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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Iran's Zarif Arrives at G7, Will Not Meet with U.S. Delegation; Asia in the Trump Era, Stronger or Weaker?; How Do We Feed People in the Future?; Discussion of Changing Global Time Zones. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired August 25, 2019 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:25] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: 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, the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France. Trump and Trudeau, Macron, Merkel. We'll bring you the latest.

Then how is Asia responded to the Trump presidency.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've been hurt by China for 25, 35 years. Nobody has done anything about it.


ZAKARIA: I'll check in with Asia expert Parag Khanna.

Also, eat less meat if you want humanity to survive. That was the message earlier this month from the U.N. But how do we convince those with a tenderness for T-bones or lamb or pork or chicken or goat to stop? Amanda Little has the answer.

But first, here's my take. Today's crisis of conservatism has produced surprisingly few books that try to analyze what exactly happened to this venerable creed. For decades, conservatism was a dominant ideology in the Western world, championed by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Now it has quietly collapsed. President Trump's populism has taken over the Republican Party. Brexit fever has consumed Britain's Conservative leaders.

Into this muddle comes George F. Will's "The Conservative Sensibility." I have long admired Will, who embodies the idea of thoughtful, learned conservatism. In this deeply erudite book, Will tries to explain the basic features of his creed. American conservatism, Will announces, has almost nothing to do with European conservatism which he says has descended from and often is still tainted by thrown-and-altar, blood-and-soil nostalgia, irrationality and tribalism.

He paraphrases Thatcher in observing that European nations were made by history. The United States was made by philosophy. American conservatism then is a project that seeks to defend the original philosophy of the founding fathers. Classical liberalism, which promotes limited government and the veneration of individual liberty.

The counterpoint to this tradition, Will argues, is progressivism. This philosophy articulated by Woodrow Wilson and most capably enacted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Born during the industrialization of the country after the Civil War, progressivism sees society as requiring collective action undertaken by government, which can best enable individuals to flourish economically, politically and morally.

This tradition for George Will has eroded the ideals of the American founding, innovated the spirit of America, and created a country that is less free, less self-reliant and poised for economic stagnation. But the problem for Will and for modern conservatism is that after the new deal came the astonishing American boom of the 1950s and '60s. After the great society came the information revolution which the United States has dominated more than any other nation.

The fact remains that in 2019, the United States is one of the most free, dynamic and innovative countries on the planet. If that is the result of a century of progressive policies, maybe we need more. You see the fundamental flaw of modern conservatism is that it is unsure whether America today is a fallen republic or an astonishing success story. This confusion has produced a political crisis among conservatives, which might help explain the rise of Donald Trump.

You see ever since the 1930s conservatives have been promising their flock the rollback of the progressive agenda. Yet, despite the Reagan revolution, the Gingrich revolution, the Tea Party revolution, the American state is bigger than ever.

Should we chalk this up to incompetence? No. More likely conservatives know that the public actually wants the welfare state and that a modern country could not function today under some libertarian fantasy experiment. In any case, the result is that conservative leaders have left their base permanently aggrieved, feeling betrayed and thus distrustful of any new campaign promises.

[10:05:01] In recent years, as the fever grew, conservative voters began desperate for someone who have not played this game of bait-and- switch with them. Into this rage against elites walked Donald Trump who easily toppled the old conservative establishment and rode the frustration with elites all the way to the White House.


TRUMP: They're not elite. You're elite.


ZAKARIA: George Will has written a fascinating book, but at its heart is the same saga of a lost American utopia that has crippled modern conservatism and damaged American politics. Will describes himself as an amiable low voltage atheist. Well, then he surely knows that there never really was a Garden of Eden.

For more go to and read my "Washington Post" column, and let's get started. I'll be back in a few minutes but first I want to go to CNN's Jim

Sciutto, who is going to bring us all the important goings-on at the G7 meeting in Biarritz -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Fareed. I'm Jim Sciutto, in Washington.

And we have this breaking news from the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. Of course this is the annual gathering of the presidents and prime ministers of the world's largest advanced economies. This morning we have news that a plane carrying the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has landed in Biarritz. U.S. officials are saying not with the intention to meet with U.S. officials on the ground there.

