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Fareed Zakaria GPS

America's Racial Reckoning: Will Anything Change This Time?; Combating COVID-19: Which Nations Have Done Best?; Francis Fukuyama: Democracies With Populist Leaders Are Generally Doing Poorly; Rutger Bregman: What You Assume In Other People Is What You Get Out Of Them; Are Humans Fundamentally Good Or Bad? Aired 10-11a ET

Aired July 05, 2020 - 10:00   ET



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.


ZAKARIA: Today on the show, the state of race in America. The killing of George Floyd has opened up an extraordinary moment in this country.

What does history tell us about the chances of bringing about real change? I will talk to the historians Annette Gordon-Reed and Tim Naftali.

Then, what kind of nations had fought COVID most successfully? Democracies or dictatorships? Political scientist Francis Fukuyama has the answers.

Also, the world may look pretty grim these days, but I will bring you a brand new answer to the age-old question. Are human beings inherently good or evil?


ZAKARIA: But first here's my take. Cities across the American south and west are getting pummeled by the coronavirus right now, but New York City seems to have things under control as it begins to open up. So I have to admit I'm excited. I know it will be a very different city for a while with many aspects of urban life canceled or curtailed, but still, I'm excited.

For the past three months the city has felt like an empty stage set full of grand buildings and boulevards but without many people. Now New York's motley crew has re-emerged, lingering outside the cafes and bars, gingerly entering shops, or simply walking on the streets. Despite the masks, the space between tables and the limits on people in stores, urban life is coming back.

I know, I know. There are lots of people saying this pandemic is going to be the death knell for cities, that their density makes them Petri dishes for disease, that people have discovered they don't need to live in cramped quarters so close to work, that teleconferencing makes the office a relic of the past.

Maybe they're right, but historically they've been wrong. In the 14th Century, the bubonic plague hit France hard, killing more than half the city's population by some estimates. Giovanni Boccaccio's "Decameron" gave people advice that sounds remarkably current. Flee the city, isolate with a few friends and gather in the evenings to eat, drink and tell each other interesting stories. Their version of Netflix.

And yet it was after one of the worst plagues in human history that the cities of Europe, Florence in particular, launched the Renaissance. In 1793, Philadelphia was America's leading metropolis, the nation's capital and its most populous city. It experienced a gruesome epidemic of yellow fever that literally decimated the population, killing 5,000 of the city's 50,000 residents.

Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who had always disliked cities, lived in the outskirts and continued to commute to work. He later wrote that this disease, like most evils, are the means of producing some good. "The yellow fever will discourage the growth of great cities in our nation."

It didn't quite work out that way. Critics say this time it's different. New technologies make it much easier for people to work from home and the dangers of the disease will keep them away. There's some truth to this, but for perspective, it's worth reading Harvard economist Edward Glaeser's "Triumph of the City."

He points out that U.S. cities faced a bleak, bleak future in the 1970s. Globalization and automation had killed off many of the great urban industries from textile manufacturing to shipping. The car had proved to be a killer technology, far more important than Zoom, and allowing people to live farther from the office. Phone service had become cheap and easy.

And add race riots, crime and mismanagement, and you had a Molotov cocktail of factors that wrecked city life. And yet cities came back. They found new economic life in the service sector, from finance to consultant to health care. Despite the rise of fax machines, e-mail, and video conferencing, cities reinvented themselves in myriad different ways, drawing on a simple asset -- human beings like to mingle.

Glaeser notes that an industry such as finance and technology, people gained huge advantages by being close to the action, meeting new people, learning day to day from mentors and comparing notes, much of which happens accidentally.

It's true that the coronavirus has presented big cities with new challenges, but it's important not to rush to conclusions. Density is not the problem it's made out to be. Manhattan, the densest part of New York City, has a lower rate of infection than any of the other boroughs. Across the U.S., per capita rates of infection are highest in some of the least densely populated regions.

And if you look abroad, massive cities have handled the virus stunningly well.


Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore are all dense cities with packed mass transit systems, millions traveling on subways. And yet their COVID-19 deaths have been amazingly low. Under 30 dead in Singapore, under 10 dead in Hong Kong and all of Taiwan.

They have succeeded in this difficult situation because, perhaps as a consequence of the SARS epidemic, they were prepared. They invested in health care and hygiene. They reacted to the virus early, aggressively and intelligently. Now they are reaping the rewards.

One rule seems clear. Bad leadership, misguided priorities and inept policies can sink a city. So if New York and other urban centers floundered this time, it will not be because of pandemics and technology. It will be for the same reason that countries and cities have failed throughout history -- bad government.

Go to for a link to my "Washington Post" column, and let's get started.

On July 5th, 1852, the escaped slave turned abolitionist Frederick Douglass told a crowd in Rochester, "This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn." He went on, "What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days in the year the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim."

Here we are 168 years later, and this July 4th weekend, many Americans are wondering whether to celebrate or chastise their country.

Let's look at the extraordinary six weeks since the death of George Floyd with two great historians. Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of history at Harvard. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family." And Tim Naftali teaches at NYU and is the former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and a CNN presidential historian.

Professor Reed, let me ask you whether -- are you hopeful that this time it's different or that this time is bigger than some of the past cases? When you look back at history, do you feel like there have been many of these moments where there is a kind of attempt to reckon with the past, and then it dissipates?

ANNETTE GORDON-REED, PROFESSOR OF LAW AND HISTORY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, yes. There have been those moments. I'm hopeful about this moment, you're absolutely right. There is something different about this. Polls show that large numbers of Americans think that there should be some reckoning, some sort of change in attitudes about policing, change in attitudes about voter suppression, all of those kinds of things.

I'm a hopeful person generally. I have to be. But I do know that unless concrete actions are -- you know, follow that hope, follow the sort of starts that have been made, then we will fall back into the problems that we've seen for so many years.

ZAKARIA: Tim, what strikes me as possibly one of the most hopeful aspects is that there has not been a kind of white backlash to many of the things that have happened. And I measure that in one very simple way which is I think it's fair to say that President Trump tried to court such a backlash. And yet his numbers, his poll numbers, have actually fallen among whites. The reason that Joe Biden is leading so significantly is not increased support among minorities but decreased support among whites.

And in a sense, you know, you know this as former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, ever since Richard Nixon -- there has been a strategy largely employed by Republicans to court this white backlash. Why do you think it's not working this time?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Every so often candor enters into the president's tweets, and he just recently tweeted "Lone Warrior." And that really describes at the moment his efforts, as you said, to court a white backlash. President Obama, when he spoke not too long ago, was talking about the diversity of the movement, the black lives movement, the movement on the streets in response to the murder of George Floyd. He noted how different that was from the '60s.

I would also point out to other hopeful signs. I share with Annette the sense of hope. In 2001, the state of Mississippi had a referendum on what to do with the flag. Two-thirds of those who participated in the referendum voted to keep the flag. The state of Mississippi just removed its flag without the kind of demonstrations and backlash that certainly would have happened if a governor had done that in 2001.


But the people of Mississippi, the white people of Mississippi, there weren't enough of them to respond and oppose it. The second big change is that after Charleston in 2015, after the murder of nine African- Americans in that church by a white supremacist, there were calls to remove the names of Confederate generals on the 10 bases in this country that have those names. The U.S. Army, whose commander-in-chief at the time was Barack Obama, opposed changing those names, making the argument that those names were to honor individuals, not ideologies.

Well, in June, after the Lafayette Square fiasco, the U.S. Military made clear in a number of very powerful ways that enough was enough. And there is a debate now, but Republicans and Democrats are arguing to change those names. Those are just two examples of what I think is a transformational change in the conversation in this country.

