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Interview With International Rescue Committee President And CEO And Former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband; Interview With Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh; Interview With "The Crisis Of The Democratic Capitalism" Author Martin Wolf. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 08, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN. More people get their news from CNN than any other news source.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here is what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your bravery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The Ukrainian president's surprise visit to the U.K. comes also with an urgent request for fighter jets. And.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The death toll from the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria has now surpassed 11,000. With me to discuss all of it, Former
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, now president of the International Rescue Committee. Plus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NASRIN SOTOUDEH, IRANIAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: As somebody who's -- was born a Muslim, I am really ashamed of what is going on in my country and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: She is Iran's most prominent human rights lawyer still in Tehran. Nasrin Sotoudeh joins me while on medical furlough from prison why
she's speaking out in an exclusive interview. And.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN WOLF, AUTHOR, "THE CRISIS OF THE DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM": If we don't believe in politics, I think democracy tends to wither.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What's driving "The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism"? Journalist Martin Wolf diagnosis the problem and share some possible solutions.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christian Amanpour in London where Ukraine's president has made his first European visit since Russia's
invasion nearly a year ago. Volodymyr Zelenskyy met King Charles and he addressed parliament to thank the British for their steadfast support.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: We know freedom will win. We know Russia will lose. And we really know that victory, that victory will
change the world and this will be a change that the world has long needed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Zelenskyy also came with an urgent plea for western warplanes. British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, says, nothing is off the table. But so
far, like Washington, the U.K. isn't yet sending in the fighter jets, which Kyiv says are crucial to defeating Russia.
Zelenskyy next heads to France and to Brussels, the E.U. there. And amid shoring up support for the defense of his country, he's also sending scores
of emergency staff to Turkey to aid the earthquake relief effort. The death toll there and in Syria is rising, but survivors, including children, are
still emerging from the rubble as Correspondent Salma Abdelaziz reports on their desperate efforts to get help for war-torn Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (voiceover): This is no way to come into the world. Birthed during an earthquake, thrust into a war zone, orphaned and
alone. This newborn girl was found alive, her umbilical cord still attached to her dead mother's body. Buried under the rubble of their home. This
video shows the moments after rescuers pulled her out of the ruins.
We found the parents bodies lying next to each other. Then we heard a faint sound, he says. We dug, we cleared the dust and found the baby, still tied
by her umbilical cord. So, we cut it off and sent her to hospital.
The rest of Baby John Doe's immediate family lies in the back of this pickup truck, all dead, before they even knew he was alive.
An attire generation of Syrians has been born into war. Now, those traumatized children face yet another catastrophe.
And for now, hope is not coming. U.N. officials say, the only route for getting international aid into Syria via Turkey is impassable because of
damage to the road caused by the earthquake.
Diplomatic efforts are underway to open a humanitarian corridor. But already. there are concerns accesses being politicized. The Damascus
government, heavily sanctioned by the west, insists it should be the sole coordinator.
BASSAM SABBAGH, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: So, if it's happened to your country or to his country, it would be the same. Without the control
of the government, without permission of the government, without approval from the government, this is a violation. Very simple.
CROWD: (Speaking in a foreign language).
ABDELAZIZ (voiceover): But a few in rebel held areas places bombarded for years by President Bashar al-Assad believed the government that once
leveled their neighborhoods would care to save them now. And the clock is ticking to find any survivors under hundreds of collapsed buildings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in a foreign language).
Like Mariam (ph), this social media video shows her more than 36 hours after the quake, soothing her little brother, Ilaf (ph).
Please, she says to the rescue workers, please, help us. I'll do anything if you could just help us.
The siblings are eventually extracted and brought safely to their terrified parents. In another rare moment of triumph, an entire family is retrieved
by emergency responders. Just watch the crowd's reaction as they bring them out one by one. Dad, daughter, son. In Syria, just surviving is a victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Look at that. That is an incredible reaction to those miracles. Correspondent Salma Abdelaziz reporting there.
And here to discuss both the fallout from the earthquake and, of course, what is next for Ukraine is David Miliband. He's a former British foreign
secretary and current the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, joining me from New York.
David Miliband, welcome back to the program.
