The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers

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Billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates enjoyed a meal at the Hollywood Diner in Omaha, NE. The two discussed philanthropy among the nation's wealthiest, specifically fellow billionaires. Buffett had the chicken fried steak and Gates had a hamburger. Mr. Buffett paid for lunch.

1. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates

for stepping up as the world’s states falter.

Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway | Omaha, Neb.

Co-chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation | Seattle

If you were one of the 1,011 billionaires in the world, what would you do with all that money? Famed investor Warren Buffett (net worth: an estimated $47 billion) and Microsoft founder Bill Gates ($54 billion) have an idea: Give at least half of it away.

The two billionaires have been traveling the world — first to China and soon to India, as well as around the United States — on a mission to create a global club of “Great Givers” who will transform philanthropy from a pastime of the wealthy into a calling for everyone who is rich. Since 2006, when Buffett pledged to give 99 percent of his assets away to charity — much of it to Gates’s foundation, which spends more than $2 billion yearly on programs to improve public health and development — the two have emerged as an unlikely and formidable pairing of wealthy evangelists, preaching a breathtakingly ambitious new gospel of how capitalist riches can solve global problems. That became clear this year when Gates joined up with Buffett’s project to convince the wealthiest elite from Silicon Valley to Shanghai to donate half their wealth, a challenge that, if answered by all America’s billionaires, let alone the world’s, could bring an estimated $600 billion to needy and deserving causes. So far, 40 billionaires have signed up.

As the world has lost confidence in the ability of countries and institutions like the United Nations to solve global problems, Gates offers an attractive alternative vision: that the business community’s relentless drive to innovate can help with our biggest challenges, from malaria to food scarcity to illiteracy. And he has the money to prove it. At a recent conference on HIV/AIDS, Gates pledged more than the government of either Norway or Australia, and almost as much as the entire European Commission. His foundation’s funding for research into microbicides — gels that would prevent HIV transmission — helped lead to the first real breakthrough this July, when a candidate gel showed 39 percent effectiveness. Whether it’s a green revolution for Africa or a vaccine for malaria, Gates’s agenda is now the global agenda — and he and Buffett won’t stop until they see it through.

Mark Peterson/Redux

2. Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Robert Zoellick

for steely vision at a moment of crisis.

IMF managing director | Washington

World Bank president | Washington

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are the globe’s firefighters — taken for granted until they’re desperately needed, as they are now. And their leaders have also done an especially good job explaining how those conflagrations might be prevented next time around.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s IMF has managed to forestall sovereign defaults in Greece, Hungary, Pakistan, and Ukraine without inspiring much resistance — in striking contrast to the near-uprisings that accompanied IMF programs during the late 1990s Asian financial crisis. Strauss-Kahn also put his stamp on geopolitics this year, convincing the Germans to step up during Greece’s crisis and later working to forestall an international currency war.

As head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick has stepped into the chaotic aftermath of a harrowing array of unexpected disasters, from the floods in Pakistan to the earthquake in Haiti to the continuing global food crisis, while establishing the bank as a leader in thinking about global trends from combating climate change to democratizing Internet technology.

Both institutions have been especially attuned to the rise of emerging economies. Strauss-Kahn has overseen the redistribution of the IMF’s powerful board seats from developed countries to rising powers. And in April, Zoellick bluntly declared the era of the “Third World” over. Countries like Brazil, China, India, and South Africa aren’t developing countries anymore; they’re independent “poles of growth.” Without Strauss-Kahn and Zoellick at the helm, we might not be using the word “growth” at all.


Reading list: John Marshall: Definer of a Nation, by Jean Edward Smith; Quartered Safe Out Here, by George MacDonald Fraser; This Time Is Different, by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

Best idea of 2010: The crisis will be over.
Worst idea of 2010:
The crisis is over.
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

3. Barack Obama

for charting a course through criticism.

President | Washington

Don’t count Barack Obama out. Sure, the brainy young American president has had a tough sophomore year, with a stubbornly sluggish economy, worsening conditions in Afghanistan, an electoral backlash at home, and the surprise challenge of more than 4 million barrels of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico. His sweeping plans to overhaul immigration and reinvent the way Americans use energy never got off the ground, and he can boast of neither Middle East peace nor mastery over the restive Republicans at home rising up against what they bemoan as the advent of European-style socialism.

But Obama is still arguably the developed world’s most popular leader, even if the American public judges him more harshly, and he is slowly but surely inventing a new kind of U.S. leadership to go along with his vision of an America that once again projects its power through the force of its ideas. To Obama has fallen a tough task: the hard work that accompanies the building of a new order to succeed America’s unchallenged rule as the lone post-Cold War superpower. But luckily for the world it is a task Obama embraces, if still hesitantly at times. He has put American prestige on the line to speak up for emerging powers still not properly represented in the world’s governing bodies, boldly renewed U.S. ties of friendship with the democracies of Asia, and in his ringing address to the U.N. General Assembly in September declared himself ready to “call out those who suppress ideas” and “serve as a voice for those who are voiceless.”

Such idealism has not yet come to define Obama’s legacy in the world; for all his Wilsonian rhetoric, he remains a cautious incrementalist on most issues. In many ways, he’s the most realist of recent U.S. presidents, determined to focus on the terrible challenges, from Afghanistan to climate change, that he’s been dealt. The world may yet thank him for it.

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

4. Zhou Xiaochuan

for holding the world’s economic fate in his hands.

Governor, People’s Bank | China

This August, Internet rumors that Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan had defected sent portfolio managers and currency traders the world over scrambling for cover. Although the rumors were later proved false, they still revealed just how important Zhou has become to global economic stability.

It wasn’t the first time Zhou has made waves on his way to becoming the most visible international symbol of China’s new assertiveness. Last year, he roiled markets by proposing a new international reserve currency to replace the U.S. dollar. This year, he hasn’t stopped pressing Washington to recognize that the era when it could dictate the rules of the global economic order is over. Zhou’s case was bolstered this August when China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy, a long-awaited milestone that immediately set market-watchers pondering how long until China takes the top spot from the United States.

Batting away demands that China allow its currency to appreciate, Zhou recently described yuan revaluation as a Western-style fantasy cure, “pills that solve your problem overnight,” as opposed to what’s needed: a proper Chinese-style treatment of “10 herbs put together … that solve the problem not overnight, but maybe in one month or two months.” It’s the kind of line you can get away with when you’re sitting on $2.65 trillion in international currency reserves.

ANDY WONG/AFP/Getty Images

5. Ben Bernanke

for owning the U.S. economy, no matter what it takes.

Chairman, Federal Reserve | Washington

Last year’s No. 1 FP Global Thinker might not have dreamed that 2010 could possibly be tougher than 2009. But even after the passage of historic financial regulatory reforms in July that gave the Fed unprecedented power, not to mention his work over the past two years steering the U.S. economy through its worst downturn since the Great Depression, Ben Bernanke still found himself taking shots from lawmakers and pundits alike. An upswing of populist anger, fury over politically difficult moves like the 2009 AIG bailout, and the interminable beat of bad job numbers have kept the Fed chairman in the foxhole.