ZAKARIA: Annette, let me ask you about one area where it does seem like we're still talking past each other because there is this sense, I think, that there are people who want to have a much broader reckoning about American history. And there is a response which I hear sometimes, it's not said as much publicly, where people are saying, you know, but we've come a long way. We're really not as racist as we were.

And it feels like these are two separate conversations in a way. I would argue, at least, I think, yes, of course, there is a lot of progress. Look at the number of black elected officials, look at the number of black police chiefs. But the larger question of, has this country reckoned with the past, with 350 years of slavery and segregation and more?

Do you think America has properly reckoned with that past?

REED: No, we have not. We've certainly acknowledged it, but I think the events of the past six weeks have told us that they're sort of talking past one another. What you're talking about has been a part of our -- a feature of our society for a very, very long time.

I think a number of Americans looking at the video of George Floyd being killed in the moment of pandemic when we're all feeling very, very vulnerable, had an opportunity to consider these matters in ways that perhaps they had not before, and we're beginning to have a discussion, but there is no doubt that we have been talking past one another.

I think the lots of people don't -- did not believe the extent of the problem, that if there was a problem, it was a problem of black culture, a problem of black families, sort of blaming the victim in this situation. I do think that we're beginning to have this discussion, but it hasn't been -- there's not something that we've been engaged in in a very, very effective way up until this moment.

And I will say that I think the talk about the monuments and so forth, all of those things are important, but they're not as important as the things that got us here when we started thinking about the nature of policing in the African-American communities. That's a much tougher thing than bringing down a statue or changing the name of a school or whatever.

ZAKARIA: All right. Stay with us, because when we come back, I'm going to ask Annette Gordon-Reed what to do about the Jefferson Memorial. Remember, she won a Pulitzer Prize for writing about Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with Sally Hemings, when we come back.



ZAKARIA: And we are back with the eminent historians, Annette Gordon- Reed and Tim Naftali.

Professor Reed, you are the authority on Jefferson and Sally Hemings. So in light of that reality, he was a slave owner, of course, what should we do about Thomas Jefferson, the memorials to him and his face on Mount Rushmore?

REED: Well, I think I've made the distinction a number of times when people asked me about this between the founding generation and Confederates. I think members of the founding generation created the United States of America. If you think that's a good thing, it's worth commemorating, not necessarily celebrating, but commemorating their achievements. The Jefferson Memorial, for example, that replica of Monticello and

UVA combined there with the Jefferson statue in the middle, is in my view an excellent place to contextualize Jefferson, to explain the good things that he did, the memorial was put up with his words along the walls, but also to have a section to talk about the fact that he was a slave owner, to talk about what that meant in the country and his attitudes about race and all those kinds of things as well.

I think with the founders, Jefferson, Washington and others, there's a way of commemorating them, and at the same time you have to tell the truth about their lives. They're not people that I think can be put away.

ZAKARIA: So, Tim, Annette seems to be saying, you know, commemorate people for the achievements they had despite their having been slave owners, unlike Confederate generals, who were being commemorated, presumably, for mutinying against the United States in order to support slavery. But what do we do with somebody like Woodrow Wilson? Wilson, you know, Princeton just renamed the school.

It seems to me Wilson was really being honored for things that had -- did not have anything to do with his racist views. So how to think about that?


NAFTALI: I think Wilson is a very interesting case because he was being honored for his views about international engagement, international peace, international organizations. I learned some time ago, actually, thanks to my students at the University of Hawaii, how Woodrow Wilson had not applied his 14 points equally to all of the nations that were struggling for freedom at the time of the Versailles Treaty.

And he was clearly racist in the response that he made to Koreans, for example, who wanted to be liberated from the Japanese. And so I think that Wilson, that even in the field for which Wilson is most admired, his racism played a role. And so that's why I've never been comfortable with Woodrow Wilson being a hero the way he has been treated.