DAVID MILIBAND, PRESIDENT AND CEO, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE AND FORMER BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Thanks very much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Gosh. I have to say, watching that unbelievable rescue and seeing those miracles, really, knowing that there is so much despair in
other parts, it's quite something. How are your people being able to help in that region right now?
MILIBAND: Yes, the International Rescue Committee has an office in Gaziantep, which was the center in Turkey of the earthquake. And a very
large operation in the northwest of Syria across the border, over 400 of my colleagues are working in the northwest of Syria.
And the critical thing to understand is that any earthquake is a crisis. But this earthquake is a crisis piled upon a crisis. On Sunday, the day
before the earthquake struck, 15 million people across Syria were in humanitarian need. They needed humanitarian agencies, like the
International Rescue Committee to survive, to get health care, to get education. They were not being served by the government in Damascus because
the northwest of Syria is under the control of a range of different rebel organizations.
And when your correspondent says that survival is victory, that is undoubtedly the case at the moment. Especially with the damage to the
crossing point from Turkey into Syria. Because there is no access for humanitarian aid workers from other parts of Syria into the northwest. We
depend on that passage from Turkey. And I'm afraid there used to be two crossing points there, but a Russian veto in the security council cut it
down to one. And now, that has been impeded by the earthquake. So, you can immediately see the scale of the challenge.
AMANPOUR: Gosh. I mean, it's just beggars' belief that a Russian veto would be used to stop humanitarian aid getting into a country. We
understand from the U.N. now that that particular crossing you're talking about, the only one, has been sufficiently restored and repaired to take
aid in. But talking about vetoes and U.N. diplomats, you just heard in the report, the Syrian diplomat essentially, to me, it sounded like he didn't
want aid going into those regions. Calling it a violation of their sovereignty. Is that possible? Could he have meant that?
MILIBAND: Well, there are -- yes, there three and a half million people living in the northwest of Syria. And the Syrian government has obviously
had 12 years to deliver aid to them, what is called cross line aid, across the conflict lines. But the truth is, an absolute pittance has driveled in
and that's why cross-border aid has been defined not by politicians but by independent U.N. officials.
Cross-border aid has been defined as being the most direct and efficient way of reaching people in need. In fact, the only way. There used to before
crossing points into Syria, two from Iraq, two from Turkey. Now, there is only one from Turkey.
And this earthquake shows why the arguments for cross-border aid are so important. Those three and a half million people living in the northwest of
Syria, they didn't choose their government. And many of them didn't choose to be there, they were herded in there as a result of conflict in the other
parts of the country. They were bombed out of their own homes. And so, there's about one and a half million internally displaced there.
And what this earthquake has dramatized is that so-called forgotten crises like Syria, maybe not forgotten on your program, but forgotten by too much
of the wider world. Those forgotten crises don't go away. They are not resolved crises. They're part of a picture in which there are 100 million
people displaced by violence around the world today, and 340 million people in humanitarian need.
So, the immediate crisis needs to be responded to with the kind of emergency help that the International Rescue Committee and others
specialize in. But there's a bigger lesson here about how the world turns away from crises that unfortunately don't go away if you ignore them.
AMANPOUR: And as you mentioned, the day before this earthquake, I think you said some 15 million Syrians were in desperate, desperate need of
humanitarian aid. There had been a cholera outbreak and all the rest of it. And despite the miracles, and I keep saying that because when you see
people pulled out after days from under huge planks of concrete and towers of rubble, it is a miracle. But in other villages in Syria, and probably in
Turkey, too, they're having a really hard time.
Now, Syrian government is saying that that's -- you know, they can't help people because of the sanctions. Surely, sanctions are exempt in
humanitarian crises. Tell me what the law is. Is the Syrian government right, that help can't get to -- because they're asking for sanctions to be
MILIBAND: No, the sanctions don't apply to humanitarian aid. And the cross-border aid is necessary because the three and a half million people
in the northwest are not being helped from their own capital city.
Now, your introduction to the program talked about over 10,000 people being killed. I want your listeners, your viewers to brace themselves for that
number to be multiplied many, many times. It is not alarmist to talk about literally tens of thousands of people being killed by this series of
earthquakes in Turkey and in -- that have affected Turkey and have affected Syria.
And I think the world is going to have to brace itself for days and then weeks as the death toll rises. And as rescue teams no longer are rescuing
live people but rescuing bodies, go through the rubble that has been left across really quite large towns and cities across the Syria-Turkey region.