But he has not given up. This year, he has raised the Fed’s balance sheet to a cool $2.3 trillion (from $850 billion before the crisis), shooting tens of billions of that over to the Treasury to help close the deficit, and pursued the controversial idea of quantitative easing, a high-powered stimulant. The morning after the Republican gains in the midterm elections suggested Congress would be gridlocked for years to come, he took the aggressive, risky step of announcing that the Fed would pump an additional $600 billion into the financial system by 2011, raising the bank’s holdings to nearly $3 trillion and, ideally, lowering mortgage prices and the unemployment rate in a way the rest of the government may no longer have the tools to do. Although Bernanke recently admitted that “central bankers alone cannot solve the world’s economic problems,” his bold moves leave no doubt about who’s in charge.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

6. Celso Amorim

for transforming Brazil into a global player.

Foreign minister | Brazil

Celso Amorim wouldn’t crack a smile at the old canard that Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be. The wily and urbane Brazilian diplomat, finishing off his second term as foreign minister, has done his utmost to make his country an international powerhouse — right now.

Neither reflexively opposing the United States in the style of Latin America’s old left nor slavishly following its lead, Amorim has charted an independent course. He has criticized developed countries as hypocritical and advocated that developing countries take a leading role in combating climate change. This year, he teamed with an unlikely partner, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (No. 7), to cut an eleventh-hour deal designed to dial down the international tension over Iran’s nuclear program. Although the initiative succeeded mostly in setting teeth on edge in Western capitals, it also put Brazil on the map.

Under Amorim’s guidance, Brazil has enthusiastically embraced the BRIC alliance with Russia, India, and China, which he thinks has the power to “redefine world governance.” Brazil aspires to a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council; in the meantime, it has built up its diplomatic corps and boosted its contribution to international peacekeeping missions in places like Haiti. Amorim’s tenure under Brazil’s larger-than-life retiring president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has proved that it is possible to have, as he recently put it, “a humanist foreign policy, without losing sight of the national interest.”

Read more: Celso Amorim talks to FP about Brazil’s role as the rest rises.


7. Ahmet Davutoglu

for being the brains behind Turkey’s global reawakening.

Foreign minister | Turkey

Ahmet Davutoglu rose to prominence in Turkish academic circles as an advocate for what he called “strategic depth”: Turkey, he argued, should use its geographic position and identity as a secular Muslim democracy to build bridges between Europe, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. Over the last seven years, Davutoglu has brought his theories out of the classroom and onto the international stage — with some impressive results.

Davutoglu’s diplomats have worked to reconcile Iraq’s fractious political groups and plan a pipeline that will link the oil fields of the Caucasus and the Arab world with Europe. His ambitious “zero problems with neighbors” policy has attempted to boost Turkey’s relations with everyone in the region simultaneously, a task much easier set than accomplished.

Ankara’s new independence has raised some eyebrows. After an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla left nine Turks dead this summer, Davutoglu said the attack was “like 9/11 for Turkey.” Turkey’s warm relationship with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also raised fears that the country is drifting away from the West at a time when its long-held aspiration to join the European Union appears hopelessly stalled.

Still, the foreign minister seems undaunted. “The world expects great things from Turkey,” he wrote in an essay for Foreign Policy. Under his watch, Turkey has assumed an international role not matched since a sultan sat in Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace.

Read more: Ahmet Davutoglu talks to FP about his side of the Iran-Brazil-Turkey triangle.


8. David Petraeus

for taking a demotion to save a war.

Commanding U.S. general | Afghanistan

George W. Bush and Barack Obama may have their differences, but both turned to the same man when they needed to salvage a war: Gen. David Petraeus, the man who literally wrote the book on how the United States should undertake counterinsurgency. Now, the world is waiting with bated breath to see whether Petraeus’s strategy of civilian-centered security, which allowed the United States to achieve a relatively orderly end of combat operations in Iraq, can work in Afghanistan.

Petraeus has already used his new position and his incredible stature — he has won the public’s trust like no other battlefield general since Dwight D. Eisenhower — to wield influence from Washington to Kabul. After agreeing to trade down from Centcom to the lower-ranking job in Afghanistan when Obama cashiered Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Petraeus quickly issued new rules governing the use of force by U.S. soldiers and seems to have dissuaded a Florida pastor from burning the Quran by arguing that it would endanger the lives of U.S. troops. In an echo of his success in co-opting Sunni insurgents in Iraq, he also convinced Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept the creation of local anti-Taliban Afghan militias.

One person he hasn’t entirely co-opted, however, is the U.S. president; the general has all but tattooed on his forehead his skepticism about Obama’s July 2011 withdrawal timeline. In a sign of the immense credibility Petraeus enjoys, it is by no means clear which viewpoint would prevail in the battle for public opinion.

Reading list: Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History, by Thomas Barfield; The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War, by Ali Ahmad Jalali and Lester W. Grau; U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth, by Joan Waugh.

Worst idea: That I would end up not being able to contact my wife before President Obama announced my new position in a Rose Garden statement.

Best idea: That my wife would nonetheless be characteristically understanding and supportive and that she wouldn’t place her cell phone in her purse the next time she puts it on vibrate.

China or India? Afghanistan.
Kindle or iPad?

Alex Wong/Getty Images

9. Robert Gates

for transforming U.S. military might for the 21st century.

Defense secretary | Washington

Robert Gates isn’t the first strategist to dwell on the need for the U.S. military to adapt to fight the low-intensity conflicts of the present and future — he’s just the most successful. While his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, talked about trimming the military’s expensive pet projects, Gates actually delivered: The career intelligence officer has so far convinced the military brass and Congress to cut 31 programs, saving an estimated $330 billion. At the same time, Gates, a lifelong Republican, has become a close advisor to President Barack Obama and enlisted him in a project he defines with breathtaking ambition: reimagining how American power will be wielded in the 21st century. With the United States alone still accounting for an astonishing 44 percent of the world’s military expenditures while facing a new age of austerity, it’s not just a big idea; it’s an urgent necessity.

But it’s hardly Gates’s sole brief. Few defense secretaries have had the misfortune of presiding over two failing wars at once, but Gates has managed Iraq and Afghanistan with low-key aplomb even as he has seen not one but two successive Afghan commanders fired. When Obama sat down last fall to make the biggest decision of his presidency — whether to throw tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops into the deteriorating Afghan war — Gates, who had helped fund the anti-Soviet jihad as a top CIA official in the 1980s, emerged as a center of gravity, by all accounts, in the ensuing debate. Having seen one Vietnam unfold, he’s not anxious to experience another one.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

10. Angela Merkel

for leading Europe through the recession with Teutonic resolve.

