Return to Transcripts main page
Fareed Zakaria GPS
Pakistani Election Examined; The Teacher of the "Happiness Course" Discusses Its Popularity. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired July 29, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:10] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN 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.
Today on the show, changing the subject. Pressured on Russia Trump attacks Iran. Is Trump ready to wage war on the Islamic Republic, as one of his tweets suggested? Is there a new strategy to topple Tehran? I'll talk to the experts.
And a new leader elected by the world's sixth largest nuclear power. The former playboy cricketer (INAUDIBLE) will now run the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. What does it mean for that nation, for India, for the world?
Then is the world stressing you out and bringing you down? It is for college students who are seeking more counseling than ever before. Lori Sanders is here to help. She teaches Yale's most popular course on the science of happiness.
But first, here's my take. Listen closely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is why we agreed today, first of all, to work together toward zero tariffs, zero nontariff barriers and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: What you just heard from Wednesday's joint press conference between the presidents of the European Commission and the United States was the sound of Donald Trump backtracking once again.
This has become a familiar routine. It goes something like this. Begin by hurling insults at the other side, some of which have a basis in reality but are mostly wild exaggerations, threaten extreme consequences, then meet with the other side, backpedal and triumphantly announce that you have saved the world from a crisis that your rhetoric and actions caused in the first place.
Call it the Donald Trump two-step. Think about Trump's actions with regard to North Korea. He began by calling Kim Jong-un a mad man who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, and threatening fire and fury. He solved his own crisis by making unilateral concessions to Kim and gushing about how the North Korean people love their absolute dictator and about he, Trump, trusts him.
The same pattern applies with the European Union, which he only recently described as worse than our enemies. Now he tells us after meeting with Jean-Claude Junker, that the E.U. and America truly love each another.
Expect to hear a similar climb down on China one of these days.
There are those who assert that Donald Trump's seemingly bizarre and unpredictable behavior is actually all part of a canny and wise strategy, that he's playing the kind of four-dimensional chess, operating in space time. Well, if so, he's getting badly beaten here on earth. In none of these situations has he actually been able to extract real concessions and there is a cost to this bluster and flip flopping.
Trump is creating a reputation for the United States as erratic, unpredictable, unreliable and fundamentally hostile to the global order. Leader after leader in Europe has made this clear. George Osborne told me that when he was Britain's finance minister, you knew the United States president had your back. Neither Britain or any other country can be sure of this anymore, he says.
The most tangible data suggesting that the United States is losing its good reputation comes from the economist Adam Poser. He argues that countries are now bypassing the United States and constructing a post- American world economy. You can see this in the flurry of trade agreements that don't include the U.S., from the Transpacific Partnership, which was signed minus America, to the trade deal the European Union just signed with Japan and many others that are in the works.
The most dramatic indication of the world side stepping the U.S., Poser says, is the decline in foreign investment in America. It has fallen off a cliff, he told me. On average net foreign investment into the U.S. has dropped by half since 2016.
Perhaps some of the decline is part of a longer term trend. Other countries are growing faster than the U.S. but for decades, that reality has been countered by another reality. That among the world's rich nations, America was unique in having strong growth prospects coupled with stable, predictable, pro-market policies.
Trump's attacks on trade and allies, his willingness to punish and reward individual companies and his general unreliability all add up to a picture of policymaking that looks more like that of an erratic developing country run by a strong man.
[10:05:10] The difference is America's strong man has the power to disrupt the entire global economy.
For more tog to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
Is war between the United States and Iran actually possible? Well, the leaders of the two enemy nations have been threatening each other since last weekend. It all began last Sunday when Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, said a war between two nations would be the mother of all wars. President Trump, of course, responded late that night with a tweet that said, in all caps, "Never, ever threaten the United States again, or you will suffer consequences the like of which few throughout history have ever suffered before."
Iran's Foreign minister responded similarly, in all caps, "Color us unimpressed." And the leader of Iran's powerful Quds Force threatened on Thursday that if Trump began a war, it would be Iran that ended it.
Tough talk. Joining me now are Robin Wright, who is a contributing writer at the "New Yorker" and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Trita Parsi is the president of the National Iranian-American Council and the author of "Losing An Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy." And Reuel Marc Gerecht is a former CIA officer, now a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
Robin, what do you make of the tweets and is this a new policy?
ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, clearly, there's escalating tension between Washington and Tehran. What the administration believes the revolutionary government in Iran is vulnerable and it's escalating the pressure economically, in terms of kind of intelligence information campaign.
It's gaming that the regime will be under such pressure it will have to go back to the negotiating table to talk, not just about the nuclear weapons program but also the wider array of issues we have with Tehran, including its human rights practices, its missile test, its meddling in the region, its support for extremist movement. And the danger is that the Iranians do not respond in a way that Washington wants. And the question then becomes what else?
Is this a repeat of the kind of momentum we felt in the run-up to the war with Iraq? And the danger is that this is not North Korea, this is not Iraq. Iran is very sophisticated policy, it has very important oil assets, and the other five members of the team negotiated with Iran for this historic nuclear deal have said they're going to stick to it. And that includes Britain, Germany, China, France and Russia.
ZAKARIA: Mike Pompeo also made a speech and that seemed to outline, that seemed to reemphasize what Robin is saying. This is a new policy toward Iran.
REUEL MARC GERECHT, SENIOR FELLOW, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Yes, I mean, I think we do have new policy, obviously walking away from the JCPO and essentially a --
ZAKARIA: The Iran deal.
GERECHT: Iran deal. Iran nuclear deal. And essentially establishing a regime change strategy. The administration doesn't say that. The president and Secretary Pompeo have said they want to have new negotiations with the Islamic Republic. But certainly much of what they're doing makes sense if you are adopting some type of regime change approach. ZAKARIA: Which you applaud?
GERECHT: Yes, I do. I think it's the correct way to go, particularly at this time. I do believe the Islamic Republic is internally weak and I -- I think it makes sense to certainly deprive them of our currency.
ZAKARIA: Trita, I'm guessing you disagree.
TRITA PARSI, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL: I certainly disagree with the idea that the United States is in a position and has the capacity to do a regime change in Iran that would lead to a better government in Iran, the Iranian people certainly want to see democracy and they're deeply frustrated with the current situation inside the country. But where is the last time, give me an example of the United States doing a regime change in the Middle East that actually led to a proper democracy?
I fear that the attempt at regime change -- and I do agree with Reuel that when you see everything that is happening, it doesn't -- it's not compatible with the strategy for diplomacy. It is compatible with the strategy for some form of attempted regime change. But I suspect that it's not just regime change. It may actually be a worse scenario, a regime collapse. Meaning that the United States would actually not try to replace the government, just collapse the current government and then allow the chaos inside of Iran enable the balance of power in the region to shift away from Iran, which certainly would be to the benefit of Saudi Arabia and Israel and would be to their preference.
[10:10:01] ZAKARIA: But would cause a lot of disorder in an already disorderly Middle East?
PARSI: Certainly. And a tremendous amount of disorder inside the country and it would set back the cause for democracy in Iran with at least one generation. So it's very difficult to actually be able to see the U.S.'s involvement, particularly the Trump administration's involvement, leading to a better scenario for democracy in Iran.
ZAKARIA: Reuel, very quickly on this point, we've been pretty good at getting rid of bad regimes. We've been very bad at being able to put in a good -- that is democratic regime, if you think about obviously Iraq, you know, all these examples where it's been much harder to -- it's been easy to get rid of a bad regime. It's been much harder to bring democracy some way.
GERECHT: Well, I think you do have to have patience. I mean, what's most striking about Iraq is the democratic system in Iraq, as flawed as it is, hasn't disappeared yet. I would argue that the mistake there was that we pulled out. We should have stayed. But the -- I mean, I think --
ZAKARIA: For how long? We're 17 years in Afghanistan --
GERECHT: No, I mean -- no, I think you have to be patient. I mean, the -- and obviously the Americans have, I think, a short attention span for these things, and certainly in the Middle East, which is very demanding.
ZAKARIA: Do we really? We're still on the banks of the Iran, we're still in Osaka, we're still in South Korea, there are places where it makes sense because you're deterring an outside threat or you're anchoring the country. But these are cases where you're trying to engage in a kind of quasi colonial occupation, which is just very difficult. Look at Afghanistan. Is it better today than it was?