AMANPOUR: I mean, we can see for the overhead shots, I think it's drone video that we're seeing, the size of the mountains of rubble and the towers
of flats and things, apartment buildings that have collapsed is just awful. Certainly, that development -- you know, developed area of Turkey is
suffering very, very much. And the rural areas and the other areas of Syria, obviously as well.
But can I just ask to switch -- ask you to switch a little bit now to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, particularly in the east. And -- I mean,
it's almost beggars' belief that Ukraine is sending 87 or more of its own desperately needed experts, humanitarian and other rescue officials and
workers to help with the earthquake.
MILIBAND: Yes, your question and the decision of Ukraine bring out something very important about the two crises, Syria and Ukraine, that
you're featuring. They've got one thing in common and one thing that's very different. In both situations, you have the bombing of civilians on an
indiscriminate basis. That's happened in Syria. And the pummeling that the east of Ukraine is taking from Russian missile and other attacks shows a
similar trend. A complete abuse of international humanitarian law which is meant to protect civilians.
Now, the big difference between Syria and Ukraine, and a difference that I think explains the extraordinary decision of the Ukraine government to
reach out on a humanitarian basis with its own people, is that while the Ukraine humanitarian response is very well organized and very well-funded,
the Syria humanitarian response has been significantly underfunded.
And if you look at the figures on U.N. appeals, for example, 80, 85, 90 percent of the U.N. appeal for Ukraine has been funded. In Syria, it's less
MILIBAND: And so, that's why you're in a situation where Ukraine is able to make this important decision. I think there's one other point that I'd
like to make, which I think is really significant. The Ukraine crisis isn't just a provincial, European war.
It's a challenge to the global order that says, the first rule of international relations is that one country cannot invade another. This was
the foundation of the U.N. Charter after the second world war. And the absolute ban on gaining territory by invasion is absolutely clear.
And so, it is the international rule of law, as well as the lives of Ukrainians that's at stake in the Ukraine crisis. And while I think that
the global repercussions of the Ukraine conflict go beyond the material impact on food prices, energy prices globally, which is real, but there's
also a fundamental point about how the world is run.
AMANPOUR: It's really interesting and important that you point out that international context because President Zelenskyy pointed exactly that out
in his address to, I guess we call it, a joint session of parliament in Westminster Hall today. And he said, you know, that this is not just about
us. It's about us and the whole world.
And I guess just to raise the fact again that this is especially egregious since Russia itself, along with your country and the United States agreed
to protect Ukraine's sovereignty in return for it giving up its nuclear weapons back in 1994. So, there's just so much that doesn't make sense from
Russia's perspective today.
So, what do you make then of the president of Ukraine coming to Britain? His first European destination, I don't know if we can call it European,
but what do you make of that?
MILIBAND: Well, I think that Britain is still European even though it's left the European Union. But that's -- this is not the occasion for
discussing that. Look, I think that President Zelenskyy's visit, which follows this extraordinary international effort that he's made at
communicating to the world as well as communicating to his own people speaks to the fact that this Ukraine war is going to be a long haul and it
is global in its consequences.
The side of this war that is about support, that is about legitimacy, that it's about credibility is obviously very, very important alongside the
battlefield that President Zelenskyy is marshaling. I lead a humanitarian organization. So, we are dealing with the civilian victims inside Ukraine
and in the neighboring countries who have been driven from their homes. So, I'm not going to be able to comment on the military balance of power.
But what is obviously significant from both a political point of view and a humanitarian point of view is that this crisis is deepening and its
broadening. And that means that we all have to prepare for the long haul. And that's the context in which I think the series of visits that it sounds
like President Zelenskyy is making needs to be seen.
AMANPOUR: So, he has said to his own people and to the world, when he comes out, that he will only leave when it's absolutely militarily
necessary, i.e., when, clearly, he needs to ask the world for more to help his military defend the sovereignty and independence under international
law of their country. This is what he said to parliament as he continued to step up the request for even more weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENSKYY: Leaving the British parliament two years ago, I thanked you for delicious English tea. And I will be leaving the parliament today thanking
all of you in advance for powerful English planes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, President Zelenskyy, a former comedian can still land a joke, but he's serious about it. Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, said
nothing is off the table. I know that you're not going to talk about military affairs, but as a former diplomat and foreign minister -- foreign
secretary, what -- how do you think this will go down in Russia?