Chancellor | Germany

In the throes of the financial crisis, when most political leaders were reaching for their copies of Keynes, Angela Merkel was partial to citing a less likely source of wisdom: The famously penny-pinching “Swabian housewife is the model for the world economy,” Merkel said in an unsubtle dig at credit-addicted Americans. So when Greece suggested this year that it might need help paying its bills, Merkel wasn’t inclined to reach into her pocket.

Merkel’s steeliness is tempered by pragmatism, though: Eventually, she conceded that a bailout of Europe’s indebted countries was necessary, but made sure that the final trillion-dollar solution was organized at least partly around German principles.

Merkel has taken the same tough approach at home. After conceding the need for stimulus measures in 2008 and 2009, she insisted this year on making progress toward a balanced national budget. Judging from the results, Merkel’s frugality seems to have fared well against orthodox deficit spending: Germany enjoyed record growth in the second quarter of 2010, and its unemployment rate is now at its lowest since 1992. Keynes may have some lessons to learn after all from the German hausfrau.


11. Michael Bloomberg and Feisal Abdul Rauf

for reminding a divided country that Muslims are Americans too.

Mayor | New York

Imam, Cordoba Initiative | New York

The Jewish mayor of New York City, who ranks as the 10th-wealthiest man in the United States, and the Kuwaiti-born imam, who had previously worked as an industrial-filter salesman, might seem an odd pair. But after Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s plans to construct a 15-story Islamic cultural center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center stirred outrage in the United States, he found a staunch ally in Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg told New Yorkers that the right to construct the center, dubbed the “Ground Zero mosque” by its opponents, was just the sort of religious freedom that was attacked by terrorists on 9/11. “Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure — and there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God’s love and mercy,” said the mayor.

Rauf’s critics damn him as a closet Islamist or dismiss him as a salesman whose ambition exceeds his influence. But since 9/11, the imam has made an indisputable contribution to interreligious understanding: He delivered a moving eulogy at the funeral of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter murdered by al Qaeda, and continues to work with the U.S. State Department to spread a democratic, pluralistic version of Islam across the globe.

“For many years people have asked, ‘Where are the moderate Muslims?'” Rauf mused recently. “But we moderates couldn’t get any attention. Now that we’ve gotten attention, I’m accused of being immoderate!”

Bloomberg: Chris Hondros/Getty Images; Rauf: Mario Tama/Getty Images

12. Nouriel Roubini

for seeing the roots of the next crisis in the current one.

Economist | New York

Being a global economic Cassandra isn’t a cheerful job, but someone’s got to do it — and Nouriel Roubini acknowledges that he fits the role perfectly. He has even embraced the moniker “Dr. Doom,” a name derisively pinned on him before the 2008 crash that showed his pessimism was warranted. And so while everyone’s still trying to figure out how to overcome the last financial crisis, Roubini has his sights set firmly on the next one — which, Dr. Doom assures us in his book, Crisis Economics, won’t  latest be too far off.

Roubini argues that the United States is at serious risk of heading back into a recession, and unlike other talking heads, he puts a number on his prediction, saying there’s a 40 percent chance of the United States hitting the dreaded “double dip.” Why? He thinks the root causes of the current malaise have only been covered over and that unhealthy levels of debt are once again piling up around the world — though this time on government accounting ledgers. It’s only a matter of time, he says, until we start seeing national bankruptcies — perhaps even a cascade of them across Europe that sparks the dissolution of the euro. If Roubini has one message, it’s that crises aren’t unforeseeable “black swan” events, but “white swans” — the culmination of long trends that are perfectly intelligible to anyone who takes the time to examine the data. We may not like Dr. Doom’s advice, but we can’t say he didn’t warn us.

Reading list: This Time Is Different, by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff; Fault Lines, by Raghuram Rajan; Regulating Wall Street, by Viral Acharya et al.

Best idea: The continued rise of emerging-market economies.
Worst idea:
The forecast of a V-shaped recovery for the U.S. economy.
China or India?
India, in the long term.
Kindle or iPad?

Win McNamee/Getty Images

13. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton

for proving that you don’t need to be president to act presidential.

Former president | New York

Secretary of State | Washington

Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in September, Hillary Rodham Clinton sounded a confident note: “After years of war and uncertainty, people are wondering what the future holds, at home and abroad. So let me say it clearly: The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century.”

Ironically, two of the people most crucial to the new global century are the Clintons themselves: the ex-president and the ex-would-be-president, the power couple now defined by their position just outside the highest reaches of power. Except that, these days, both Clintons are more influential, and more beloved, than ever. Bill’s Clinton Global Initiative is starting to feel like a sexier, more effective competitor not just to Davos but to the United Nations itself, bringing world leaders together to commit their resources to fighting poverty with market-based, technocratic solutions. As of this summer, his foundation had contributed $23 million and countless man-hours to the effort to rebuild Haiti. Polls have shown he’s a better advocate for Democratic candidates than the actual president, and he spent most of the fall stumping for woebegone Dems from Orlando to Seattle.

Meanwhile, Hillary showed up in one recent poll as the most popular political figure in the United States, an accolade she has earned through a no-drama approach to an array of thankless tasks: brushing off Vladimir Putin’s temper tantrum to reach agreement on nuclear disarmament and Iran sanctions, promoting women’s rights over the objections of entrenched traditionalists, and launching an innovative effort to bring clean cookstoves to the world’s poorest. But what she has mainly stood for is American competence, with her Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review a major, if unglamorous step toward making U.S. statesmanship a more agile beast. If this is what Clinton nostalgia looks like, bring it on.

MARIO TAMA/Getty Images

14. Steven Chu

for his dogged efforts to keep America innovating.

Energy secretary | Washington

It was supposed to be the year of climate change, when Congress and the White House would finally act to stave off the worst calamities of global warming. It’s perhaps an understatement to say that 2010 was not that year. Last December’s much-touted global talks in Copenhagen ended in bewilderment, energy legislation fizzled out, a ruptured oil well poured millions of gallons into the Gulf of Mexico, and meanwhile, we lived through one of the hottest years on record.

But there was one bright spot: America’s energy secretary, the indomitable Steven Chu, who was able to start using the $39 billion Recovery Act windfall for clean-energy investments. Checkbook in hand, the Nobel-winning physicist made an unpopular but, he argued, necessary push for building nuclear power plants, while his department helped fund 30 new electric-car projects, issued $15.9 billion in loan guarantees for clean-energy innovation, supported new experiments with grid-storage solutions, and installed a new mad-scientist subagency meant to support high-risk, high-reward research. In a February interview, Chu sounded a determined note: “One can get discouraged and give up. Let’s just say I’m here because I think we can do this.”

Reading list: The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb; The Art and Politics of Science, by Harold Varmus; The Accidental Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich.

Best idea: A new program to expand an innovative energy-saving retrofits program, which will create 30,000 new jobs during the next three years and save the public approximately $100 million annually on energy bills.

Worst idea: Slowing efforts to pass climate-change legislation.

China or India? The United States has good reason to pay attention to both. China is aggressively developing clean-energy technologies, which sends a strong signal to the rest of the globe about the importance of this issue. As for India, the country is projected to undergo enormous growth over the coming decades. A recent study found 80 percent of the infrastructure that will exist in India in 2030 has yet to be built.