Other presidents, where they have acted in ways that have benefited the country and those ways are not permeated by their pinched racist views, then you have this moment where you're juggling and you're saying, well, we should remember them for this as opposed to that. I mean, after all, even Richard Nixon, who committed abuse of power and engaged in real crimes, still deserves credit for the opening to China.

ZAKARIA: Annette, what do you think of Wilson? I mean, the man who wanted the league of nations and, you know, in a way has defined America's international role ever since, and yet re-segregated the federal bureaucracy in a kind of -- you know, an act of real overt racism?

REED: Well, he was a terrible person. I mean, he did -- as for Princeton, he made modern Princeton. He took it from a sleepy college to something that is the thing that we think of today as a great university. And he was president of the United States, the league of nations, all those kinds of things that we honor, but I think it made sense for them to take his name off of the school for public policy because his public policies were, as you said.

He initiated public policies and sort of went backwards. He re- segregated institutions that had been desegregated, and so I can understand them not wanting to be associated with him in that way.

ZAKARIA: Is it healthy, Tim, to be having this debate? There are a lot of Americans who feel like -- you know, does this mean we don't honor our country, we don't celebrate our country. Does it -- is it a sign of weakness or a sign of strength?

NAFTALI: It's a sign of strength. I think of our country as struggling between the realities of 1619 and the aspirational qualities of the enlightenment. Those ideas that Jefferson put forward, even though he didn't live them, as Annette knows better than anyone, and it's the struggle between the aspirational qualities of our principles and the realities of America that has led to -- that bending towards justice that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and later Barack Obama talked a lot about.

So if you talk about how we're aspiring to those values and then talk about how each generation has fallen short, I think it's very healthy because in a sense you're confirming the central ideas of the country. The founders didn't achieve those ideas, but the founders didn't put a glass ceiling forever on them. Each of our generations has been chipping away, using the power of those principles as our tool. So I think it's a sign of hope and of a healthy democracy to be having this conversation.

ZAKARIA: Annette Gordon-Reed, Tim Naftali, fascinating conversation. Thank you both for joining me.

REED: Thank you for asking.

NAFTALI: Thank you. Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Japan has had 20,000 COVID cases total since it recorded its first infection in mid-January. This week the United States started hitting more than double that number in new cases every day. How do two nations have such a different experience with the same disease?

Stanford's Francis Fukuyama has the answer.



ZAKARIA: As the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the globe, scientists and politicians alike scrambled to learn about how to combat its spread.

So were authoritarian countries like China better equipped to mobilize their populations into testing and lockdowns? Can democracies slow the spread of the virus with a free flow of information? Or was having a female leader like in New Zealand or Taiwan the secret to success?

Francis Fukuyama, the eminent political scientist, explored some of these questions in a recent "Foreign Affairs" article titled, "The Pandemic and Political Order." He's the director of Stanford's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.

Welcome, friend.


ZAKARIA: So what is the simplest answer to the question, what kind of regimes handled the pandemic best?

FUKUYAMA: I think the first thing to say is that it doesn't correlate at all with whether you're a democracy or an authoritarian country because if you look in both of those categories, you'll find some good performers and bad performers.


I think that real characteristics that had been critical are different and they can be shared either type of regime.

So one is you obviously need good state capacity, and by that we mean a public health system, adequate doctors, nurses, the people that run hospitals and organize the system as a whole. But I think the more intangible factor is a matter of trust.

If people, citizens, don't trust the government, and if they don't trust their fellow citizens, then they're not going to comply with shutdown orders, they're not going to take the necessary protective measures, which can be quite burdensome, as we've seen from being indoors for the last three months.

And sometimes it's a democracy that has that, so that would be South Korea or Taiwan or Germany. Sometimes an authoritarian country has that, and that, I think, would be China at the moment. But then there are democracies that haven't done so well and there are hypocrisies that haven't done so well in those categories.

ZAKARIA: So we understand state capacity I think and we understand we can see how America just doesn't do government particularly in the health care system that well. But talk a little bit about social trust. You wrote a whole book about it. What I'm intrigued by is where does it come from because you look at a place like Hong Kong, which I was fascinated by?