MILIBAND: Well, obviously, the Russians now realize that the assumption they made on February the 24th last year, that there could be a short war
in Ukraine has been proven disastrously wrong. Disastrous for Russia, as well as disastrous for the people of Ukraine.
Now, the desperate need, obviously, is for the Russians to abandon their invasion, that's the way that this war ends. Because Ukrainians are not
going to forsake their country, their independence, their sovereignty, their freedom to decide their own affairs that was established after the
end of the -- the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union at the end of the '80s, the beginning of the 1990s.
Now, the balance of power is obviously quite acute inside Ukraine. No one is now talking about the whole of the country being overrun. But in the
east of the country, I can speak on behalf of the teams that we have on the ground, very far east in Ukraine. And when I used the word earlier,
pummeling, that's what needs to be understood.
MILIBAND: That what is being banked on in Russian military strategy is not an attack on the Ukrainian military but an attack on Ukraine, its people,
it's civilian infrastructure. The front line of the Ukraine war is now civilians, not just soldiers.
MILIBAND: And that is part of a global trend, the majority of people killed in war today, civil wars today --
MILIBAND: -- are civilians, not combatants.
MILIBAND: And so, we're in a new world. But what I see is obviously a very significant Russian push but also, an incredibly stout Ukrainian defense.
That's why there's a balance and that's why the war is going on.
AMANPOUR: David Miliband, former foreign secretary, head of the IRC, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
Now, Iran is also among the country sending aid to the quake region. But the Islamic Republic is dealing with its own internal crises. Demonstrators
led by young women are not giving up on their fight for human rights.
And my next guest has been at the forefront of that struggle. Attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh has defended activists, including women, prosecuted for
removing their headscarves. Her work has landed her in and out of jail. In 2019, she was sentenced to 38 years and 148 lashes, a punishment that
shocked the world.
She's now on medical furlough from prison and she's speaking out tonight in her first television interview, partly to raise awareness about her friend
and fellow activist, Farhad Meysami. Disturbing images of him in jail had surfaced after he began a hunger strike last October, protesting the
mandatory wearing of hijab by women.
But Sotoudeh started off by telling me about the state of the protests when she joined me earlier in this exclusive from Tehran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NASRIN SOTOUDEH, IRANIAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER (through translator): After Mahsa Amini was killed by the government, we faced a huge protest movement.
People took to the streets en masse because Mahsa Amini's issue was related to the hijab, and the issue of a hijab had been a source of harassment of
women by the security forces.
The police that should be guarding the life of women were ruthlessly beating them up and this issue really hurt the collective conscience of the
Iranian people because for many years the Iranian people had suffered, and one of the main sufferings was that half the population was constantly
being harassed because of their gender, because of their body. Every day, they were being monitored, they're being beaten up. And they are being
And to end this harassment, the people took to the streets and that was their demand, to stop the harassment. And their demand was ignored. And
then, that the people gradually realized that what they want, what they should demand is a regime change. And so, the movement changed demand, and
And at the moment, for four months we see protests by the people throughout the country, on the streets. We saw those for four months. But recently,
the protests have somewhat died down. But that doesn't mean that peoples are no longer angry and are not protesting. They constantly want and still
want a regime change. They want a referendum. And every night, they are chanting slogans. And also on social media, they are trying to voice their
demand and they constantly repeat their demand.
AMANPOUR: Why did the protest die down?
SOTOUDEH (through translator): Please bear in mind that this movement has shown the important standards for civil and political activity first. All
the protests were taking place in public places, universities and streets, and they were totally peaceful. But the people were confronted with
crackdown, heavy crackdown by the security forces who were beating them up severely. And many of them, because of these beatings, lost their lives.
SOTOUDEH (through translator): And they used also the taser bullets, which, as a result of which, many of them went blind and some lost their
lives. They faced many threats because of their protests. They were constantly in danger and many of the protesters had to -- were given the
death penalty. Although the people were demonstrating peacefully, but they -- so, the protest died down because of the fear that they had created of
the death penalty, possible death penalty. But it doesn't mean that the anger has subsided in any way. It has not.
AMANPOUR: Nasrin, let me ask you a question. This all started, as you say, because of the compulsory politics over the bodies and the will of women.