Kindle or iPad? For serious readers, the Kindle. For most other applications, iPad.


15. George Soros

for proving it’s not what you make that counts — it’s who you give it to.

Philanthropist | New York

The name George Soros is practically synonymous with philanthropy; the Hungarian-born investor has already donated more than $7 billion of his fortune to charitable causes. But his announcement in September that he was bequeathing $100 million to Human Rights Watch turned heads. It was the largest gift Soros has ever made to a human rights group — and the largest a human rights group has ever received. The gift is meant to transform Human Rights Watch into an organization that is “genuinely international in scope,” as Soros put it. The big idea? That “America has lost the moral high ground for promoting human rights,” and it’s time to bring the rest of the world into the discussion.

That idea certainly fits with Soros’s previous charitable work, much of it through his Open Society Foundations, which promote transparency and citizen empowerment in newly democratic and nondemocratic countries. Soros also plays a hugely important role as a public intellectual on his own turf: the global economy. Most recently, he has warned of a bubble in the gold market, predicted a long road to recovery for the U.S. economy, and been absolutely stinging in his critique of the euro. The currency, he wrote in the New York Review of Books, is “a patently flawed construct” with one central bank and a dozen treasuries. If Europe isn’t already taking notes, it should be.


16. Liu Xiaobo

for bearing the flame of 1989 into a new generation.

Political prisoner | China

When Liu Xiaobo learned of his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, he wept and told his wife — who was visiting him in remote Jinzhou prison, where the dissident writer has been serving an 11-year sentence — that he was dedicating the award to “the lost souls” of Tiananmen Square, whose protest back in 1989 turned the soft-spoken professor into a political activist.

Liu had agreed to help write Charter 08, a manifesto for Chinese civil rights modeled on the Soviet-era Charter 77, in a similar act of selflessness, knowing it would get him in trouble. Two days before its publication, on Dec. 8, 2008, he was detained and thrown into a windowless cell. A year later he was convicted of “incitement to subvert state power.”

It wasn’t the first time Liu had been jailed; his first confinement followed his participation in the Tiananmen demonstrations. Yet more than two decades of suffering have not broken his spirit or blurred his convictions. “To block freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, to strangle humanity, and to suppress the truth,” Liu told the court before his sentencing.

China’s state media have characterized the Nobel only as a tool of Western propagandists, and live feeds of CNN and the BBC went black during the prize’s announcement. But the word is getting out, and it’s not just the Nobel Peace Prize committee that thinks China will eventually have to reckon with Liu’s ideas.


17. Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs

for reinventing reading.

CEO, Amazon | Seattle

CEO, Apple | Cupertino, Calif.

Amazon’s Kindle, the e-reader that Jeff Bezos’s online retail juggernaut has sold since 2007, is not particularly arresting as far as electronic fetish objects go, a monochromatic plastic slab with all the charisma of a graphing calculator. But on the strength of the gadget’s popularity, Bezos believes, his company will be selling more e-books than paperbacks by sometime next year. “It stuns me,” Bezos told USA Today in July. “People forget that Kindle is only 33 months old.”

As e-readers go global, it is an open question whether the future of reading belongs to the calculatedly distraction-free Kindle or its most formidable competition, the touch-screen-operated, hypernetworked iPad that Steve Jobs’s Apple debuted to much fanfare this year. But with their promised ease of moving digitized words regardless of national borders, either device is sure to be transformative. Think of what a few Kindles could mean for a school in sub-Saharan Africa, where an entire classroom’s worth of students often have to share a single textbook — or for the corners of the world where ink-and-paper books are still considered dangerous technology. In countries such as Egypt, where even One Thousand and One Nights is regularly banned from brick-and-mortar bookstores, will the Kindle be a crucial breakthrough for free speech? Or will the digital fingerprints left by e-browsers simply give government censors one more surveillance tool? For now, it’s a story without an ending.

Bezos: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images; Jobs: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

18. Shivshankar Menon

for dragging India out of its global nonalignment.

National security advisor | India

India famously clung to its aloof foreign policy for years after the end of the Cold War rendered meaningless the concept of nonalignment that it had long embraced. A career diplomat who is now national security advisor, Shivshankar Menon has helped break New Delhi of this habit, drawing India closer to the West.

Menon was a key player in negotiating a civilian nuclear deal with the United States, which cemented India’s cooperation on nonproliferation issues with the international community. Today, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s foreign-policy guru, he is building on that breakthrough to expand U.S.-India ties on a wide array of issues, including efforts to fight the global economic recession. In a recent visit to Washington, he reminded his audience that U.S. exports to India have grown faster over the last five years than those to any other major trading partner.

Menon has also embraced the NATO-led coalition’s effort in Afghanistan, saying that India’s goals are “consistent” with U.S. aims. India has invested more than $1 billion in reconstruction aid for Afghanistan, to the dismay of its rival, Pakistan.

But Menon, who is fluent in Chinese and German, has done more than tie his country’s fate to that of the United States — he has encouraged Indians to embrace a newly active role in world affairs. After all, he explains, “Our needs from the world have changed, as has our capability.”


19. Ron Paul

for inspiring the thinking man’s Tea Party.

Congressman | Washington

He may not have won a single primary, but nobody in the 2008 U.S. presidential race presaged Obama-era conservative politics quite as well as Ron Paul. With his stridently libertarian policy goals — abolishing the Federal Reserve, withdrawing from the United Nations and NATO — and his plain-spoken eccentricity, the obstetrician-turned-Texas-congressman often seemed more like a third-party candidate than a Republican. But in the past two years, Republican politics have lurched decidedly in Paul’s direction. The amorphous but passionate Tea Party movement espouses a similar vision of a radically smaller federal state. If Sarah Palin’s devoted followers are drawn by her personality, Paul’s are drawn by his ideas: strict constitutionalism, doubts about U.S. interventionism abroad, and a conviction to reduce the size of government at any cost. Paul’s chances in 2012 may be vanishingly small, but polls show half of Tea Partiers agreeing with his views. “We’re bankrupting this country, and we … need a sea change,” he told a cheering crowd of Tax Day protesters in April. With Tea Party fervor fueling Republican gains in Congress this year and helping bring Paul’s son Rand to the Senate, the sea change might be finally hitting shore.

Reading list: Washington Rules, by Andrew Bacevich; American Raj, by Eric Margolis; Deception and Abuse at the Fed, by Robert Auerbach.

Best idea: End the Fed!

Worst idea: The Obama administration’s decision to assassinate American citizens without due process.

China or India? Both.
Kindle or iPad?

Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images

20. Mohamed ElBaradei

for proving that there are second acts in public life.

Democracy activist | Egypt

No one could accuse this Nobel Peace Prize laureate of taking the easy jobs. During his 12-year stint as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei took on some of the world’s worst nuclear proliferators — not to mention U.S. President George W. Bush, who resented the Egyptian lawyer’s unwillingness to ratchet up pressure on Iran.