So Hong Kong even though there are all these protests against the government and there are protests about the legitimacy of the government, there was still a kind of social trust which said, when the government tells you to wear a mask, you wear a mask. When the government tells you not to do this - how do you describe that? FUKUYAMA: Well, I think there are really two different sources so one is deeply historical. In the United States, we have a political culture that really does not trust government. The flag with the rattlesnake that says "Don't tread on me," this goes back to, you know, the 18th century where Americans really don't like government authority.

So this is something that really doesn't exist in most Asian countries where government is regarded as benign. But there is a more proximate cause in the United States in particular, which has to do with polarization.

You know, in my view, the degree of polarization we have today in the U.S. is the single biggest weakness of the country as a society. It means that citizens don't trust one another, and, therefore, they also don't trust the government depending on whether it's a blue state governor that's in control or someone like President Trump that's running the federal government. And I think that's really what's hobbled the ability of the United States to respond adequately.

ZAKARIA: So when you look at the United States, what you find is that it is the only country, I think, in which the response to COVID has been politicized in the sense that wearing a mask is a political statement, observing social distance is a political statement?

I've struggled to look in other countries, and you just don't find this in a similar way, and I wonder if there is some similarity here, frank, where the response to climate change in the United States is highly polarized and politicized in a way that almost anywhere, even Australia, it isn't?

FUKUYAMA: That's true and it's an unfortunate thing about the U.S., but I do think there is actually a common thread not between democracy and poor response, but between populist leaders and poor responses.

So, for example, in addition to president trump, you've got Bolsonaro in Brazil and you've got Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico, both of whom are populist one on the right, one on the left. These are also polarized countries, especially Brazil.

So like in the United States, Bolsonaro has a core of fanatical right wing supporters but then lots and lots of critics. I think they are quickly racing to the top of bad responses as a result of their polarization.

ZAKARIA: How would you describe some of the successful countries in Asia in terms of the key to their success? Is it some kind of a confusion culture or system? People use the word to me and I suppose a kind of a respect for authority?

FUKUYAMA: Well, it's not just respect for authority. I think one of the characteristics of Confucianism is actually respect for bureaucracy and for education and expertise. In South Korea, for example, the management of their COVID response was delegated to a woman, a health professional who was running their centers for disease control. She became the single most trusted person in the entire country because of her competence, and so there is a kind of, I think, a cultural inclination in that part of the world to trust people in government to think that they know what they're doing because they're educated and have expertise, and obviously that's something that does not apply in many other parts of the world.


ZAKARIA: And, finally, when you look at the democracies and dictatorships, as you said, there isn't a clear correlation the goods and bad on both sides. But it's fair to say that when people look at the U.S. and China, generally speaking they would feel that despite a bad start, China has managed to handle it better than the U.S. Does that matter in a kind of geopolitical sense?

FUKUYAMA: It unfortunately matters, because people aren't looking statistically at democracies and authoritarian governments as a whole. They're looking at that one comparison. I would say it's worse than what you just said.

I mean, the United States really looks so bad now that we're not even out of our first wave, and I think it's really going to hurt American standing. I think, you know, the United States has an opportunity to correct this.

The one important check that our constitution provides is an electoral check, and we'll reach that point in November, so it's not an unrecoverable situation, but I do think right now that the United States looks like it's a country in decline and a lot of people are taking notice of that.

ZAKARIA: Frank Fukuyama, always a pleasure. Thank you.

FUKUYAMA: Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," the world may seem dark these days, but my next guest says humans are hard-wired for kindness a hopeful history of humankind when we come back.



ZAKARIA: In the midst of the COVID crisis, humanity's other issues continue unabated war and strive - despite the entreaties from the UN Secretary General. Terror continues, murderers and shootings actually up in some American cities despite lockdowns, and those stay-at-home orders are thought to have caused incidents of domestic violence to spike.