The head scarf, the compulsory forced head scarf. You are talking to me from Tehran, without a head scarf on. Why is that?
SOTOUDEH (through translator): Look, this law that we are protesting against, and we have not accepted it for the past 40 years with regard to
compulsory hijab. The law says that we have to wear the hijab in public spaces but I am actually in my home. Even on the basis of the law, we don't
have to observe the hijab when we are in our homes.
SOTOUDEH (through translator): But for many years, we have started a movement of civil disobedience. And I don't know if you can see a picture
behind me. This is made by Mohammad Ganji, an Iranian artist, which shows Vida Movahed, who was the first Iranian woman who is known as one of the
first girl of the Enghelab Movement or the Revolution movement, who took her head scarf off and went on a platform to protest against the hijab. So,
that is the current situation, the women are against the hijab.
AMANPOUR: Nasrin, I want to ask you about your own security. For the last 13 years, you have been taken in and out of prison and it shocked the world
when you were sentenced to 38 years in 2019 and 148 lashes. The regime says for spying, spreading propaganda, insulting Iran's supreme leader. You're
on a medical furlough now.
I want to know whether you are afraid. I mean, clearly you are not, because you're talking to me. But explain to me why you are willing to take this
risk now, to speak out against the regime that could any minute take you back into jail.
SOTOUDEH (through translator): It's a very good question, yes. Not only myself but also my family are under pressure on a daily basis. My husband
is facing prison sentence. My husband, Reza Khandan, and also Farhad Meysami are both on hunger strike. And they were both active in supporting
the goals of the movement, Enghelab Movement. And then, they froze our bank accounts, mine and my husband's.
And then stopped my daughter from leaving the country to continue her education abroad. And also, she has been accused of various -- my whole
family have been accused of various charges for the past several years. But why aren't we not afraid?
When I look at pictures of emaciated hunger striker Farhad Meysami, and some of my very dear friends like Mafa Shahiyari (ph) and Mafa Shanay (ph),
we have been very old friends, and we started our friendship in prison.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about your friend, Farhad Meysami, who you said is on a hunger strike. The pictures have shocked the world. Of course, the
Iranian government says that they are old pictures from a previous hunger strike. But why -- what is the risk to him? What happens if he's allowed to
die in jail?
SOTOUDEH (through translator): First of all, I have to say how sorry I am that but many years all we give -- all the news we -- you from Iran is bad
news, including the picture of the emaciated Farhad Meysami from prison.
For many years, Farhad has been a very active member of our civil society. But for the past 10 years, her activism has become more and more open and
he has been especially supporting the women in their protest movement. And he said, I am against compulsory hijab. And because he had written on a
placard, I am against compulsory hijab, they imprisoned him.
And he is still on this hunger strike, pictures from which you have seen. And he has three demands. And his demands are the demands of the majority
of Iranians. Farhad has called for an end to executions of protesters, an end to forced hijab harassment and also, the release of six political
prisoners, Bahareh Hedayat, Nahidashi Bashi (ph), Niloofar Hamedi, Mohammad Habibi, Mustafa Nili and Reza Shahabi.
Farhad's demands are also the demands of all Iranians. And I hope that, as soon as possible, these demands will be realized so that we can save
Farhad's life, and we can save all of us.
AMANPOUR: Nasrin, when these protests started in September, you said that there was a very real possibility of regime change. Do you still think that
is possible? And what do you think is going to happen next?
SOTOUDEH (through translator): We don't know what is going to be the precise outcome. We don't know that. But people's demands are becoming more
and more transparent, they're becoming more vociferous.
When Mahsa Amini died in the Kasra Hospital, and Morality Police were all over that hospital to arrest protesters. That movement, yes, it started
there. The protest started there. And then, the slogan called for a regime change. And now, they are calling for referendums.
And Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest, he was one of the leaders of the Green Movement who is currently under house arrest, was the
last person who asked for a referendum to be staged in Iran. And when Mr. Mousavi calls for a referendum and he, in a way, to all intents and
purposes, he is the closest you could get to the government, someone who has called for a referendum. And I think the possibility of a referendum is
still there, and more so now than three months ago.
AMANPOUR: Has anything changed for women in Iran since the protests and the death of Mahsa Amini?