But after leaving the IAEA in 2009, ElBaradei gave himself an even more challenging task: bringing democracy to Egypt. In doing so, he has put himself on a collision course with gerontocratic President Hosni Mubarak, the 82-year-old ruler of Egypt for the past three decades.

Mubarak has found his leading critic a hard man to discredit. ElBaradei has organized a political front meant to unite Egypt’s opposition and launched an eloquent attack on an Egyptian political system rigged to ensure the Mubarak family’s continued hold on power. He recently called for a boycott of November’s parliamentary elections, arguing that participating would only lend credibility to a regime on its last legs.

“I see a decaying temple, almost collapsing,” ElBaradei says of Mubarak’s rule. “It will fall sooner rather than later.”

Reading list: Ill Fares the Land, by Tony Judt; The Grand Design, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow; Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen.

Best idea: A world free from nuclear weapons.
Worst idea:
Pending clash of civilizations.
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?

Mohammed Khalil/AFP/Getty Images

21. Sergey Brin and Larry Page

for standing up to China’s bullying.

Co-founders, Google | Mountain View, Calif.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, presidents of a global search giant valued at $196 billion, have assigned themselves a mission no smaller than “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The scale and diversity of Google’s ambitions would be laughable if the company weren’t already so far along in accomplishing them. Through its philanthropic arm, Google has also spent $100 million since 2004 on everything from wind-power ventures to public health.

But the world’s greatest answer provider has also raised plenty of questions. Blithely certain of its own virtuousness — its motto, famously, is “Don’t be evil” — the company has stumbled into controversy with its apparent disregard for privacy and its recent support for multitiered access to the Internet. At the same time, however, the company has grown into its responsibilities as a global player. After years of obliging China’s sprawling censorship regime, Google in 2010 forced a showdown with the country — reportedly at the behest of Brin, whose family escaped Soviet Russia when he was a child. (“It has definitely shaped my views, and some of my company’s views,” he told the New York Times.) Google then devised a clever workaround — routing Chinese search requests to servers in Hong Kong — that allowed Chinese officials to save face while easing restrictions for the country’s citizens. For a company renowned for digital intelligence, it was an impressive display of the human kind.


22. Christine Lagarde

for pushing France on fiscal discipline.

Finance minister | France

In a year when austerity ruled, one woman managed to imbue an extremely unpopular set of policies with moral authority and intellectual heft: Christine Lagarde, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s finance minister and the architect of France’s response to the economic crisis. Lagarde, former head of the global law firm Baker & McKenzie, has been known in Paris as a deficit hawk and pro-growth capitalist for some time, earning her the unflattering-for-France nickname, “The American.” In 2010, she played a key behind-the-scenes role in the Greek bailout, while bucking popular opinion in France with her plans to slash spending, raise the retirement age to 62, increase taxes for the highest earners, and shrink the government by 100,000 civil-service jobs. By September, she could boast of falling deficits and a projected growth rate of 2 percent for 2011. “We are in the middle of the beginning of the end,” she said in July. “The crisis has really hit its peak.”

Lagarde may not have been the most popular member of Sarkozy’s cabinet this year, as rioters raged over her proposed measures, but she was certainly the most essential. Her goal entering office was to bully France into, as she put it in 2007, rolling up its sleeves and getting over its age-old antipathy toward work. The crisis has offered a petri dish to explore the impact of her ideas, and so far the experiment seems to be working.


23. Salam Fayyad

for bringing faith in technocracy to the Holy Land.

Prime minister | Palestine

It may just be a soft-spoken technocrat who makes the revolutionary dream of an independent Palestine into a reality. Last year, Salam Fayyad, a former IMF hand, laid out a plan to construct the institutions of a Palestinian state in two years. In 2010, his push is gaining momentum: Fayyad has opened dozens of schools and housing centers across the West Bank and pledged that at least half of the Palestinian Authority’s budget this year will be provided by tax revenues rather than aid. The West Bank’s economy grew at an impressive 7 percent clip during 2009, while Palestinian security services cracked down on attacks meant to destabilize the peace process.

In his three years in office, Fayyad has evolved from a bureaucrat’s bureaucrat into a political figure in his own right. At the same time, he remains the West Bank leader most willing to work with his Israeli counterparts, who often praise him as a “Palestinian Ben-Gurion.”

Increasingly, Westerners and Arabs alike see Fayyad’s state-building plan as the most effective way to place the initiative back in Palestinian hands. And even if the latest round of Mideast peace talks comes to naught, Palestinians will still have the new schools, improved roads, and professional law enforcement agencies that are Fayyad’s legacy.

Reading list: I Shall Not Hate, by Izzeldin Abuelaish.


24. Elizabeth Warren

for putting the spotlight on America’s debt binge.

White House advisor | Washington

In November 2008, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid handed Elizabeth Warren one of the most difficult assignments in Washington: leading an audit of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion bank bailout approved the previous month to stem the 2008 global financial panic. The role would have made Warren persona non grata on Wall Street, if she hadn’t been already: The plain-spoken Oklahoman bankruptcy expert had already been banging the drum for the creation of an agency that would oversee financial products — including the exotic instruments that had precipitated the crash — in the same way that existing federal agencies monitor the safety of pharmaceuticals, food, and home electronics. “The time has come to put scaremongering to rest and to recognize that regulation can often support and advance efficient and more dynamic markets,” she wrote in Democracy in 2007.

Now tasked with overseeing the creation of the agency she envisioned — which was passed by Congress in July — her target remains largely the same: the predatory financial activities that bankrupt underinformed and low-income consumers. “A model that is designed to keep those families in a revolving door of debt,” she said, “is not good for families — and ultimately not good for the economy,” neither America’s nor the world’s.

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

25. Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry, and George Shultz

for showing that if wise men can give up on nukes, so can the rest of us.

Elder statesmen | New York, Washington, Palo Alto, Calif.

No one understands the danger of nuclear war quite like this quartet, who cut their teeth as Cold War hawks. Their transformation from hard-liners to anti-nuke activists has been critical this year as Barack Obama has sought to win approval of a new strategic arms treaty with Russia and inch closer to a world without nuclear weapons.

Through timely op-eds and cameos in the acclaimed documentary Nuclear Tipping Point, the “four horsemen,” as they’re jokingly referred to, have helped defuse charges that disarmament is weakness. With arguments rooted in a realist understanding of global power, the four warn that the United States cannot afford to live with the “very real possibility that the deadliest weapons ever invented could fall into dangerous hands.”


Reading list: The Dead Hand, by David Hoffman; The Twilight of the Bombs, by Richard Rhodes; The Big Short, by Michael Lewis; Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Best idea: International security cooperation among the United States, Russia, and Europe on protecting dangerous nuclear materials and on missile defense.

Worst idea: Using a nuclear weapon to plug the BP oil spill.
China or India?
China for the economy. India as an example of democracy.
Kindle or iPad?
Dell Streak, then Kindle.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

26. Paul Krugman and Raghuram Rajan

for their spirited debate over the roots of the global financial meltdown.