We have our Pamela Brown, senior White House correspondent, traveling with the president.

Pamela, do we know what the function of this visit is then by the Iranian foreign minister? And is there the possibility of talks with U.S. officials sometime in the future?

PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's certainly what the U.S. wants. In fact, Steve Mnuchin just spoke with reporters and said the U.S. is open to speaking with Iranians without any preconditions. But the Iranians have been closing the door to that. And then the statement from the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. It says that there will be no meetings or negotiations with the Americans during this trip.

And in terms of the purpose, Jim, the spokesman also says the Iranian foreign minister will continue consultations and discussions on recent initiatives between the presidents of Iran and France.

Now the president was asked about this, President Trump was asked, and he simply said, no comment in response to this unexpected arrival of the Iranian foreign minister.

Now Steve Mnuchin went a little bit further and did add that again, the U.S. is open to a dialogue with the Iranians but the Iranians have made their stance clear that they are not open to dialogue with the United States.

Of course, here at the G7, Iran is a central focus. Many of the countries here want to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran but how to go about doing so, they differ. Of course, President Trump, as you know, Jim, pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and just in recent months tensions have been rising between the U.S. and Iran. As you'll recall just recently Iranians shot down a U.S. drone and the U.S. was prepared to send a limited missile strike over and so this is certainly an interesting dynamic that the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif has arrived here in France for the G7. An unexpected arrival and again no comment from President Trump on this.

SCIUTTO: Pamela Brown, thank you on the ground in France.

We're joined now by David Sanger. He's CNN contributor, national security correspondent for the "New York Times" and also author of "The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age."

David, you make the point that this is President Trump's third G7 and in that time he has not moved America's closest allies one iota closer to his position which is to leave the Iran nuclear deal. Do we know the function of this visit by the Iranian foreign minister? And is it possible that maybe the Iranians and the Americans are surprised by meeting face-to-face on the ground there?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, imagine it's possible but it's Mr. Zarif himself, Jim, who was sanctioned by the Trump administration just a few weeks ago, and basically they went after whatever assets he had in the United States, he said he didn't have any, and essentially barred him from travel to the U.S. except perhaps his visits to the U.N.

At the same time, he's the on one they can really talk to. There is not going to be a meeting at least any time that we can imagine between the president and the supreme leader in Iran that usually does not meet American or even many of his European counterparts. He has met Prime Minister Abe of Japan. So Zarif who was the foreign minister is probably the best conduit and of course was the conduit for the negotiations, first in secret, then in public, with the Obama administration.

An interesting question here is the Europeans who were there had been pretty unified, Jim, in putting together a set of efforts to counter the American sanctions, basically to undercut the U.S. sanctions on Iran because they say they want to preserve the Iran deal.

[10:10:16] President Trump has been completely on the other side of that. And there is no indication right now that either side is giving on that issue.

SCIUTTO: OK. Let's talk about the China trade war. Of course, the president some 48 hours ago roiled international markets by announcing new sanctions, retaliatory on China, following China's imposition of tariffs on the U.S. But the president back and forth just in the last 24 hours as to whether he was having second thoughts on the imposition of those new tariffs or the White House seemed to indicate he was having second thoughts that he did not go tough enough with those tariffs. Do we have any sense of what the actual White House position is on this?

SANGER: I think the White House is struggling to come up with a position on this. I mean, it was just on Friday, Jim, that you saw the president described Xi Jinping, the president of China, as an enemy. It was in the same paragraph in which he used that phrase for Jay Powell, the head of the Federal Reserve. Today he said our relationship with China is actually quite good.

Now people are accustomed to the fact that the president has swerved many ways but in the China negotiations, I think the bigger fear is it's not clear to anybody what our objectives are. Is it simply the removal of trade barriers in China? Is it the theft of American technology? Is it the requirement that American companies turn over their technology if they want to manufacture in China? Is it Huawei, the Chinese telecom manufacturer who President Trump is trying -- has banned from the U.S. and was trying to get the Europeans to do the same?