SOTOUDEH (through translator): If you're talking about officially, whether the situation has changed officially, no. I can even tell you it's
exacerbated. In fact, official authorities are trying to flex their muscles more. They're trying to show their strength a lot more than before. But
civil disobedience continues, and many women, courageously, take to the streets without wearing a head scarf or any form of the hijab.
AMANPOUR: And finally, Nasrin, are you scared for your safety now after speaking out publicly and after all that you do and say on behalf of
SOTOUDEH (through translator): Yes. If my -- knowing that my family, my children are being threatened, as a mother, because it can curb their
education, it can curb the progress of my children. Yes, I am fearful because of that. And I am -- but, on the other hand, I'm also frightened
that if I don't do anything, if I stay passive that would lead to worsening of the situation. It's kind of slavery of our young women and men.
So, despite my fear, I try and do what is going to be more helpful for freeing the country and freeing our people.
AMANPOUR: You are quite a woman, Nasrin Sotoudeh. Thank you for joining us from Tehran at great risk.
SOTOUDEH (through translator): Thank you very much. And at the end of the interview, I would like to attract the world's attention to the plight of
Farhad who is currently in prison on hunger strike. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Such inordinate courage. And we've reached out to the Iranian government for a response to Nasrin's interview, but we have not heard
Next, to a new book, "The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism". It's about the colliding challenges faced by democracies and their economies. The
financial times chief economics commentator, Martin Wolf, argues that marriage has hit the rocks. He tells our Walter Isaacson just how and why
it needs to be put back together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank, you Christiane. And Martin Wolf, welcome to the show.
MARTIN WOLF, AUTHOR, "THE CRISIS OF THE DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM": Great pleasure.
ISAACSON: You have a great new book out called "The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism". In it, you talk about how there is this pushback on capitalism
and how, in many ways, it's not working in terms of shared prosperity. But 40 percent of young people these days actually don't even believe in
capitalism. Can you give me a defense of capitalism? The way to say that it actually is something we have to save?
WOLF: It's very clear that capitalism, as a system, by which I mean markets, competitive markets -- properly competitive markets, has been and
remains the most successful and dynamic economic system. It's not an accident, after all, that it was after China made its move towards the
market economy because such a shock that it has been such a stupendous success. And you see in the same thing in India after it started
liberalizing in the early '90s.
And of course, our societies remain the richest, the most prosperous in human history, and they continue to generate extraordinary innovation. So,
this is a remarkable system. All attempts to do without some sort of market economy to replace it with complete socialism have failed. And they've not
just failed economically, they've also failed politically.
And I argue the reason for that is obvious. The socialist regimes concentrate all resources in the state. They reestablished the old
relationship between power and wealth. If you control all the wealth, you control all the power. Ultimately, that means not just that the economy is
stifled because of the central control.
Also, politics are stifled because no one can truly have an independent voice if a state owns and controls, directly or indirectly, everything.
So, I would argue to these young people, they need capitalism, but a better capitalism. And they need a democracy, but a better democracy. And a lot of
my book is about what that might mean. I'm trying to open a debate from, as it were, what I think of as the center which says, we're not satisfied with
what we have. I agree there are problems.
But what we have to do is make reforms, quite radical reforms, that's happened in the middle of the 20th century. Many countries, including the
U.S., to make capitalism and democracy work better together again. But we must not suffer from the delusion that we can dispense with either or both
and live in better societies. We know that isn't true.
ISAACSON: You've talked about how China in the past, 20, 30 years has moved much more to a market economy. Moved more towards capitalism in a
way. And yet, it has not moved more towards democracy and there's been a great backsliding against democracy. Is it sustainable to have a capitalist
system without democracy?
WOLF: I think that's one of the biggest questions of our age and one of the biggest issues of our time. And the honest truth, from my perspective,
is I'm rather -- is -- question that. I'm skeptical about this. And I think there's a lot of evidence that the Chinese economy's underlying performance
has been deteriorating for quite a long time. If you look at trend growth and so forth, its debt problems and all the rest of it.
If you consider -- remember that it's still a very poor country, a very substantially poorer, properly measured than all the high-income countries.
That's a quarter of the living standards of the U.S., will it close that gap? I think that's becoming, at least, increasingly questionable. And the
issue certainly is, can Mr. Xi exercise the, sort of, top-down control he has done. Imposing these restraints on businesses, done without
consequences? Certainly, many of the business people I meet, including Chinese business people, are clearly pretty frightened of what he is doing.
