest infant mortality rate among the 25 high-income capital cities surveyed. Many major U.S. cities have an even higher rate than Washington, of course. As for the lowest rates, they were in Prague, Stockholm, and Oslo.
Don't forget to tune in tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for our special, "Blindsided: How ISIS Shook the World."
ZAKARIA: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I'll see you next week.