Economist, Princeton University | Princeton, N.J.

Economist, University of Chicago | Chicago

In invariably stinging tones, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman uses his influential New York Times column to place himself at the center of international debates. In the United States, he has held the banner for unabashed deficit spending, ripping Barack Obama’s administration for not pushing for a bigger stimulus package, while excoriating Republicans for demanding austerity. His advice may be predictable, but it never lacks a certain power — or a certain provocation for economists who think differently.

Chief among them at the moment is Raghuram Rajan, former IMF chief economist and now a finance professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. This year Krugman and Rajan have fought a running battle across the pages of a half-dozen publications over the causes of the financial crisis.

Rajan, author of this year’s influential Fault Lines, argues that Krugman understates the role mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in the crisis because their culpability is inconvenient for Krugman’s big-government liberalism. “U.S. policies encouraged over-consumption and over-borrowing,” he wrote on, “and unless we understand where these policies came from, we have no hope of addressing the causes of this crisis.” Krugman disses Rajan’s thesis as “a structure built on foundations of sand” and places the brunt of the blame on imbalances in the global economy. Pass the popcorn.


Reading list: Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin; Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall; The Difficulty of Being Good, by Gurcharan Das.

Best idea: Battery-powered refrigerators for villages without electricity.
Worst idea:
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?


Krugman: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images; Rajan: Stephen Jaffe/IMF via Getty Images

27. Fareed Zakaria

for chronicling the rise of the rest.

Editor at large, Time | New York

Fareed Zakaria’s great gift to the U.S. policy debate has been his insistence that Americans need to get over themselves — that the future world order will be dominated by new emerging powers along with old leaders as China and India take their place at the table. His predictions have proved prescient, and particularly since the publication of his timely 2008 book, The Post-American World, the Indian-born Zakaria has come to symbolize not only the rise of the rest but also a decidedly American determination to deal with it. Along the way, Zakaria has turned himself into a one-man media brand, with a higher profile than perhaps any other pundit who writes about America’s role in the world. When he left Newsweek this year to take up a new position at Time, it was the journalistic equivalent of the fat lady singing for the struggling newsweekly; he also hosts CNN’s GPS, his steadfastly substantive weekend show.

Zakaria is not always dispassionate about the global trends he has such a knack for identifying. This year, he controversially returned a $10,000 prize to the Anti-Defamation League after the group announced its opposition to a proposed Muslim cultural center near New York’s Ground Zero. “Were this mosque being built in a foreign city, chances are that the U.S. government would be funding it,” Zakaria wrote.


28. Shai Agassi

for driving to make electric cars a reality.

CEO, Better Place | Palo Alto, Calif.

Israeli-born Shai Agassi is much more than a car-part inventor or a lithium-battery whiz: He’s an electric-car prophet. Through his startup, Better Place, he has begun the crucial work of developing, and proselytizing for, the infrastructure necessary to make electric autos a mass-market success.

Agassi’s sales pitch has global appeal: He has attracted more than $700 million in venture capital, and Australia, Denmark, Hawaii, and Israel have announced plans to build Agassi’s networks. Tokyo’s taxi drivers are already driving on the Better Place system, with San Francisco set to follow in 2011. Ranked third on Fast Company‘s list of the most creative people in business, Agassi said: “How do you run an entire country without oil, with no new science, … and in a time frame that’s fast enough to get off oil before we run out of planet?” His answer, and increasingly the world’s, is obvious.

Reading list: Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin; The Upside of Irrationality, by Dan Ariely; Start-Up Nation, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer.

Worst idea: To renew the “cash for clunkers” program — pay people to scrap a product that is still usable just so that they buy another one that is almost equally wasteful and polluting.

China or India? China today, India in 20 years.

Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

29. Paul Collier

for showing that natural resources don’t have to be a curse.

Economist, Oxford University | Britain

Plenty of people have wrung their hands over the fate of the world’s poorest, but few have thought more deeply and systematically than Paul Collier about how they got that way. In the 2007 book that first brought his ideas to wide attention, The Bottom Billion, the Oxford University professor offered a powerful antidote to the fatalism that often permeates discussions of global poverty: It’s all about attacking bad governance.

In The Plundered Planet, Collier this year returned to his theme. Offering tough love for both preservation-minded environmentalists (“romantics”) and free market economists (“ostriches”), Collier argues provocatively that natural resources offer the single best route out of misery for the global poor — provided they are used responsibly rather than plundered by crooked officials and their accomplices in the international business community.

Collier is not just a theorist; he has worked to put his ideas into practice with new and struggling governments from Africa to the Caribbean. Collier’s 2009 report for the United Nations has practically been the line-by-line blueprint for Haiti’s rebuilding post-earthquake — even though he wrote it a year before the disaster happened. Collier was credited with prescience, but as he has said for years, the problems of countries like Haiti are hiding in plain sight — and the longer we pretend they aren’t, the worse they’ll get.

“[T]he problem of the bottom billion will not be fixed automatically by global growth,” Collier has written, “and … neglect now will become a security nightmare for the world of our children. We can crack this problem; indeed, we must.”

Reading list: Animal Spirits, by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller; Arrival City, by Doug Saunders; Britain After Rome, by Robin Fleming.

Best idea: Using the web to link diasporas to finance businesses in post-conflict situations (

Worst idea: That the “light footprint” was the right approach for Afghanistan.
China or India?

David Levenson/Getty Images


30. Joseph Stiglitz

for his full-throated defense of fiscal stimulus.

Economist, Columbia University | New York

If last year was Joseph Stiglitz’s “I told you so” moment, this year has been his “so what do we do about it” opportunity. The Nobel laureate and former World Bank chief economist has gone from predicting the cataclysmic fall of the deregulated global economy to outlining a way back from the abyss.

That’s not to say the famously iconoclastic professor is pulling punches. Stiglitz has excoriated Barack Obama for appointing the very same people who caused the financial crisis to manage the recovery. In his latest book, Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy, Stiglitz outlines how existential problems such as weak regulations and moral hazard were disregarded in favor of injecting cash back into the most risk-prone banks, while substantive issues such as the foreclosure crisis and the scarcity of small-business loans have worsened with neglect. As for the wave of austerity sweeping Europe, he recently cautioned, that could send the world into an economic tailspin. Stiglitz’s refrain? Forget the deficit and invest boldly in technology and infrastructure. As he wrote in September, “We cannot afford not to stimulate the economy.”

Read more: Stiglitz talks to FP about why he’s not celebrating an economic recovery.


31. David Cameron

for showing what the new politics of austerity really mean.