GERECHT: Actually I would argue that the intrusion of the United States into the Iraqi government was less than probably what you had in Germany after World War II. You know, I would say that the more the United States is there, its better.
ZAKARIA: Robin, let me ask you, the point at which there seems to be some agreement is that what we're headed for is a kind of regime change like strategy. That is, press Iran, probably economically, but not -- the United States is not going to go into Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, to push back against Iran so what you end up with this -- is Trita right, that you may just end up with regime collapse and a lot of -- a kind of very messy situation?
WRIGHT: Well, I think one of the things everyone in Washington is concerned about is what happens even if you get to the point that the regime is confronted, is vulnerable, does begin to either collapse or deteriorate? And the -- there is no identifiable opposition group that has emerged that is popular at home. And so one of the question is, who would replace the regime?
This is a country that has 80 million people. It is -- it borders not just the Middle East but also South Asia, Central Asia. It is one of the most geostrategic properties in the world. It has a good deal of say what happens on the Strait of Hormuz, which a huge amount of the world's oil exports flow. And so what happens in Iran is really important to those of us who live a long way away.
Look, we're still militarily stressed whether it's in Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Germany, that we don't have the resources to rebuild a country like Iraq, much less a place like Syria, which will have to be reconstructed at some point. And the idea of reconstructing another war zone is very daunting.
So whether it's just the collapse of the regime because of its inefficiencies, the opposition within or some kind of military campaign, the plan B, what happens next is a very unclear and in some ways the most frightening aspect of this issue.
ZAKARIA: All right. When we come back, we'll ask what is actually happening inside Iran? Is the regime getting weaker or is all this pressure emboldening it?
[10:18:10] ZAKARIA: And we are back talking about Iran and Trump administration's new strategy of regime change. Robin Wright, Trita Parsi and Reuel Marc Gerecht join me. Reuel, what do you think is happening inside Iran? What -- you know,
people talk about the fact that there's pressure on the regime and it does seem to be -- there seems to be a certain amount of economic discontent. Is it more than that?
GERECHT: Well, yes, I think -- I think it's more than that. I don't think you would have seen the continuation of the demonstrations that started last December and have become quite explicit, at least so far as we can gauge in their chants against the regime, against all parts of the regime. I mean, they yelled death to Rouhani, the president, as much as they do death to the supreme leader.
I think the society is actually fraying rather profoundly and I think it's important to remember that Iran has had over 100-year quest of search for increasing representative government. It is unique, actually, in the Middle East. And I think we should pay attention to that. And we should realize that though the Islamic Republic has brutalized Iranian society as did the shah before it, that you still have a very powerful, I would argue, current greater democratic expression.
ZAKARIA: Trita, what do you think?
PARSI: Certainly without a doubt the desire for democracy in most of the Iranian people is very strong. They're the ones who have been pushing to move the country in that direction. The question is, will any interference or efforts from the outside help or undermine it? Invariably in the 100-year quest that we've seen for intervention, it's always set back the Iranian people's aspirations for democracy and made it more difficult. And the best example, of course, is the 1953 intervention by the United States to unseat the democratically elected Prime Minister Mosaddegh.
[10:20:06] I think what we're also seeing here is that the government itself so far, we're not seeing any signs of panic. Certainly there's a tremendous amount of discontent and a lot of protests that look very different from what we saw in 2009. This is coming from the smaller cities that actually really not reached Tehran yet. It is coming from a class that usually is seen as being supportive of the regime, its core base. Now they're out there protesting. But also, you know, it looks so different at times that you do have to wonder if there are potentially also efforts from the outside to fuel these protests.
ZAKARIA: Robin, where do you come out on this? The United States pressure, does it help the Iranian regime in the way that, for example, certainly it seems to have helped the Castro regime in Cuba, because they can say they were battling the Americans and American pressure, or is it, at the end of the day, the pressure is pressure and it weakens the regime?
WRIGHT: Probably both. First of all the biggest pressure on the Iranian regime comes from within. The fact that the majority of the voters today were born after the revolution and this is one of the most connected societies. It has a very sophisticated polity. They are aware of what happens elsewhere in the world. They don't want to be a pariah, they don't want to see their currency halved as it has been in the past year. They want to be interlocutors with the world. They want to buy their Western goods. They don't want to be stuck just with inferior Chinese stuff.