So, I think it's a really big question. I would never predict the political future of China. But it seems to me also a rush (ph) to assume that this
autocracy will last forever. I can still remember -- not that I'm making comparisons, but I can remember very well that in 1980 nobody imagined,
certainly in 1970, that within 20 years the Soviet Union would simply disappear.
I think we cannot assume that autocracies, and autocracy like China, will win the great battle between freedom, both political and economic, and
autocracy. And of course, that's certainly the side I want to be on.
ISAACSON: President Biden just gave his State of the Union address. He's been able to pass three major bills with $2 trillion in new spending for
everything from infrastructure to environment. What marks do you give him on the economy? And how do you think the U.S. economy is going?
WOLF: This is a huge question. I'm very -- I'm in very two minds. Well, first of all, I think the huge fiscal stimulus at the beginning of his term
was excessive. I've always been with Larry Summers on this, and I think it (INAUDIBLE) -- it was one of the reasons we got into the inflation problem.
And it's a significant problem for which we haven't yet fully paid the price. So that, I think, it was a mistake.
I think the attempts to use the government to promote infrastructure investment, to promote the green transformation are good, the directions
are good. It's what the government should do in conditions like this. Whether all the ways that have -- it's been done are the best. With another
-- I mean, I'm very surprised if some of the money won't -- didn't turn out to be very much wasted. Some of the new industries that are created turn
out not to work.
But on balance, I think, in a country like yours where there's so much skepticism about the ability of government to do anything, to have a
president who is able to pass legislation which shows what -- there are things governments can achieve, and they're obviously important things even
if not perfectly done. I think that's very important. A very good thing. Because the opposition, which I somewhat fear now, not something I would
have thought 10, 15 years ago, is really relies so heavily on these deep cynicism about government. A government that can't do anything.
And if -- I think if people believe that it's very difficult to believe in politics. And if you don't believe in politics, I think democracy tends to
ISAACSON: You, in your book, talk about your father. And your father escaping, I think in 1937 before the Nazis come to power. And then your
mother's family, a lot of them did not escape. Tell me about your life story and how that helped inform your views on democracy and capitalism.
WOLF: Well, yes, I inherited very much from my father the values that I've always held in favor of both. My father has left Vienna in '37. My mother
left Holland in May 1940 with her immediate family, her parents and her siblings. Unfortunately, in both cases, their wider families were left
behind and, essentially, they were all killed.
The reason this matters to me, of course, is that I became aware because of their story and, of course, the story of so many people like them, of the
extreme fragility of a civilized state, of the collapse that is possible in political and moral standards if things get bad enough and people are
desperate enough and the wrong, sort of, leaders come along. Not -- I'm not comparing anyone, anyone who is now around with the sort of leadership we
saw, particularly in Germany in the inter war period. Of course, I'm not.
But we are seeing a lot of countries being led by authoritarian leaders who use the rage in the public, the anger in the public against elites who
establish autocratic power, the ride rough shot over the rule of law, deprive minorities of their rights. And this has happened in parts of
central and eastern Europe. It's happened in emerging countries. And there are politicians rooted in the old fascism who are really in very powerful
positions now in Europe.
And then of course, things, you know, obviously, we had all the difficulties about your last presidential election. And the widespread
myth, as far as I can see, that they were stolen by Biden. This is all very frightening for me.
The fear is not that we're going back to fascism. It's a very different time. But the democracy, the liberal societies that we have enjoyed in the
post-war period as a result of the victory in the second world war could be replaced with backsliding. One scholar calls it a prolonged democratic
recession. And that's what we've been seeing. And we've been seeing it even in core western countries like, of course, your own.
ISAACSON: You talk about the threats of democracy partly being caused by a populist backlash that taps into resentments about the global elites and
how they controlled the economy. But to some extent, there's some understandable resentments there. To what extent do people who are trying
to defend democracy, trying to defend capitalism need to figure out how to deal with the resentments towards the elites that seem to have created a
winner take all economy?
