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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Role of Religion in 2012 Campaign; Interview with Neil Degrasse Tyson; Interview with Charles Murray
Aired April 01, 2012 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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.
First up on a great show, we'll tackle the three things your mother told you not to talk about with strangers, religion and politics and sex. Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam, contraception, abortion; they are all playing a role in the 2012 election campaign. And I have a great panel including Andrew Sullivan and Jon Meacham to talk about it.
Next, David versus Goliath, what small nation is taking on the most populous nation in the world? I'll tell you.
Then, the politics of outer space, American won the race to the moon, but that was 40 years ago. The U.S. is essentially sitting on the bench in the current space race. Will that hurt it back here on Earth?
And is America coming part? That's what the author of a controversial new book says, I'll ask him about it.
But, first, here's my take. Something caught my eye the other day, Pat Robertson, the high priest of the religious right, had some startling things to say about drugs.
"I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol," Mr. Robertson said recently. I've never used marijuana and I don't intend to, he said, "but it's just one of things that, well, I think this war on drugs just hasn't succeeded."
The reason Robertson is for legalizing marijuana is that it has created a prison problem in America that is well beyond what most Americans imagine. He's right.
Here are the numbers; the total number of Americans under correctional supervision, prison, parole, et cetera, is 7.1 million, more than the entire state of Massachusetts. No other country comes even close to our rates of incarceration.
We have 760 prisoners per 100,000 people. Most European countries have one-seventh that number per capita, so it's adjusted for population. Even those on the high-end of the global spectrum, Brazil, Poland, have only a quarter the number we do. Now, if you say this is some kind of enduring aspect of America's Wild West culture, you would be wrong. In 1980, our rates of incarceration were a quarter of what they are now. What changed was the war on drugs and the mindless proliferation of laws that have created criminal penalties for anything and everything.
If you don't believe me, listen to Pat Robertson, again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT ROBERTSON, HOST, THE 700 CLUB: We here in America make up 5 percent of the world's population, but we make up 25 percent of jailed prisoners. We have now over 3,000 -- the number must be much higher than that, but over 3,000 federal crimes.
And every time the liberals pass a bill, I don't care what it involves, they stick criminal sanctions on it and so we have the jails filled with people who are white collar criminals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons versus $5.7 billion on higher education.
Since 1980, California has built one college campus. It has built 21 prisons. The state spends $8,767.00 per student per year. It spends about $50,000.00 per inmate per year. Why is this happening?
Well, prisons are a big business now. They are privately run. They have powerful lobbyists and they have bought most state politicians in America. Meanwhile, we are bankrupting our states and creating a vast underclass of prisoners who will never be equipped for productive lives.
I never thought I'd say this, but God bless you, Pat Robertson. Let's get started.
I promised you sex, religion and politics so here it is all mixed up as it mixed up these days in the 2012 elections. And I have a great panel to talk about it.
Andrew Sullivan blogs at the Daily Beast. He's the former editor of the New Republic.
Jon Meacham is an executive editor at Random House, formerly the editor of Newsweek. He is publishing a new biography of Thomas Jefferson this November and if history is any guide, it will win the Pulitzer Price.
Sally Quinn is a reporter for the Washington Post. She moderates with John, in fact, a blog called "On Faith."
And Matt Franck is director of the Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute.
So, first, Andrew, I have to ask you, as somebody who grew up England, but grew up a devout Catholic, you watch these elections in press all over the world and, really, outside of the Arab world, we are the only country in which religion is deeply embedded in the day- to-day political discourse.
I mean, you look at England, France, Germany, it would be unthinkable.
ANDREW SULLIVAN, BLOGGER, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes.
ZAKARIA: The only other place is if you watch the Egyptian elections and the American elections, there's a lot of religion. Why?
SULLIVAN: Well, I think, two things, one, that American has always had a much more religious public discourse and has always had more devoutly religious phenomena than the rest of the world.
And I think that's partly because of the separation of church and state, which an old professor of mine at Oxford used to say that he supported the Church of England as a bulwark against religion. And it certainly succeeded in England where there is an astonishing amount of unbelief and secularism.
But I also think that this country is less secular than it was when I arrived 25 years ago and I do think that there has been a new development, partly through the crisis of Christianity in the modern world, in which politicized Christianity fusing with one political party is a new development.