I do think that we're reaching a turning point. In August and again in November, U.S. sanctions go into effect. First on -- not just on Iranian goods but on any company that does business from any country with Iran. And so this will undermine even those countries that have stuck to the nuclear deal, the companies in those countries are going to feel pressure not to deal with Iran, because then they can't sell their goods to the United States. So you see big global companies, France's Total, Germany's Siemens pull out of deals that they had engaged in in the aftermath of 2017 nuclear accord.
So the pressure will mount. And the question is, will there be this confluence of factors that really undermine the regime? Will Persian nationalism be invoked? Just a year ago you saw almost 77 percent of the population in Iran turn out for a presidential election, much higher than it was in the U.S. presidential election a year before that. So there are still people willing to participate in a system a year ago. Whether the system can collapse quickly, I think, is a big question.
ZAKARIA: I think one thing we could be sure is the pressure is mounting and this is going to be a story to watch.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Next on GPS, Trump's tariff war and why it won't work. Back in a moment.
[10:26:50] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. A lot has changed in American politics over the last 30 years, but there's one thing you can always count on, Republicans hating taxes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Read my lips. No new taxes.
JOHN BOEHNER (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Tax increases destroy jobs.
TRUMP: We've made history by massively reducing job-killing taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Well, it turns out there's a certain job-killing tax Trump actually loves, tariffs. Tariffs are pretty much the same as taxes, which is why free-market economists from Adam Smith onward have hated them. When Trump puts a tariff on a foreign good, what he is doing is taxing that good, making it more expensive for Americans.
Take, for example, Trump's tariffs on imported steel. It's true this would help Americans who make steel because their competitors' products coming in from abroad would be more expensive. But there are only about 150,000 American workers who make steel. That is dwarfed by the 6.5 million Americans who work in industries that buy and depend on cheap steel, writes Douglas Irwin, a Dartmouth economist in Foreign Affairs.
Industries importing steel include everything from small tool manufacturers to large defense firms. Goldman Sachs says General Motors and Ford could each lose $1 billion this year because of the steel tariffs.
The Trump administration is looking into tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and has threatened automobile tariffs on allies. The auto tariffs would cost the United States nearly 200,000 jobs, according to the Peterson Institute.
Listen to former Treasury secretary Larry Summers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: This is the least well- conceived economic policy that the United States has pursued since the period before the Great Depression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: So why even start these tariff wars?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't blame the administration. Don't blame Japan. Don't blame Europe. Blame China.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Well, China is a trade cheat that breaks the rules and bends others, as I have often said. These are problems. But Trump's tariffs are not the answers. In mid June, the United States announced tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. As Paul Krugman has noted, the overwhelming majority of them were on what's known as intermediate goods. In other words, parts for things like computers or cars or on machines used to build them. Those are the kind of tariffs that will raise costs for manufacturers in the U.S. and the Peterson Institute found that those same tariffs would primarily target multinational companies operating in China, many of which are American, not Chinese companies.
The Chinese, Europeans and Canadians have all retaliated and their tariffs are much smarter. They target final products that will affect Americans directly. Kentucky bourbon, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Wisconsin cheese, Maine lobsters, soybeans from the Midwest. Notice that these are all industries seen as potent national symbols and many are located in the Republican heartland. Targeting them is designed to mobilize powerful Republican legislators who have to answer to those voters.
The best way to get China to reform its trade practices is for the United States, Europe and other allies to work together. Instead, the United States is forcing its allies into China's arms, and many Republicans are standing on the sidelines as Donald Trump overturns yet one more of the defining ideologies of conservatism.
Next on "GPS," Pakistan elects a new leader. What can we expect from the former cricketer? I will talk to the experts when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Despite swirling questions about the legitimacy of the election, on Thursday Imran Khan claimed victory in Pakistan. In a televised statement, he promised a new era for his nation. Corruption and the military's right control on government have plagued Pakistan for decades and have shown no signs of abating. As for relations with the West, the former cricket player turned politician has been strongly anti-American, and such sentiments in Pakistan were exacerbated when Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military aid earlier this year.