It's all enough to make us fear for the present and future of humanity. That's why I wanted to hear from Rutger Bregman. He is the author of "Humankind: A Hopeful History." Pleasure to have you on, Rutger. Let me begin by asking you to explain what you sort of arguing against in this book, which is what you call the thin veneer of civilization theory? Explain what that is and why it's wrong?

RUTGER BREGMAN, AUTHOR, "HUMANKIND: A HOPEFUL HISTORY": So this is a really old idea in western culture which says that our civilization is only a thin veneer, and that when there is some small change in our circumstances or we're in the midst of a crisis that we reveal our true selves, that we start looting and plummeting and show our savage side.

Now that idea goes back all the way to the Asian Greeks. You'll find it within orthodox Christianity they - sinners. You'll find it with enlighten philosophers. I think it's at the hard of our capitalist system. The notion that people are just selfish and I think it's fundamentally wrong.

ZAKARIA: So what is - you know the strongest evidence you have that it's fundamentally wrong?

BREGMAN: So we can first look at what happens after natural disasters? So one case study that I look at is what happened in 2005 after Katrina. We all still remember what was in the press back then? Again stories of murders and rapes and looting and plundering, but we actually know from sociology that what really happens, also after Katrina, but every single time after an earthquake or tsunami is that people pull together from the left to the right, rich, poor, young, old.

We now have 700 case studies from sociologists that proved this over and over again. So I advise people to look maybe a little less at the news because that often makes you cynical and zoom out a little bit and look at what science is telling us.

ZAKARIA: The iconic explanation for this idea of the thin veneer of civilization is, of course, the lord of the flies, this idea of these young kids, young boys abandoned on an island and, you know, it turns into a pretty savage, you know, all against all, they band into groups. You have something interesting to see about a real life version of "The lord of the flies"?

BREGMAN: Yes, you know I remember reading "The lord of the flies" when I was 16 or 17-years-old, and I remember feeling quite depressed. It was only while I was researching this book that I wondered has it ever happened.

Can I find one case in all thought history where real kids shipwrecked on a real island and what would actually happen? It turns out that, yes, it did happen. A long time ago 50 years ago, in 1966, there were these six kids from the Tonga which is an Island group in the Pacific Ocean.

They were students of a boarding school in an Anglican Boarding School in the capital there. They - this school they said, you know what, we're going in an adventure we're going to steal a boat. And they ended up in a storm, drifted for eight days, shipwrecked on this island and survived for 15 months.

And I managed to track them down, actually, and it turns out they're still the best of friends today, because that's how they managed to survive, by staying friends. So the real "Lord of the flies" is in every way the opposite of the fictional "Lord of the flies." It's a story of human resilience and of friendship and of hope.

ZAKARIA: You do have the World War II, Nazis, Auschwitz, World War I, the barbarity of ISIS of Al-Qaeda, The Cambodian you know poll pot--

BREGMAN: The list is very long.

ZAKARIA: How do you square all that with your cheerful history of human beings' essential goodness?

BREGMAN: I wouldn't say that I'm arguing that people are naturally good. I think we've evolved to be friendly, which is something different. This is literally what biologists are arguing these days.


BREGMAN: They talk about survival of the friendliest, which means that for Millennia, it was an actually the friendliest among us who had the most kids and so the biggest chance of passing on their genes to the next generation.

But it's important to emphasize that there is a real dark side to this friendliness if you look at history so often we do the most horrible things in the name of comradeship and of loyalty and because we don't want to let down our own group.

So I arrive at a quite paradoxical view of human nature I think where, on the one hand, yes, we are built to connect, we have been shaped by evolution to work together, but yes, cooperation sometimes always leads to really horrible things.

ZAKARIA: So I want to connect this to the present, and I think it connects in a very powerful way. The debates about defunding the police fundamentally get at this idea that do we have to approach, you know, something like policing in this very fearful attitude that says human beings are very nasty.