And, certainly, when you see, for example, the Catholic hierarchy basically coordinating with one political party in Congress, or you see the notion that evangelicals will only really vote for one political party and not the other, and when you see a candidate like Rick Santorum absolutely saying that I see no separate between politics and religion; that they are one in the same thing and that is what my -- that is new. That is not something that's happening even 25 years ago.
ZAKARIA: So when you look 25 years ago, John, I mean, one would have thought, superficially, there was more religion in politics in the sense of the religious right, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and all that seemed to die out, but Andrew seems right, it sort of, in a strange way, entered the mainstream body politic as opposed to being on this fringe in Liberty Baptist College.
JON MEACHAM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AT RANDOM HOUSE: I guess I would argue that I don't think it went away. I think that the press and popular politicians noticed it with some episodic fervor.
But, you're talking about a country, to go to Andrew's point, where someone tried to rewrite the Preamble to the Constitution to note our fealty to Jesus and that was beaten back. A country that has long had an argument about whether there should be a constitutional amendment declaring us a Christian nation.
No president can plausibly talk about -- talk about his candidacy, his life, his vision for the country without an allusion to the almighty, to some kind of -- well some kind of theocentric illusion.
What is different, and I think that Andrew got to it, is you have an allegiance in which religion has become largely a partisan force. It has always been a political force and that's different than being a partisan force.
And this alliance with one party, which is something that started in 1980, remember the first time we or any -- most Americans heard the word evangelical was when Jimmy Carter ran in 1976. That was the mainstreaming of that.
And you ended up, as soon as 1988, with that with George Herbert Walker Bush having to say that he was born again. I've always thought that he thought they were talking about mulligans, but he had -- he had to say that.
So and, right now, what you're seeing, I think, is a Republican Party that feels utterly unenthusiastic about its putative front- runner and is looking for passion and the passion in this case is coming from a very, very conservative Roman Catholic.
ZAKARIA: The passion is all in religion?
SALLY QUINN, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I -- I'm not sure I agree about this -- the country becoming less secular. I mean, I can't even think five years ago that people would actually admit that they were atheists and, now, it's routine. People will say, oh, I'm an atheist.
QUINN: It is, but what I'm saying is that people are coming out as atheists and, you know, you've got like 14 or 15 percent of the population basically saying that they are non-believers and probably a lot more who are now moving away from the church.
I mean this whole move away from religion and towards spirituality so I'm not sure that we are getting less secular. I think that what's happen is that the people who are campaigning, and these are mostly Republicans, have appealing to the base, and I don't think this will work in a general election.
I think this only will work in the Republican primaries where they're talking about church and state in a way that is totally un- American.
When Rick Santorum says we're a Christian nation and that he really doesn't believe in church and state, what is he talking about? And then to go on and say he's an American. What he is espousing is a thing that they all hate the most, which is Islam and the Islamic state, which is a theocracy.
What sounds to me, when they're talking about religion, is that they want to make this country a theocracy which is totally anti- everything that this country stands for.
MEACHAM: Let me sort of triangulate between Sally and Andrew here. I lean more towards Sally's side in thinking that the country has not become more religious in the last half-century.
A half-century ago, John F. Kennedy had to prove his bona fides as an American under suspicion because there was something darkly, not quite American about Catholics in the eyes of many Protestant leaders in this country. And his speech to the Houston Baptist Ministers was his breakthrough that might have actually been decisive in that election.
But there is a tradition of criticism of Kennedy's speech going back even to John Courtney Murray at the time, you know, wondering if Kennedy hadn't been too defensive, too distancing from his faith and, you know, essentially promising to be uninfluenced by his religious upbringing as President.
He declared himself -- I just reread the speech yesterday, he declared himself against an ambassador to the Vatican, for instance. He declared that it would be somehow improper for pastors or prelates to try and influence the votes of the people or the actions of public officials.
And, you know, the criticism is fairly widespread of this speech. Just a little over a year ago, the great first amendment scholar, Michael McConnell at Stanford Law School, former federal judge and not a Catholic himself, gave a talk at Notre Dame in which he roundly criticized Kennedy speech as contradicting many of the traditions of the freedom of religion.
ZAKARIA: All right, we're going to have to pause for a break. I promised you sex. When we come back, we will get to sex, contraception.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Andrew Sullivan, Jon Meacham, Sally Quinn and Matt Franck.
Sally, in general it seems as though the argument goes, from a lot of liberal groups, that by bringing up this contraception issue, the Republicans have kind of raged a war on women, that every woman looks upon this and says why are these men telling us what we should do?