Prime minister | Britain

The British prime minister’s governing philosophy is based on the recognition of a very simple reality: As he put it, “We have run out of money.” After decisively putting an end to more than a decade of Labour Party rule, David Cameron has come to office with an audacious attempt to rewrite the rules of British politics and economics, taking a Keynes-be-damned approach to fighting recession. Rather than trying to revive the economy through stimulus packages and deficit spending, Cameron has opted for radical cuts: His budget hacks away at all departments by an average of almost 20 percent, promising to save the government $130 billion over the next five years. These austerity measures include unheard-of cuts to Britain’s military might, forcing it to team up with France in a new defense pact and provoking anxiety in the United States over the former imperial giant’s ability to stay involved in the global political game.

How can the prime minister hope to keep his own job after putting so many voters (as many as 500,000 public-sector jobs) out of work? He’s selling his plan as part of a revolutionary way to involve Britons in their government’s decisions. This May, he released the salaries of the top-earning civil servants — revealing astonishingly that 172 bureaucrats earn more than the prime minister. “After all,” he said, “it’s your money — so you should see where it’s going.”

Andrew Parsons/Conservative Party via Getty Images

32. Cécile Duflot, Monica Frassoni, Renate Künast, Marina Silva

for taking Green mainstream.

Green Party leaders | France, Belgium, Germany, Brazil

A funny thing happened after the world’s failure to agree on a climate-change plan at the 2009 Copenhagen summit: 2010 became the year of the Greens — and more specifically, of the Green women. Cécile Duflot, head of France’s third-most powerful party, is being dubbed a kingmaker for the 2012 presidential race and recently led the French Greens to strong showings in the European parliamentary and regional races. Renate Künast presides over Germany’s Green parliamentary coalition at a time when the party there is polling higher than ever. Italy’s Monica Frassoni is the continentwide face of this growing surge as co-president of the European Greens. And Brazil’s Marina Silva, a rural labor activist and former environment minister, surprised everyone by forcing her country’s recent presidential election into a runoff, placing a strong third with the highest vote share ever garnered by the Green Party there.

What these women share isn’t just political ambition; it’s also their conviction that the environment is the electoral issue of the future. Economy down? Create green jobs. Worried about feeding a resource-hungry world? Time to innovate new green technologies. “We have vision and think long term, but we apply our political beliefs in concrete reforms,” Künast said in August. Someday sooner than you think, they might get the chance.


Reading list: Mafia Export, Francesco Forgione; World on the Edge, by Lester Brown; Que faire?, by Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

Best idea: Despite rapid climate change, widespread poverty, and no real solutions to many longstanding conflicts, we have the potential to change things.

Worst idea: A majority of governments do not see this positive potential and are convinced that business as usual will be enough to survive.

China or India? India.
Kindle or iPad?

33. Thomas Friedman

for trying to inspire a new Greatest Generation.

Columnist, New York Times | Washington

Thomas Friedman has made a career of casting his eye on thorny global issues. But recently, he has been taking a closer look in the mirror: America’s baby-boom generation, he argued in his New York Times column in September, failed “to postpone gratification, invest for the future, work harder than the next guy and hold their kids to the highest expectations.” The result is a country unable to keep up with China and other emerging economies.

Few are as capable as Friedman of making complex trends accessible to a wide audience — an audience that, judging from the conversations cited in his columns, includes world leaders from Barack Obama to Salam Fayyad. Friedman doesn’t just report on events; he helps shape them.

So it matters when he turns his gaze from the global to the local. In a series of columns, he has urged U.S. leaders to repair the country’s crumbling infrastructure, welcome highly skilled immigrants, shift the economy to renewable energy, and, most of all, invest more in childhood education. All those changes are going to require “sacrifice,” Friedman points out. But after a lifetime of luxury, Americans of Friedman’s generation owe it to their children, and to themselves.

Best idea: China is doing for solar panels what it did for tennis shoes — a lot of people with very little money will be able to buy cheap clean energy.

Worst idea: The worst experience was the Copenhagen climate conference. The expectations were completely unmatched by the ability to deliver them.

China or India? Both.

Kindle or iPad? Neither. I talk the talk of technology, but I don’t walk the walk. I’m a very low-tech person. I prefer to be somewhat disconnected.

34. John Kerry and Richard Lugar

for being the adults on Capitol Hill.

Senators | Washington

Second acts for failed presidential candidates are tough to pull off. But John Kerry emerged from his bruising 2004 defeat to become a statesman in a U.S. Senate no longer much interested in the world, using his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee to serve as a quiet but effective emissary for Barack Obama’s administration. Last year, after Hamid Karzai won a presidential election marred by fraud, Kerry made a flurry of trips to Kabul and helped convince a reluctant Afghan president to submit to a runoff vote.

Closer to home, Kerry and his Republican counterpart, veteran lawmaker Richard Lugar, have established the Foreign Relations Committee as a lone outpost of at least occasional bipartisanship. The two joined forces to advance New START, Obama’s nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia — a longstanding concern for Lugar, who has been a legendary figure in arms control since co-authoring landmark post-Cold War weapons-reduction legislation in 1992. Kerry and Lugar also worked to pass a massive $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan, which could prove a crucial boost in the wake of this summer’s disastrous flooding. Their efforts reflect a serious concern for America’s place in the world, which, in a political season dominated by domestic concerns and partisan posturing, is a welcome thing indeed.

35. Paul Farmer

for showing the world what to do, and what not to do, in Haiti.

Medical anthropologist, Harvard University | Boston

When the earthquake struck Haiti in January, donors around the world scrambled to figure out who was best prepared to help the survivors. The near-unanimous answer was Paul Farmer. For the last 23 years, Farmer has worked to make his organization, Partners in Health, a model for how aid can be done — with local staff and low overhead, two characteristics that have made it indispensable this year. As U.N. Haiti envoy Bill Clinton’s right-hand man, Farmer has lauded the generosity of the response to the earthquake, but he has also called the world out for shirking its responsibilities to the needy.

“NGOs have to be careful not to replace the state,” he recently told students at Macalester College. “If they are filling the role the public sector should be filling, can they find a way to help rebuild that locally?” It’s a lesson that, thanks in part to Farmer, is spreading around the world: The most successful aid efforts are driven by people on the ground, rather than dictates from Washington.

Reading list: The Idea of Justice, by Amartya Sen; The Best and the Brightest, by David Halberstam; Standard Operating Procedure, by Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris.

Best idea: The massive effort to build Haiti back better after the quake.
Worst idea:
Not keeping our pledges to Haiti.
China or India?

36. Michelle Bachelet

for applying a stateswoman’s vision to gender equality.

Undersecretary-general, U.N. Women | New York

No one would have guessed that Michelle Bachelet — a single mother, a socialist, and a survivor of torture under Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s regime — would emerge as one of Latin America’s most conciliatory and universally admired leaders. But, indeed, her term as president of Chile was marked by a judiciousness of spirit and policy. She negotiated free trade agreements while expanding health-care coverage; she saved the country’s boom-time export surplus while spending on government-run day-care centers. “In my family I learned that all people should be equal in opportunities and that justice was essential, dignity was essential,” she told the Nation in September.