So, we don't understand the priorities here in any way, and I think that that's what's got the markets roiled. That and the president's claim on Friday which he does appear to be backing away from that American companies should get out of China. In fact, he seemed to suggest he could order that. He did order it by tweet. It's not at all clear he has that authority.

So, I think what's roiling the markets and the allies here is the fact that there is so much inconsistency in the American position and because the Chinese have clearly not folded as President Trump believed that they would.

SCIUTTO: They have not and in fact, there are some reads from inside China that China senses weakness, political weakness in this president, and willing to apply greater pressure going forward.

David Sanger, great to have your analysis there as the G7 talks continue in Biarritz, France. We're going to continue to follow all the headlines coming from France as the U.S. meets with its closest allies there.

Coming up next, Fareed will be back and we will pivot from the south of France to Asia. How is this part of the world fairing in the era of Trump? Please stay with GPS.


[10:16:54] ZAKARIA: I want to turn now to how a key part of the world is fairing in the Trump era. Asia is the globe's most populist continent by far and as Kishore Mahbubani points out, the world will gain a billion new middle-class consumers this decade in Asia alone.

So how is the so-called Asian century going? Has it been derailed or strengthened by President Trump?

Joining me now from Singapore is Parag Khanna. Khanna is a CNN global contributor and the author of the new book, "The Future is Asian."

Parag, what does the -- what does the tension between the United States and China over trade suggest to you in a kind of broader sense?

PARAG KHANNA, CNN GLOBAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Asians are going to put their own interests first. They see that the U.S. and China are on the way to decoupling. As you know, the U.S. is trading more with Canada and Mexico than it is with China. So Asians are looking to potentially ratify this year the Regional Comprehensive Partnership, the RCEP. That's 16 countries that will constitute one of the largest free traders in the world and it's going to take some of that pressure off the Asian countries and increase or expand their exports to each other.

That's basically where this trade war is taking Asia, towards greater regionalism, more integration or at least more complimentary to each other and less dependence on the U.S.

ZAKARIA: One also sees Europe getting more active in Asia. What do you make of that? A number of free trade deals that the Europeans are signing with Asian countries.

KHANNA: It's exactly -- it's a great point, Fareed. I'm glad you brought it up because actually it's important to also make clear this pattern that you're describing began before the trade war broke out. The European Union countries trade more with China and with Asia as a whole than the United States does. And they've trade more with Asia than they do with the United States. And you and I both know that the transatlantic economic relationship was the bedrock of the global economic system for decades.

But today what we're seeing is the Eurasian system really taking center stage. And indeed, the E.U. not only has a free trade agreement that it signed earlier this year with Japan, it wants to have a similar agreement with the Asian countries of Southeast Asia. It even wants to have one with India and companies like Airbus and others are also getting into the Chinese market more heavily to substitute for their American rivals like Boeing.

So, the situation that's going to unfold is that the European-Asian trade relationship is really going to strengthen. It stands about $1.6 trillion today that could easily grow to $2 trillion, $2.5 trillion per year while America's trade with Europe and America's trade with Asia are probably going to stagnate or even decline.

ZAKARIA: So, what you're describing is a world in Asia that is kind of moving forward and the United States to a certain extent is being left behind. I mean, the most visible symbol of this is probably the U.S. opting out of the Transpacific Partnership.

KHANNA: It's that but it's also the geopolitical environment, which again is one of these areas where we can do a before-and-after comparison.

[10:20:02] You know, the United States is clearly no longer leading a coherent, rigid, hierarchical security order in Asia such as we knew during the Cold War. So, we have to really look at the individual relationships that Asian countries have with the U.S. one by one. Japan of course remains a stalwart American ally, but if you look at South Korea, for example, another very important American ally, they have been much more accommodating of Chinese interests. They are moving forward with Belt and Road Initiative collaboration with China so that they can enhance their industrial exports.

Australia, another very important American ally, has just announced that it does not want to see American missiles stationed at Darwin. So, we really have to look one by one to see where American geopolitical leverage or points of influence are going to remain in the years ahead.