Do you think the feeling is as widespread that the Republicans now have a serious problem with the women -- the woman vote if there is such a thing?
QUINN: I definitely do. I think that they have made a terrible mistake and I don't know how they can rectify it. As I was saying earlier about the primary versus the general election, it may play well during the primary. I mean, look at after Rick Santorum started talking about women should basically stay at home and women should not be in combat and he was basically against contraception, his numbers starting going up and he started getting higher in the polls and winning elections. But I don't think that that will be true in a general election.
I think he -- I think that the Republicans have really hurt themselves not just with Democratic women, but if you look at 98 percent of Catholic women use contraception and 99 percent of women use contraception, the idea of saying well, I would consider banning contraceptions -- allowing states to ban contraception is just insane in terms of a political strategy.
I mean you've got half -- over the half the population is women and they're all using birth control so I don't understand how they think this is going to be a winning argument.
ZAKARIA: But, Matthew, obviously, he must believe it. I mean forget about the politics of it --
MATTHEW FRANCK, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER ON RELIGION AND THE CONSTITUTION, WITHERSPOON INSTITUTE: Yes.
ZAKARIA: -- this comes from a place of, you know --
FRANCK: Well, there isn't any war on women involved here and there isn't any war on access to contraception. And, you know, the premise of your question was interesting, Fareed. It's not the Republicans who have brought up contraception.
It's the Obama administration which has promulgated a very controversial HHS mandate that all insurers, including many religious institutions and employers, cover contraception with no deductibles and no co-pays.
And this is new --this is a new policy under Obamacare and the Catholic Church and many other faith groups as well are objecting to this as a serious assault on religious liberty. And I -- contrary to Sally's view, I think the religious liberty issue is going to help the Republicans in the fall.
ZAKARIA: What do you think?
MEACHAM: I think, ultimately, that conservatives are messing with the law at their peril because the origin metaphor came from Richard Hooker, the Anglican Divine. Roger Williams picked it up, the founder of Rhode Island. The initial idea of a wall of separation between church and state was not to protect the state from the church, but the church from the state.
And if every argument of domestic policy becomes explicitly religious, I think, the American impulse is going to be to try to drive religion farther to the edges producing then a counter reaction and a very unpleasant situation. Every argument does not have to have a theological component.
SULLIVAN: My issue is what does contraception got to do really with religion? I mean it is such a trivial matter.
If people were in the public square arguing how their faith in Jesus has saved them, if they were arguing about the necessity for daily prayer, if they were bearing witness to their actual faith, then I don't think anybody would be concerned about this.
That would be, in my view, a great thing. If I heard more Catholic bishops actually arguing for the truths of our faith as opposed to seeking to control things like contraception, and, let's face it, on that issue, it is not the Catholic Church, it's the Catholic hierarchy.
Most Catholics disagree with the hierarchy on this and have long since disagreed with it. It is the Catholic hierarchy with the evangelical right. That's the weird thing.
Rick Santorum hasn't won Catholic votes. This is not about Catholics' conscience. Ninety-eight percent of them clearly don't have a conscience problem with contraception. They're not being -- they're conscience isn't being violated whatsoever.
My concern is that the Church and the churches have become politicized. They regard their primary -- and if you've listened to the how the bishops prepared for this moment, how they strategized for it, how they attempt to want to bring Obama -- make him a one-term president because of this. That is alienating a lot of ordinary Catholics who actually want to be Catholics. They don't want to be political operatives.
QUINN: Well, I mean, I think all we have to do is look at a picture of all of those guys testifying. This is about celibate men making a decision for millions and millions and millions of women. And I think that picture alone will make a huge difference.
You talk about it not being about -- contraception not being about religion, but they equate it to abortion because they talk about the morning-after-pill, which is, in effect, murder.
And so once you get into abortion, which they consider some forms of contraception, then that becomes a whole different issue. So it then becomes a religious issue for them.
But, I just want to say one more thing. When you're talking about this issue of church and state, Obama is going to face a real problem in the fall because, right now, 15 percent to 20 percent of the people in this country believe that he is a Muslim.
But I think in this case, the same people who -- 15 or 20 percent, who think that Mormonism is evil are the same 15 or 20 percent who think that Obama's a Muslim so I think this is going to be a really interesting sort of play-off.