So what should we expect?
Joining me now are Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States. He joins us from Rome. And Laurel Miller was the United States' acting special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Laurel, let me start with you. Why did Imran Khan, a politician who, I don't know, five, seven years ago, as I recall, his party won one seat in Parliament -- why did he win?
MILLER: There's several factors that contributed to his apparent election victory. The first one is that there is little doubt that the Pakistani military tilted the playing field in his favor through pressure on the courts, through pressure on the media, indeed some harassment of Pakistani media, and through intimidation of election candidates.
It's also the case that Imran Khan has genuine popularity in Pakistan. His party did quite well all across the nation. And he has worked very hard over the last two decades to move from the fringe of Pakistani politics to the center of power in Pakistan. And a third factor is, it's not difficult to see why many in the Pakistani electorate would want to vote for change.
ZAKARIA: Husain, what does this mean for U.S.-Pakistani relations?
He has been stridently anti-American. The Trump administration seemed to turn up the pressure on Pakistan, though it seemed a momentary spasm rather than a sustained policy.
What's going to happen?
HAQQANI: I think that Imran Khan will try to reach out to the U.S., which he did in his first statement as well. All Pakistani leaders end up doing that, because of Pakistan's massive problems. There's just no money. Pakistan does need every dollar and assistance that it can get.
That said, I think that it's also very clear that the reason why the Pakistani military establishment supported Khan was because they want status quo on foreign policy and international relations, while wanting to change the status quo at home.
So on the one hand, they do want a civilian government that is less corrupt, but they want a civilian government that is more obedient to the military's wishes.
Now, if Pakistan is not going to change its fundamental policy on interference in Afghanistan, on supporting jihadi groups, on continued hostility with India, I see no basis on which the United States and Pakistan will be able to bridge the divide that has emerged between them. I do realize that the two countries will have to interact with each other, but I don't think that interaction is going to lead us to anything different from what we have had in the past.
ZAKARIA: Laurel, what do you think? The United States and Pakistan have had this same dance now really ever since 9/11. The United States has said "We're going to push you hard, because you are at the source of a lot of the terrorism coming out; you support these jihadis; you have supported them for decades." But at the same time, the United States needs Pakistan in order to fight some of these forces, and so it never quite cuts Pakistan off. And this has been the dance ever since Colin Powell went to Musharraf right after 9/11.
MILLER: Yeah, you're absolutely right. I'm not expecting to see any change in the near to medium term in U.S.-Pakistan relations, any breaking out of that dynamic that you just described. The United States is pursuing a policy and a strategy in Afghanistan that makes the United States dependent on some level of cooperation with Pakistan. There's no solution to the problems in Afghanistan, no enduring stability in Afghanistan, without some degree of cooperation with Pakistan.
ZAKARIA: Husain, what does this mean for Pakistan?
You know, so many other countries are moving in some way -- look at Malaysia, you know, moving away from -- from, you know, authoritarianism. I know it's a (inaudible), but in Pakistan's case, this seems as though the military is now even more dominant. Where does this go?
HAQQANI: In the case of the Pakistani military, it has a very fixed notion of what Pakistan's national interest is. Pakistan must get Kashmir; Pakistan must see India as the eternal enemy; Pakistan must have a dominant role in Afghanistan; and Pakistan must be the center of the universe as far as that region is concerned.
That is an untenable situation when your exports are low, your literacy is low and the quality of your education does not create the human capital that allows you to grow significantly. I think that if, as Laurel says, that the dependence on Pakistan is subject only to America's involvement in Afghanistan, if the Trump administration someday decides to pack up and leave Afghanistan, that leaves Pakistan with no anchor in its relationship with the West but also for its own domestic growth. And the Pakistani military is betting heavily on China. They expect China to bail Pakistan out. But in the end, Pakistanis alone can bail Pakistan out and pakistanis
need to think beyond the military as the country's savior. But the military does not allow that to happen.
ZAKARIA: Thank you both. Husain, as you've often written, Pakistan has invested far more in its military over the last 70 years since its independence than it has on education or human development. And I suppose that statistic says it all.
Up next, if the rest of the show has gotten you down, the next segment will make you happy. I guarantee it. Stay tuned.