ZAKARIA: And do they worry? Do Asian countries worry about the rise of China or are they accommodating themselves to this new reality? KHANNA: Absolutely. Look, Asian countries have been more fearful of

China than anyone else and certainly felt that long before Trump was, you know, elected to office and launched this trade war and started to call out, if you will, China for its -- some of its belligerent activities. Every country in the region has an outstanding border dispute with China or a legacy sort of, you know, tension with them or even very recent instances of an altercation in the maritime domain like the South Asia Sea.

So there's no question that all of China's neighbors, and China has 14 neighbors, are quite suspicious of it, but they share this geography, they share this Asian mega region. They want to find ways to accommodate their largest trading partner and what is interesting, and I don't think gets reported enough so I'm glad we're able to talk about it now, is that China is also learning to accommodate them.

It's not just that they get bullied and they step back and they accept whatever China wants. And you can actually see China learning that it has to accommodate its neighbors if it wants to succeed in its objective. So I still think that the Asia that we're heading towards is not one that's going to be unilaterally dominated by a hegemonic China but one in which, A, the United States should still be there playing a very important role as a security guarantor, but also one that really restores what Asian history has mostly been, Fareed, which as you know has been multipolar, right?

You have multiple centers of power, multiple deep, rich civilizations that are quite confident in themselves, the way India is becoming, the way that Japan still is, even the Southeast Asian countries rising up and speaking for themselves, and that I think will be a stable Asia in the long run.

ZAKARIA: Fascinating view from Asia. Parag, always a pleasure.

KHANNA: Thank you so much, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, tensions are rising between the U.S. and China in another way. When we come back, find out why the U.S. and China are facing off over science.


[10:26:37] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment.

Americans have gotten used to the idea that whatever the competition in other areas, America is the world's undisputed scientific power. Well, that is changing and fast. China's spending on research and development has grown by an astounding 18 percent per year since 2000 reaching $408 billion in 2015, second only to the United States.

According to a recent op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal", China opened more than 1,800 universities between 2001 and 2014. According to the World Economic Forum, China has nearly 5 million recently graduated scientists as of 2016, almost nine times the number in the United States. Last year China surpassed the United States in the number of

scientific research papers published. And China once more for years it has been recruiting foreign scientists through the lucrative Thousand Talents Placement program. If this transformation sounds familiar, that's for a reason, something very similar happened in the United States after World War II and it changed the world.

As the economists Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson write in a new book, "Jumpstarting America," government funding for reserve and development in America increased by a factor of 20 from 1940 to 1964. The authors note that during that era, the federal government contributed funding for basic research that led to the development of microwave ovens, MRI imaging, satellites. We wouldn't have GPS or mobile internet without them.

The government was also pouring money into American universities. College enrollment doubled between 1940 and 1960. During and after World War II, the U.S. had an influx of foreign scientists fleeing Nazism and communism.

But much has changed in America and the world. It used to be that no country spent a bigger proportion of national income on public research and development than the United States. Now as Gruber and Johnson note, nine countries do. While China's R&D spending grew by 18 percent per year from 2000 to 2015, in the U.S. that figure was 4 percent. And spending on research and development as a percentage of the U.S. federal budget has steadily declined over the years.

At stake is winning the race to be first and best on everything from green energy to self-driving cars, but that's more important at stake is the very nature of science itself. Ideally, scientific inquiries should be untampered by authoritarians or state interference. Little in China is free from either but increasingly the American government has also shown a willingness to interfere, as well.

It is reportedly cracking down on scientists who are perceived as having undisclosed ties to China. Several outfits have reported that government effort to fight back against Chinese influence at American research institutions. This drive has already led to the investigation and departure of three scientists for a cancer center at the University of Texas and raised fears of racial profiling from Asian American scientists all over the country.

The Department of Energy recently issued a memo banning its scientists from participating in foreign recruitment programs sponsored by China and other sensitive countries, the "Wall Street Journal" reported.

Remember that foreign collaboration has been the bedrock of American strength in science. Thirty-nine percent of American Nobel Prizes in science were won by the foreign born.