ZARAKARA: You two got the last one (ph). (CROSSTALK)
FRANCK: Yes, I'm glad that Sally brought up the abortifacients that are part of the HHS mandate. Those -- the morning-after-pill, Ella, Plan B. These are, in fact, abortifacients and this is, I think, the cause of so many other groups joining the Catholic Church in regarding the HHS mandate as a serious inroad in religious liberty.
Abortion is, also, I think, the reason why you see the Republican Party attracting religious people of morally conservative views. It's not -- it's not that the religious right has somehow chosen the Republican Party as its vehicle for establishing some sort of theocracy.
They've essentially been ridden out of the Democratic Party on a rail, tarred and feather. And I think that a secular which regards abortion as a very important woman's right has simply captured the Democratic Party. It's virtually impossible to be a pro-life Democrat --
ZAKARIA: We're going to have to leave it -- we're going to have to leave it at that.
Andrew Sullivan, Jon Meacham, Sally Quinn, Matt Franck, thanks for joining us.
Up next, "What in the world?" You often see China dominate smaller countries, but there's small nation with a population of just 5 million that seems to be playing spoiler.
ZAKARIA: Now, for our "What in the World" segment.
In the playground of foreign affairs, you think that size matters. The biggest bully always wins. It's often true, but I found it interesting to track one story of a relationship where size and clout didn't matter.
The big country is question is China. As China has grown, it's been able to throw its weight around with its smaller neighbors. Take the example of tiny Nepal. It's sandwiched between two bigger powers, India and China.
While China is the world's second largest economy and India ranks 10th, Nepal is not even in the top 100 so it often has to bow to the demands of its bigger, more powerful friends.
While India has traditionally had more influence over it, that role is now switching to China. China has doubled aid to Nepal. It's building roads there and a railway linking the two countries.
But, obviously, China wants something in return and it seems to be getting it. For the last two decades, thousands of Tibetans have escaped to neighboring Nepal every year often heading onwards to India. That number has now dropped sharply to just a few hundred. As China tries to cement its control over Tibet, it has asked Nepal to police its border and stop Tibetans from escaping. Nepal has complied. China's influence stretches far and wide. It is using its growing economic clout to influence countries as far afield as Angola and Zambia.
But, sometimes, size isn't everything. China has met its match in a tiny little country to the west. It has a population of just 5 million, about a fourth that of the city of Shanghai. Like Nepal it begins with an "N". The country is Norway.
You'll remember how in 2010, an independent Norwegian panel gave the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo. Despite intense pressure from Beijing, they made a decision they thought was right.
But Liu Xiaobo was not allowed to go to Oslo to receive his award so the committee went ahead and presented the prize to an empty chair. Beijing was not pleased so it decided to make Oslo pay. It suspended talks on a free trade agreement and barred imports of salmon from Norway.
The two countries stopped talking, but Beijing overstepped its reach. China's economy may be 15 times the size of Norway's, but it accounts for less than 2 percent of Norway's exports.
The two are 4,000 miles apart and Norway is an oil rich country that is well-run, invests in its people and is thriving in the global economy. It doesn't need special favors from China.
And, now, consider this ironic twist, China wanted to bully Norway to do its bidding, but, now, China wants to join the Arctic Council, a powerful forum which controls energy and security around the North Pole. To do so, it needs the council's eight members to all vote yes.
China really wants this membership so it can chart shorter routes to Europe and discover new energy sources. Well, guess who could vote no? Norway.
We always hear the narrative of how China's global clout is increasing, but it needs to pick its battles carefully and handle them well. As America has learned over the years, size matters, but so do smarts.
And we'll be back.
Up next, we're going to get out of China and get macro, really macro, into matters of time and space. Don't miss this. The astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson joins me when we come back.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" will be back in 90 seconds, but first a check of the top stories. Back from his trip to Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI marked the start of Christianity's holy week with a Palm Sunday mass in St. Peters Square. During his visit to the communist nation, Benedict asked Cuban President Raul Castro to make Good Friday a holiday. The Cuban government yesterday announced that it would grant the pope's request.
President Obama will hold talks with leaders of Mexico and Canada at the White House tomorrow. The talks are expected to focus heavily on the violence from Mexico's drug war and it will be the last meeting for Mexican President Felipe Calderon who is not seeking re-election.