ZAKARIA: This past January, a brand new class on the Yale University syllabus immediately became the most popular class ever in the history of the school. The course's official title is PSYCH 157, Psychology and the Good Life. But everybody calls it "the happiness course." It quickly enrolled more than 1,200 students, according to the Yale Daily News. There were so many students that class had to be held in a concert hall.
But its popularity didn't end at Yale. The course soon became a viral sensation. It was featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, New York magazine, the Times of India, France's Le Figaro and many more. Demand was so high, there's now a version of the course available for free on the Web.
What is all the fuss? Well, let's find out from the source. Professor Laurie Santos joins me now.
SANTOS: Thanks so much for having me.
ZAKARIA: So, Laurie, you're in the Psychology department at Yale. Why did you decide to teach this class?
SANTOS: So the class came out of a different role I had at Yale, which is I became one of Yale's heads of college. So Yale's, kind of, like Hogwarts, where it has its Gryffindor and Slytherin. I'm head of Silliman College, and that means I live on campus with the students. You know, I eat with them in the dining hall and hang out in their coffee shop.
And that means I saw them, kind of, in the trenches, in terms of what they were really going through. And as a faculty member I was shocked at the kind of mental health issues I was seeing, frankly. And this is the kind of thing that folks report not just at Yale but as just a national trend that's getting worse.
So a recent national college health survey showed us tjhat about 30 percent of students report being so depressed it's difficult to function. Over 50 percent of college students report being anxious a lot of the time. And over 80 percent say that they feel overwhelmed by all they have to do. And, you know, this was not my college experience. It's not the kind of spot where we're going to be educating students well if they're this depressed and this anxious. ZAKARIA: The data suggests that over the years, people have been
asking for more and more mental health at colleges. Why do you think this is happening?
SANTOS: I don't know. I think there are a number of different things at work. I mean, my sense is that colleges are often prioritizing the kinds of things that science suggests just aren't very good for well- being. You know, students are over-focused on grades. They're really future-focused about what kind of job they're going to get later, even at a place like Yale where most of them are going to get good jobs.
And those are not the kinds of things that promote well-being. Well- being comes from being in the moment; it comes from social connection; it comes from counting your blessings and not worrying about the things in the future.
ZAKARIA: So when you talk about the social connections and social interaction, and all the research suggests actual physical social interaction is very useful in giving people a sense of well-being, it seems to me that, particularly for the younger generation, they live in a world of social media interactions more than social interactions. Do you think that plays a role?
SANTOS: Yeah, I think it's no -- it's no coincidence that these kinds of mental health issues are coming up in this age where technology is pulling away the kind of normal social interaction we have. And that's true on social media, where I think people think they're getting some social connection out of scrolling their Instagram feed, but they haven't talked to a live person; they haven't made a real social connection.
But it's not just social media. It's also all kinds of other tech, right? You know, we don't talk to our cab driver and explain where we're going because we've punched it into, you know, Uber. We don't talk to the checkout clerk because we don't have one anymore; we just, kind of, scan it on our own. And research really suggests that it's those simple social connections, you know, talking to the barista at the coffee shop or the person on the street, that can bump up well- being much more so than we forecast.
ZAKARIA: I think about, you know, the experience of dating. It used to be you would go to a bar, you'd try to, you know -- you meet someone, you -- and now, of course, you look at an app...
SANTOS: That's correct.
ZAKARIA: ... and you evaluate somebody on fairly superficial criteria and you get evaluated, and that can't be good for your sense of self, self-worth?
SANTOS: Yeah, it's also activating another thing we know from the research that can be problematic, which is our social comparison, right? Our mind is really good at picking out a reference point of who we should compare ourselves to. What should our salary be? How good should we look? Well, we find someone else out there and we compare ourselves, often in a bad way. And I think social media allows us for so much more kinds of
comparisons that just make us feel bad about ourselves on all these different dimensions, our attractiveness, our wealth levels, for our college students, the grades they're getting. You know, nobody brags about getting a bad grade. What they talk about -- they talk about getting good grades.
And so I worry a lot that the kind of tech we have are just increasing the number of social comparisons that happen on a daily basis, and that's just not good for well-being.