If we let up even slightly, you know, all hell will break loose? Or are we actually doing the opposite? Are we assuming too much nastiness, and we could take our foot off the accelerator or brake, depending how you make the metaphor work?

BREGMAN: I think that what we assume in other people is what you get out of them. So if you assume that people deep down are just selfish and savages, then you're going to design all your institutions around that, your schools, your workplaces and the way your police will operate, and you'll create a lot of bad things.

But if you turn it around, also in policing, I think you can move tie very different kind of society. In the book I look at the criminal justice system that they have Norway, which is in almost every single way the opposite of what the U.S. has.

So on the one hand they have like very powerful community policing where the police officer is a kind of social worker that really tries to establish trust in the community, and then the prisons, well, they are like these very strange, almost like holiday resorts where inmates get treated with kindness, and they socialize with the guards, they have the freedom to make music.

They have their own music studio and their own music label which is called criminal records. I first learned about this and I thought this is crazy, this is nuts. They've lost it. But then you look at the evidence.

You look at the recidivism rate, for example, the chance that someone will commit a crime when they get out of prison, and it's nowhere near as high in Norway while it is really high in the U.S. So I think the U.S. could learn from quite a bit from other countries here.

ZAKARIA: All right, well you've given us a lot to think about. It's certainly a lot to hope for. Thank you so much.

BREGMAN: Thanks for having me.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back in a moment.



ZAKARIA: My book of the week is "Humankind: A Hopeful History" by Rutger Bregman who we had on. This is one of books that tries to makes you see the world and all of history in a different light and it mostly success. Whether you agree with it or find yourself arguing with it, you will see it has a bigger impact on you than most books you will read this year.

And now for the last look. July is a month that celebrates democracy and liberty, from American celebrations this week to France's Bastille that's coming up soon. But this July we should really note something else, the erosion of democracy one more grim consequence of COVID.

Has Larry Diamond noted in a recent Atlantic article, democracies were already weakening over the last decade, the pandemic pushed open the door for an autocratic power grab and many leaders jumped at the opportunity, all in the name of fighting the disease, of course?

Ethiopia's fragile transition to democracy is now under threat. The parliament postponed that nation's first free and fair election and then it extended the Prime Minister's term without input from opposition parties.

In Malaysia the new reformist government was effectively closed due to COVID-19 and recently ousted corrupt leaders returned to positions of power while the opposition has been shut out. Perhaps most notably Hungary's populist leader Viktor Orbonne was granted emergency powers to rule by decree in March.

But the state of the emergency ended observers worried that Orbonne's extraordinary powers are here to stay. Hungary's law also allowed officials to punish the publication of what they determined was fake COVID news with jail time.

In fact data from the international center for not for profit law have found that pandemic responses in 40 countries curtailed free expression in this way. From India and Indonesia to Nepal and - governments cracked down on free press and on critics all in the name of supposedly fighting information.

Now, Tunisia took the entirely opposite approach, its cabinet promising public funds to independent media to stay afloat as the pandemic cripples the economy there. In deed if you look closely, the pandemic has actually strengthened people's desires for democracy.

South Korea's recently socialistic vote actually had the country's highest turnout in almost 30 years. - vote a rerun on a contested election also ran smoothly, bringing to power the opposition leader. And the world's largest ever civil rights protests show that civic engagement is alive and well. Even the lockdown protests indicate the health of free assembly.

In Germany, the constitutional court overturned a ban on demonstrations ruling that pandemic or not, the people had a right to protest.


ZAKARIA: And that country still managed to bring down infection rates quickly and has so far avoided any second wave. And that is the ultimate irony of these political maneuvers. Democracies from South Korea to Germany have shown themselves to be perfectly capable of handling this disease without any new emergency powers.

And at that very moment, demagogues are using this very pandemic to destroy democracy. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter live from New York, and this is "RELIABLE SOURCES." Our weekly looks at the story behind the story.