Nobel Peace Prize lawyer Aung Saun Suu Kyi has won a seat in Myanmar parliament after a decades' long fight for democracy. Official results may be available Monday morning. The vote is seen as a symbolic victory for many in Myanmar who have lived under military rule for nearly half a century.
Those are your top stories. "RELIABLE SOURCES" is at the top of the hour. Now back to FAREED ZAKARIA GPS.
ZAKARIA: Space as "Star Trek" reminds us, is the final frontier, but is it the final frontier of earthbound conflict of a power struggle between the United States and China?
That's what my next guest says. Neil Degrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist spends a lot of time looking and thinking about space. He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium here in New York. Welcome, Neil.
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, DIRECTOR, HAYDEN PLANETARIUM: Thanks, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: When you wrote this article in "Foreign Affairs," what I was struck by --
TYSON: It made a cover article.
ZAKARIA: It was the cover essay. They talked about -- you talked in this article in "Foreign Affairs" about the fact that we were withdrawing from space, kind of limiting our ambitions at the very moment that China was amping up its program. Are you really worried that we will actually lose the kind of leadership of space?
TYSON: Well, yes, but more important, there's a lot -- space is like proxy for a lot of what else goes on in society, including your urge to innovate. I mean, if you remember back in the time, in the 1960s and early 1970s where it was just expected that innovations would sort of transform the world.
People dreamed about tomorrow and who brings tomorrow into the present, if not the technologists, the scientists and the engineers. So that was coincident with the time and we had these great ambitions and a rather turbulent decade, of course.
The 1960s, the most turbulent since the civil war, for sure, with the Civil Rights Movement and the assassinations, hot war, cold war. The once shining beacon in that period was the moon missions. And everything was possible.
It was -- the world fair was in that decade. That was all about tomorrow. So if you lose your space edge, my deep concern is that you lose everything else about society that enables you to compete economically.
Of course, we went to the moon because of a military motivation and that's why we stopped going anywhere beyond the moon because we saw that Russia was done. They were not going to go to the moon.
The dreamers back then were thinking that we went to the moon because we were explorers and if that were the case, of course, we would have continued on to Mars, but we didn't. It was obvious in retrospect why we didn't.
I would argue that today if we think of China as competition, economic competition, which they surely are, then to pull back on our space ambitions is a direct sort of lever arm on our capacity to compete economically.
ZAKARIA: But if -- so one of the things you talk about in that article is that this is part of a general decline in science and engineering and decline of the kind of sexiness of science, but also the amount of time, energy we're putting into it. My question to you is why should we use this indirect path to science? If we want to fund science, why not fund science?
TYSON: That's a common question that always gets asked. What happens is when you approach the world that way, you find a problem, and you say, well, let's put some money to do more what the solution is to that problem.
What they amount to are like Band-Aids on each little problem. So today we need more scientists so let's make better science teachers. Put a little Band-Aid there. We need -- we want to keep our jobs. So let's make incentives for corporations to not move their manufacturing plant, a little Band-Aid there.
You go around and you put all these Band-Aids down, and you are ignoring a deeper engine that could be operating that would solve all those problems simultaneously.
ZAKARIA: You worry a lot about the fact that people are getting very cost conscience and very -- and really cutting back, and you tell the story about the Hubbell telescope. Explain why it's important and what happened.
TYSON: well, in that particular case, the Hubbell telescope as you may remember, when it was launched, the mirror had the wrong curvature to it. Images were fuzzy. So it would be a little while before we could get that repair with corrective optics. So what do you do?
ZAKARIA: Because it's up there in space.
TYSON: You got to, like, mount a mission to go work on it. Be clever about how you design the corrective because that problem was not anticipated before Hubbell was launched. So you had to be really clever about what you pulled out and what you swapped in.
And so there was some time -- downtime, if you will, where you could get data, but it was kind of fuzzy data. What do you do? You don't want to waste it. So an algorithm was invented, was developed to extract as much information as you possibly can from these fuzzy images of stars.
And that exercise, that was shared with a medical doctor who specialized in breast cancer research, and he noted that finding these dots of light in an otherwise sort of fuzzy environment was exactly what he does visually when he is looking for early detection -- early detection of breast cancer in the mammograms.
So check this algorithm, apply it and now they are finding early detection of breast cancer doing a better job than the human eye was able to do. You can't script that. That happens all the time, this cross pollination of fields, innovation in one, stimulating revolutionary changes in another.