Scott Moore, a China scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, says that while there may be costs to openness in science, we gain more than we lose in an open exchange of ideas. Rather than trying to stop China from innovating, a much better strategy would be for the United States to massively increase funding for basic research and technology and welcome talented immigrants with open arms -- the strategy, in other words, that made America number one in the first place.

Next on "GPS," how do you feed almost 10 billion people on a planet much hotter than it is today?

Well, there are no easy answers, but we have some answers for you, when we come back. How does eating bugs for brunch sound? Back in a moment.


ZAKARIA: The U.N. projects that by 2050 this planet will have nearly 10 billion people on it. That's an additional 2 billion people on top of all of us already here. And 2050 may sound like it's way in the future, but I, for one, still hope to be around. It's only 30 years off.

We know that the earth in 2050 will be hotter. We just don't know how much hotter. But one of the biggest puzzles that policymakers and scientists will have to deal with between now and then is how do we feed an extra 2 billion people on a hotter planet?

Amanda Little is a journalist who digs into these very issues. Her latest book is called "The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World."


LITTLE: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: So you talk about this mismatch between the increase in population and a potential decrease in the supply of food. Explain why?

LITTLE: So the International Panel on Climate Change has predicted that we could see a 2 percent to 6 percent decline in global crop yields every decade going forward, and...

ZAKARIA: And that's because more arable land is becoming essentially desert?

LITTLE: That's right. Well, it's -- it's many factors. So it's heat. It's storm events. It's shifting seasons, which are confusing crops. It's drought. It's invasive species and insects. So it's -- it's many different, you know, factors that climate change is, you know, placing on food production.

What's interesting, in the language in the IPCC report, it says that the world may reach a threshold by mid-century beyond which current agricultural practices can no longer support large human civilizations. That's -- that's the language in the report.

And the key term, though, is "current agricultural practices," right?

The narrative of we're running out of food is thousands of years old. You know, humanity has been asking how we're going to feed ourselves for, you know, since really the beginning of civilization. The stakes are higher now. The risks are greater. But, you know, the question is can we adapt?

ZAKARIA: One other trend that you point out which seems to me very crucial here is the rising meat consumption. Basically, as people, as countries grow richer, they eat more protein; they particularly eat more animal protein; they particularly eat more beef...

LITTLE: That's right.

ZAKARIA: And the problem is beef takes up an enormous amount of arable land, right?

LITTLE: It stunned me to realize that, in the last 50 years, we've seen a doubling in human population and a tripling in meat consumption.

So you're exactly right. There's not just -- it's not just a challenge of adding more humans to the planet; it's shifting diets toward more protein-rich and meat-rich eating habits.

ZAKARIA: How many -- how many animals do we kill every year to feed the world? You have that number in the book.

LITTLE: It's tens of billions. And there is actually -- it's, sort of, shifting data, but we slaughter tens and tens of billions of animals a year for human consumption. And it's, you know, one of the most interesting areas of, sort of, adaptation and innovation. We've heard a lot recently about plant-based meat alternatives. And cell- based meats or cultured meat are getting a lot of focus right now. Can they actually replace animal meat?

ZAKARIA: And so I want to ask you a question about that. Because there has been all this debate about the Impossible burger and Beyond Meat. And I've tried them and they're very tasty, but they're super- processed food. I mean, a lot of what you're eating in those things is like canola oil. I mean, it's a -- you know, it's a -- is that a good solution?

LITTLE: Well, it depends on the product. And in the case of Beyond Meat, you certainly, I think, have less processing in terms of, you know, what's potentially damaging to human health in that product than you have in many conventional meats that we eat and the processing that goes on in the products into which that meat goes.

So, you know, when you compare them, I think that there's probably huge benefits to human health with some of these plant-based alternatives. You have to read the labels closely.

That's one of the reasons why there is a lot of interest in cell-based meats, right, because you're essentially just growing the muscle tissues and the connective tissues and the fat tissues that we eat in animal-based meat and you can actually control how much fat and what kind of fat goes into those products...