WOLF: That's an absolutely central point of my book, a core point. I go to great lengths to explain how I think we've emerged to take as one aspect of
elite, the business and commercial elite, financial elite. We've created, sort of, ronche (ph) form of capitalism which competition has been really
ISAACSON: And let me -- when you say ronche (ph), let me just explain. You're talking about like renters. Like, people who have capital can get by
and make a whole lot without really adding to society, right?
WOLF: Yes. Exactly. That they use their position, their economic positions to extract income which is well above what they actually have contributed
ISAACSON: Give me an example of that. You're talking about bankers?
WOLF: Well, the -- perhaps one of the best examples is -- or one of it's controversial to, if you look at what sometimes called big tech. They have
been allowed to create monopolies. Effectively, partly it's natural. Their natural monopolies, but partly because they've been allowed to buy all
their competitors, accumulatively buying their competitors, absorbing them into their huge tent. Now, there are natural monopolies in many tech
industries. Many tech activities, such, for example, if --
ISAACSON: Yes, but (INAUDIBLE) being disrupted even as we speak this week.
WOLF: Yes and no -- I mean, one of the things we --
ISAACSON: So, I mean, isn't that what capitalism does?
WOLF: Well, one of the things we're going to see, and I think the very important question, is whether the natural competitive process of
capitalism will all on their own reverse this. We haven't seen that for a long time. It would be wonderful if it did. Yet another and much more
controversial issue is corporate governance.
If you run corporate -- corporations, essentially, solely for the interest of shareholders which basically is determined by the management who
represents them, then there is a very big argument about whether to the returns to the company. The rewards of the company are appropriately shared
between shareholders and management and control the whole business.
On the one hand, not all the people who work in the business is on the other. And that explains in the fact that this is into some extent extract
and explains is simply staggering increases in the pay of top executives vis-a-vis the rest of the people working in their companies. So, that's
another example of essentially extractive process is.
And I think there are -- another one again and perhaps the most important is using the money. Individual (INAUDIBLE) of corporate money to influence
the political system to grant extremely favorable terms above all for taxation, international taxation, and so forth which allows an enormous
amount of tax avoidance and evasion in all sorts of ways. And I've present lots of examples of that.
So, the -- I think when people think the system is, to some extent, rigged against ordinary people and in favor of people with wealth and therefore
power, that's correct.
ISAACSON: Let me read you one of the great passages from your book. The enemy today is not without. Even China is not that potent. The enemy is
within. Democracy will survive only if it gives opportunity, security, and dignity to the great majority of its people. And then you go on to say, if
elites are only in it for themselves, a dark age of autocracy will return.
It seems, in a way, that you are blaming so of the problems we have, not just on the populist reaction but on the elites themselves. And you know
that elite very well. Explain it to me.
WOLF: The populist reaction which we've seen, the voting for people on the left and right who really say, we're going to get rid of the people and
create a swamp is a -- which is a network of lobbyists, politicians, and of course bureaucrats. They -- the -- it's legitimate for them to complain
because actually if you look at the performance of our economies and the benefits that many people have achieved from the progress we've made, it
has been extremely, unequally shared. And it hasn't been a very well managed.
That's why I emphasized the impact of financial crisis. One of the many figures I have in my book to show how huge the losses of income have been
across our countries since the financial crisis. And so, that really does indicate quite a profound failure.
So, I think that this sense that the elite are remote from us, the completely different lives, basically hold all the power in our society,
they basically determine how things are done in regulation, in taxation, in how market competition works. That they buy the politicians. This is a
perfectly understandable view. You can see the same phenomenon in the Brexit campaign here, and the sense of alienation of ordinary people.
Particularly people who didn't go to college from all this.
It seems to me to have become very, very profound. And that's linked, of course, with really profound social changes which are also discussed about
-- which are to do with a fact that one of the biggest changes over the last half century is the way our economies have moved against people who
are not college educated and in favor of people who are college educated and particularly a subset of the latter. This created a new class division
which generates huge anger and very clearly part of what somebody like Donald Trump appeals to.
ISAACSON: Martin Wolf, thank you so much for joining us.
WOLF: Great pleasure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, in our divided times, a rare moment of unity and jubilation, at least for NBA fans.
Tributes are pouring in for the Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James as he becomes the highest scoring player in the history of the National
Basketball Association. Surpassing the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record of 38,387 points. A towering achievement that's lasted since 1989.
He certainly towered over me.
That's it for now. Goodbye from London.