If you only want to put money to a problem, you can tend to make evolutionary changes, small increments, but the big changes come about when all the -- I'm not saying just through space. You need all the sciences. Quick note, all the machines in a hospital that have an on- off switch brought into the service of diagnosing the condition of the human body without cutting you open?
They're all based on a principle of physics discovered by a physicist who had no interest in medicine. From the x-ray machine, one of the earliest of these diagnostic tools, to the entire Department of Radiology, to --
ZAKARIA: It's all about light waves.
TYSON: That and energy out of the atom. With MRI, the CAT scans, physicists just doing physics. If you say I want to be healthier, let's put more money in the medical community. No, you have to put money everywhere, but in the school system and in the culture of society, what drives ambitions?
There's nothing that drives ambitions the way NASA does and today's NASA portfolio taps biologists because we're looking for mars, life on Mars, chemists and physicists and electrical engineers, mechanical engineers.
All the traditional stem fields that science technology engineering and math fields are stoked when you dream big in agencies such as NASA, and it's not that much money. Right now, it's a half a penny on your tax dollar. I say double it to a penny.
Then we go to Mars in a big way in short-term. It becomes a big visible project. School kids know about it, and who is that first astronaut class. Today in middle school today, why not -- I got an idea. Let's select them now, and then we all contract and see how they're eating well or getting through grades. That's tomorrow's Mercury 7.
ZAKARIA: What would we learn -- what is your hope about the Mars mission? This is -- I mean, part of it is symbolic, but part of it you think there's a lot to learn by going to Mars.
TYSON: Well, as a scientist, I want to go to Mars and back to asteroids in the moon because I'm a scientist, but I can tell you I'm not so naive a scientist to think that the nation might not have geopolitical reasons for going into space.
NASA was created in a geopolitical climate. We were spooked by sputnik. Sputnik itself was a hollowed out intercontinental ballistic missile with a radio transmitter. Everybody said it's going beep. The military knew the implication of this.
The space station itself, the initial impetus was Russia is building their own space station. So I don't have a problem with geopolitical arguments for going into space.
Let all the reasons reveal themselves, tourism. Let the private sector go take care of that. I don't have any problems with that, and scientists, send me to Mars.
ZAKARIA: Would you go?
TYSON: I would so go to Mars, to low earth orbit, no. I'm boldly going where hundreds have gone before. No. If you are going to go where nobody has gone before, sign me up. I'll bring my whole family and sign me up.
ZAKARIA: Neil Degrasse Tyson, a pleasure to have you on.
TYSON: Thanks for having me.
ZAKARIA: We will be back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ask a woman in a white working class neighborhood why she isn't married, even though she has a child, and she will say to you very quickly she'll say why should I marry those losers?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: My next guest is the author of what some are calling the most important book of the year. Charles Murray's "Coming Apart" is about the divide between America's upper class elite and the white working class.
Murray has a track record of writing controversial books. He also authored the "Bell Curve" eight years ago about the role of intelligence in American society. He joins me now. Welcome.
So the simple picture I think that you are providing is a kind of divide between an upper middle class and the working white population and the divide goes along the lines of, first of all, success and such.
But almost behavior characteristics, moral characteristics, the upper class tend to be married, work hard, and increasingly what do you find about the working class, or the poor?
CHARLES MURRAY, AUTHOR, "COMING APART: THE STATE OF AMERICA, 1960-2010": That it has moved away from those things. Fareed, the important thing is that it didn't used to be that way. I'm not saying that 50 years ago there were no classes.
We had rich people, and we had poor people, but take marriage as a classic example. In 1960 working class, which I'm defining as high school education working in a low skill job or blue collar skill job, 83 percent of them were married ages 30 to 49, OK? It was the norm.
For the upper middle class, it was in the 90s. So it was a little bit higher, but not much. As of 2010, you're down to 48 percent of white working class adults who are married. That's a phenomenal change within 50 years in an absolutely crucial social institution.
ZAKARIA: The upper class?
MURRAY: They're at 84 percent. There was a little decline up there, but not much. You've had a divergence on this. You've also had a divergence on industriousness. Crucial American value whereby in 1960, it was taken for granted by all adult males they were supposed to work.
They were either working or they were looking for work. That was true among the working class and the upper middle class. As of 2008 before the recession set in that was up to about one out of eight white working class adult males wasn't even looking for work. They were out of the labor force.
ZAKARIA: When I look at America, particularly in comparison to other places, it seems still a place where the values that you value are very strong.