ZAKARIA: So that's essentially laboratory-made -- it really is beef; it's just you don't need a live animal to get to the beef. You get to it in a lab. LITTLE: That's exactly right. So it's -- and I tasted a -- a duck

breast freshly harvested from a bioreactor at a laboratory in Berkeley, California. And certainly there was, you know, a little concern when I signed the, you know, waiver that said this is an experimental product and I'm -- you know, death may, you know, occur.


It was a formality. But it tasted very much like the duck meat I've eaten. It was a little chewier. And again, it's an early-stage product. It's not yet on the market. But billions and billions of dollars are flowing into this research.

ZAKARIA: You come out of this basically optimistic or pessimistic?

LITTLE: The most important thing I want to, you know, convey is climate change is becoming something we can taste. Right now in France, for example, we're seeing major impacts on corn production, wine production. Bordeaux just recently hit 106 degrees Fahrenheit. I've reported on impacts on avocado industry, citrus, peaches, apples, any -- any high-nutrient, high-flavor crop -- coffee and cacao, hugely vulnerable to shifts in climate.

I am optimistic. I do think we can do this and do it right. But it will require good judgment. It will require a real coming to terms with how serious the problems are at hand. It's -- it's -- we're going to really change and broaden how we think about food and food solutions.

ZAKARIA: Terrific. Well, the first thing we've got to do is read your book.


Up next, pop quiz. What time is it in Papua, New Guinea right now?

If your answer was "I have absolutely no idea," you are not alone. But my next guests say they want to make it easy, make time standard across the planet.

At global noontime, people would just be getting up in New York, having lunch in London and getting ready to go to bed in Beijing. But it would be the same time. Why? Find out in a moment.


ZAKARIA: If it's midnight in Los Angeles, it's 3 a.m. in New York, 8 a.m. in London, 12:30 in the afternoon in Delhi, 5 p.m. in Sydney and 7:45 p.m. in New Zealand's Chatham Isles. Got it?

Confused? Well, that's just the way time zones work right now and roughly the way they have worked for almost 150 years. But my next guests want to disrupt all of that and make it, well, simpler. I'll let them explain how and why.

Richard Conn Henry is a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins, where Steve Hanke is a professor of applied economics.

So just help people understand. What you are proposing is a single time zone for the entire world?

HANKE: Absolutely correct. And as things stand now, for example, in China, they have time zones, a single time zone covering a big chunk of China, with big differences in hours. We're going for the entire world on the same time. But of course, it doesn't mean that you'll go to bed in the middle of the day. It means that you will follow the sun as far as your behavior is concerned, but when you're catching an airplane, the time will be exactly the same.

ZAKARIA: What is the -- what is the advantage to this, first of all? What is the problem with our current system?

HENRY: Well, the current system is one in which you get confused about meeting times, scheduling things. And -- and as a result of -- this universal time is really what Dick and I are talking about. This is spontaneously something that's been evolving and taking a hold because it works and you need it.

For example, airline pilots -- in 1972, they all went on universal time because of the safety consideration.

HANKE: Worldwide.


ZAKARIA: So airline pilots, there's always one time and it's always Greenwich Mean Time?

HANKE: Right...

HENRY: Greenwich Mean Time -- everyone's watch is set exactly on the same hour. That's all this means, really, is your watch, every place in the world -- if you're in Mumbai, the watch is going to read exactly the same thing as it is here in New York.

ZAKARIA: So just to help people understand, because, you know, I think it does confuse people. So they think...

HENRY: Of course.

ZAKARIA: ... wait a minute, so, you know, when I get up and I'm thinking it's morning and I'm about to go to work and it's 7:00 in the morning and I look and say "No, it's going to say that it's 3:00 in the afternoon"?

HANKE: That's correct. And you will know by that time that that's normal for you.

Let me give you an example. A decade or more ago, I -- I got a phone call from my mother in Canada and she said, "Oh, Richard, it was hot today, 30 degrees." She had transitioned, an old lady, to Celsius. We would transition to this new system in a year at max. ZAKARIA: So we'd just realize that, you know, when we got up, when we

went to bed, this was all determined by the sun, but when we were looking at our watch, we were looking at a -- at a time that...