ZAKARIA: In the course, what do you try to give -- what is the message you try to give about what does lead to the good life; what does lead to happiness?
SANTOS: Yeah, so the first part of the message is that a sad thing that the science tells us is that our minds lie to us all the time. We mis-want things. And that's a hard thing to take. But we think that we need to change our life circumstances to become happier. We think we need a new job; we need a bigger salary or we need to move. But what the research suggests is that our life circumstances play a really little role. It's not what we forecast, but it's what the science shows. What plays a much bigger role are our simple practices, like simple acts like making a social connection or taking time for gratitude, or taking time to be in the present moment, having some time that's unscheduled.
ZAKARIA: What's interesting about what you're describing actually is it's simpler than what we think. We think that what will make us happy is making a lot more money or moving to a different place or having a different apartment or, you know, partner, whatever. But what you're saying is, really, if every day you, you know, maybe follow some routines where you make sure that you, you know, meet with some friends, have a bit of social interaction, maybe do a little exercise, or whatever your day-to-day routine is, that can make you much happier -- and that's easy to do compared to doubling your income?
SANTOS: Exactly. I think I take the science of happiness as giving us a lot of good news, right? It's not the hard things that you need to change; it's just the simple things. The problem is that we know, as psychologists, even changing the simple things can be really hard.
You know, that's why we're only a few months from January 1st and everyone has forgotten about their new year's resolutions. And that's why the second half of the class really focuses on a different part of psychology, and that's the psychology of behavior change. As scientists we've learned a lot about how habits work, how you can make habits stick better, how can you shape your situation to pursue the goals that you really want to have in your life.
ZAKARIA: Is there -- is there a simple rule? Is there a simple answer to that?
SANTOS: I mean, as you might guess, since behavior change is hard, it's not super simple. One of the easy things to do is just do it. Find a way to force yourself to do it over time. We know that habits build up by just simply doing them over and over again.
Another thing we know from the science is that your social situation matters. You want to be around people who are supporting you, who give you some help in forming these habits. And that was one of the wonderful things about the course is that we had 1,200 students on Yale's campus. Almost one out of every four students at Yale was doing this. And that provided a tremendous amount of social support.
You know, people were asking other students, like, you know, "What did you write for your gratitude list today," or "What did you do for time affluence?" And I think that was really powerful, knowing the whole community was doing this at the same time.
ZAKARIA: Laurie Santos, pleasure to have you on.
SANTOS: Thank you so much.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back.
ZAKARIA: There's been a lot of talk about Russian interference in the American elections this week, but another election brings me to my question. Which of the following countries will achieve near gender parity this year in both its senate and lower house of congress: Rwanda, South Africa, France or Mexico? Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.
My book of the week is "The China Mission" by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan. We think foreign policy has become partisan today, but this superb book reminds us that the debate over who lost China, as it went Communist in 1949, was ferocious, even engulfing the most admired man in America at the time, General George Marshall.
The portrait of Marshall, who was sent on a mission to China, is, by itself, worth the price of the book. His decency and rectitude is so impressive -- he refused to write his memoirs because he thought that would be improperly profiting from government service -- that he stands like an ancient Roman statue in today's Washington.
The answer to my "GPS" challenge this week is D, Mexico. When the newly elected Mexican congress takes power in September, women are projected to make up almost 50 percent of both the senate and the lower house. Overall, this means the country would have the fourth highest percentage of women in a lower or single house of parliament, according to the U.N.-affiliated Inter-Parliamentary Union. The Mexican president-elect, Andreas Manuel Lopez-Obrador, announced his cabinet would feature an equal number of men and women. And Mexico City also elected its first female mayor.
These advances are not happening in a vacuum. For years Mexico has been putting in place stricter and stricter quota rules demanding equal representation of women and men on candidate lists. In fact, as The Washington Post pointed out in 2014, Mexico even amended its constitutions along these lines. It now states that "Political parties should put rules in place to ensure gender parity for candidates in federal and local congressional elections.
Perhaps Mexico's neighbor to the north should take note. Women make up only 23 percent of the Senate and about 20 percent of the House. Of course, with record numbers of women running for office in America this year, these numbers could change come November.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week, and I will see you next week.