I mean, this is a country in which politicians have to take pains to point out that they are married, have good family lives, they love their country. They are regular people. As you know, it's not true in many other countries in the world. Nobody campaigns with their wives.
So you know, don't you still think that if the issue is one of the signals we as a society are transmitting, we're still sending a signal that what we value or the virtues that you describe.
MURRAY: I think what you have to do to get a sense of what's gone on in the white working class is the little anthropological participant observation. I have a chapter in "Coming Apart," which draws an excellent dissertation that did that.
And you don't have to dig very deep to hear stories about the kinds of cultural breakdown I'm talking about. You go ask a woman in a white working class neighborhood why she isn't married even though she has a child, and she will say to you very quickly she'll say why should I marry those losers?
The guys here may be nice guys, but they can't hold on to a job. They can't be relied upon. That kind of statement and other statements of social disorganization don't have to be pride out of people. They reflect day to day life in growing chunks of working class America.
ZAKARIA: Your solution which, again, has been somewhat controversial, has been caricatured as get rid of all the welfare state programs and have the upper class go into the ghettos and lecture the poor whites on the need for better morals.
MURRAY: Well, may I say, first, that the caricature of the solution is indeed a caricature, and I don't say anything like that. I'm saying we have a cultural problem here, and I only going to be changed by changing the culture.
Changing the culture is a very evanescent thing. What I say about what the upper middle class should do is start preaching what it practices. Right now, you have the upper middle class engaged in marriage, behaving by and large honestly.
They're more religious than the working class even though that's declined than the upper middle class as well, and they work like crazy. They're very industrious. But they are also extremely nonjudgmental.
So for example, there is no way in polite society to talk about the problem of the single parent family. In any way that says, you know, actually the two-parent family is a better family structure for raising children.
A significantly better structure and we know this from a whole lot of data. You can't say that because people then feel, well, I'm being mean to single women who are trying very hard to raise their children.
Well, and there are lots of single women who are doing a good job of raising their children, but as a statistical phenomenon, births to single women are really problematic. You can't say that given the culture.
We got to have some ways you can start to say that without demonizing women, but we've got to have ways of once again having norms that support the kind of civic culture that America has had. So preaching what you practice does not mean going into the slums with a bull horn.
It does mean starting to say that there are ways of living a satisfying life that have not only worked for me, but are fundamentally sound institutions for living a satisfying life. Changing that culture does not lend itself to prescriptive measures. Writing a book is the only thing I can do to push it along.
ZAKARIA: Charles Murray, pleasure to have you.
MURRAY: I enjoyed it. Thank you.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back.
ZAKARIA: April is upon us, and that brings me to my question of the week from the GPS challenge. In earlier times, April 1st signified what holiday?
I promise you this isn't an April fool's joke. Is it, A, New Year's Day, B, St. Crispen's Day, C, U.S. Election Day, or D, Christmas Day?
Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer. Go to cnn.com/fareed for more of the GPS challenge and lots of insight and analysis.
Also, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook and if you miss a show, go to iTunes where you can get the audio podcast for free and you can now buy the video podcast.
This week's book of the week is from my guest from earlier John Meacham. It is his first book "Franklin and Winston, An Intimate Portrait of An Epic Friendship."
The prime minister and the president had a lot in common, but they were also quite different. But they did work together to win the Second World War. It's a beautiful portrait of a friendship of politics and is written beautifully, really worth reading.
Now, for the last look. Calcutta, the city of joy, is best remembered in black and white as the one-time capital of the British raj. It's a city also associated with the color red.
After all, it was ruled by the Communist Party for 34 years. But last year, they were voted out. In its place is a populist leader who is promising a new city with new policies. Well, forget about black and white or red.
She wants to paint the city blue. Yes, literally. All the official buildings of Calcutta are to be painted blue. Even the iconic yellow taxis, highway dividers.
Her party says it's because they see blue as the color of optimism. It's the color of the sky. I think it's probably much simpler than that.
It is the opposite of red in a sense. The next time you worry about how polarized America is, divided into red and blue states, it could be worse. Just think of Calcutta. The correct answer to our GPS challenge question was, A, until the 16th Century New Year's Day was celebrated on April 1st, with spring symbolizing the New Year.
They were on to something I think much better than the frigid cold temperatures we usually get on January 1st. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for "RELIABLE SOURCES."