HANKE: The time.

ZAKARIA: ... the time that was the same for every human being everywhere in the world?

HANKE: Precisely.

HENRY: How it would work, for example, in New York, if we were on universal time, the stores would open -- let's say they're opening now at 9:00 and they close at 5:00. So what would that be? It would be 9 a.m. is on universal time 1400 or 2 p.m.; 5 p.m. is 10:00 p.m. or 2200.

HANKE: You know, I'd always know what time it is. There's Zulu time. See? Everybody's got it.

HENRY: And -- and when we talk about...

ZAKARIA: And universal time would be Greenwich Mean Time?

HENRY: Greenwich Mean Time.

ZAKARIA: The Brits are lucky because they got -- got there first.

HENRY: Yeah. They don't have to change anything. They're in the middle of the thing, the zero meridian, right now, at Greenwich.

But -- but the time zone thing, for people to get an idea of the history of this thing, we had 300 time zones in the United States.


We were on sun time. Then -- then we had the telegraph and the railways coming in, in the latter part of the 19th century, and we went to 75 time zones now. And at that point in time, we had six time zones in St. Louis; we had five time zones in Kansas City; and we had three time zones in Chicago.

And finally, at the end of the day in 1883, the railway said "We've had it with this; this is very dangerous, very confusing; people are missing trains; trains are colliding with one another; we're going to four time zones."

And that's how we got to four. So this was in the latter part of the 19th Century, 1883, before that got straightened out.

ZAKARIA: So if the president puts out an executive order, he does not require congressional approval to change the time or the calendar?

HANKE: That's my understanding.

ZAKARIA: And once the United States does it, you think the rest of the world will follow?

HANKE: If the federal government of the United States does it, believe you me the states will fall in line on this, even New York and California. Of course, they'll recognize the virtues of it. It's not controversial, really, in any way.

ZAKARIA: What is the likelihood of this -- these proposals being accepted?

HANKE: Well, we -- we managed to get the metric system accepted -- oh, wait a minute.

ZAKARIA: Well, I think that...

HANKE: I don't know. I don't know. That's really why...

ZAKARIA: But most countries -- I think about 190 countries use the metric system.

HANKE: Well, if there's -- a joke I love, and I used it on Steve this morning, that there's two kinds of countries in the world. There are those that use the metric system and there are those that have put men on the moon.


ZAKARIA: If you could have just called it Trump Time, you might have a deal.


HANKE: Yeah, that's the idea. That's the idea.

ZAKARIA: Thank you both. Fascinating -- fascinating idea.

HANKE: Lots of fun.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back.


ZAKARIA: Fixing the U.S. health care system is already a major issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. It makes sense. It's long been known that Americans pay more for their health care but die sooner than people in most other developed countries.

It brings me to my question. In which of the following countries will a child born in 2020 have a higher life expectancy than in America: Cuba, Lebanon, the Maldives or Curacao?

Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.

My book of the week is Alan Hollinghurst's "The Line of Beauty," a beautifully written Booker-Prize-winning novel set in London's upper classes during the Thatcher years. Hollinghurst writes about politics, money and sex with consummate ease and skill. The answer to my "GPS" challenge this week is actually all of them.

The United States ranks 52nd in life expectancy at birth, according to the U.N.'s world population prospects. It is outranked by both wealthier and less wealthy nations. Some, like Cuba, have prioritized primary health care at a national level. Others, like Maldives, have a universal health insurance plan like the Medicare For All plan that's been debated in the Democratic primary.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point to two main factors for the decline of American life expectancy, drug overdoses and suicides. These two crises, however, account for a recent drop- off. For the big picture, you have to look at American inequality. Take a look at this map. The red highlights areas of low life expectancy. It is an alarmingly close match with this Census map of poverty rates throughout the country, particularly across the Southwest and Southeast. I would suggest that all American politicians, Democrat and Republican alike, keep these connections in mind between poverty and health and seek to overhaul health care entirely.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.