Tapped this year to head a new U.N. super-agency dedicated to the protection of women’s rights, Bachelet will now be bringing her fearless-but-measured leadership style to the world stage. One key focus will be combating workplace discrimination, given that bringing women into the workplace has proved to be among the most efficient ways to jump-start struggling economies. “Women are almost invisible in some places,” Bachelet said in September. “It is a shame for humanity.”


37. Martin Wolf

for dishing out the economic advice no one wants to hear.

Columnist, Financial Times | Britain

Before he became Britain’s most influential financial journalist, Martin Wolf worked for the World Bank under the 1970s leadership of Robert McNamara, the famously hard-headed former U.S. defense secretary. There Wolf watched as McNamara’s ideas — namely, that increasing poor countries’ investments was key to their escaping poverty — led to the debt crises that swept the developing world in the following decade. The experience shook the young economist’s worldview, leading him to believe, as he told the New Republic last year, “It’s really, really, really hard for large institutions to make intelligent decisions.”

In his dense, authoritative Financial Times columns and blog posts, Wolf has this year offered similarly gloomy — and indispensable — wisdoms about Europe’s long road to economic recovery. Looking across the pond, he has been a reliable critic of Barack Obama’s economics brain trust, while assailing his tax-cutting Republican detractors for conspiring “to destroy the credit of the U.S. federal government” and so bring about “the end of the U.S. era of global dominance.”

38. Esther Duflo

for putting hard numbers to a bleeding-heart pursuit.

Economist, MIT | Cambridge, Mass.

“Imagine you have a few million dollars that you’ve raised.… You want to spend it on the poor. How do you go about it?” Esther Duflo, a French native who heads the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Poverty Action Lab, asked in a talk this year. Her pathbreaking research aims to put hard numbers behind such decisions, identifying the most cost-effective ways to fight endemic problems such as poverty and malnutrition.

Now Duflo is trying to ensure that those ideas are put into practice. After teaming up with several colleagues to show that treating children for intestinal worms dramatically improves school attendance, her MIT lab helped launch Deworm the World, an NGO that has worked to raise money to treat 3.6 million children in Kenya. She has also devised a number of innovative methods to overcome people’s natural tendency to procrastinate — for example, providing time-limited discounts on fertilizer purchases to local farmers. By focusing on what works, Duflo is proving that the dismal science still has some relevance in the real world.

Reading List: Imperial Life in the Emerald City, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran; Summertime, by J.M. Coetzee.

Kindle or iPad? Books, so far.

39. Mohamed Nasheed

for putting a face — his own — on the peril of climate change.

President | Maldives

In October 2009, shortly before the Copenhagen climate negotiations went bust, Mohamed Nasheed and a dozen of his cabinet ministers strapped on scuba tanks and wet suits and convened at an underwater conference table near the capital city of Malé. Communicating by hand signals, they signed a declaration calling on countries to cut their carbon emissions. Afterward, Nasheed was asked what would happen if they didn’t. “We are going to die,” he said.

Since taking office two years ago, Nasheed, a 43-year-old former human rights activist, has become the world’s most environmentally outspoken president. He has made his tiny country — a string of atolls in the Indian Ocean that sits an average of just 7 feet above sea level — a poster child for the need to stop global warming. Last year he vowed to set a symbolic example by making the Maldives the world’s first carbon-neutral country within a decade. Now he’s accusing the United States of being the biggest obstacle to fighting climate change, calling for “’60s-style catalystic, dynamic street action.”

“If the people in the U.S. wish to change,” he told a British audience, “it can happen.”

Read more: Nasheed talks to FP about battling climate change and saving his country from going under.

40. Abdolkarim Soroush

for driving a stake through the dark heart of Iran’s theocracy.

Religious scholar | Washington

Speaking in London a decade ago, a then-obscure Iranian religious philosopher predicted that, along with the “red discourse” of the left and the “black discourse” of tyranny, a “green discourse” that embraced democracy and pluralism would rise in Iran. Abdolkarim Soroush could hardly have known then that the protesters who shook the Islamic Republic to its core in June 2009 would adopt not only the substance of his program, but also its name. But as the amorphous Green Movement struggles to make its voice heard against extraordinary repression, Soroush has been at the forefront of efforts to define its message, helping write an ambitious 10-point manifesto for it.

For Soroush, the end of the protests does not signal the movement’s demise; he sees reformist views quietly embedding themselves in the public consciousness. When one critic ripped Soroush’s vision of a secular republic in Iran, saying it reminded him of governments that existed throughout the world, he replied: “Yes, that’s true. If everyone is walking on their legs, should we be walking on our heads?”

Reading list: The Bible.
Best idea:
You live only once; therefore be careful or be indulgent.
China or India?

41. Mehdi Karroubi

for keeping the spirit of the Green Movement alive.

Cleric | Iran

Faced with an extraordinary crackdown by Iranian authorities, most leaders of Iran’s Green Movement have faded from the public eye in the past year. This has left Mehdi Karroubi, a midranking cleric who finished well behind Mir Hossein Mousavi in Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential election, as one of the sole opposition figures left in the country.

A reformist with revolutionary credentials that date back to the Islamic Republic’s founding, Karroubi was the first Green Movement leader to blast the regime for mistreating imprisoned opponents, and he’s still going full tilt criticizing the government’s mismanagement of the economy and the burgeoning influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Karroubi’s courage carries real risks: Late last year, a special tribunal investigated him on charges of sedition, a crime that carries the death penalty. Then in September, plainclothes militia attacked Karroubi’s house and tussled with his bodyguards. Tehran’s chief prosecutor has said that Karroubi will be tried “once public opinion is ready.” But he says he would welcome being brought to court: “It will be a good opportunity for me to talk again about crimes that would make the shah look good.”


42. Agnes Klingshirn and Peter Scott

for helping the world breathe easier.

Aid worker | Germany

Stove designer | Seattle

For years, a group of engineers and aid advocates, including Agnes Klingshirn of the German aid agency GTZ, has insisted that a simple technology — cleaner, more efficient stoves — could work wonders in underdeveloped places like Africa and South Asia, where electricity is scarce, firewood requires long walks to the bush, and indoor fumes leave countless sick and disabled. But no one seemed to be listening.

Then in September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a new public-private coalition aiming to scale up stove production and distribution, getting 100 million cookstoves out to the developing world by 2020. The announcement put stove designer Peter Scott — who is, according to a New Yorker profile last year, the movement’s Thomas Edison — front and center: The “rocket stove,” an innovative, low-cost device he helped design 20 years ago, could be coming soon to a village near you.


Reading list: Slow Death by Rubber Duck, by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie; The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman; African Friends and Money Matters, by David Maranz.

Worst idea: Offering commodity exchanges — which have helped make food more expensive across Africa — as a solution to hunger.

China or India? China, easy.
Kindle or iPad?
Land line, local library.

43. Nandan Nilekani

for proving that India can be not only democratic, but efficient.

Entrepreneur | India

India’s breakneck expansion inspires as much fear as awe: Although the country’s economy is expected to continue its steady march upward, its infrastructure is still woefully inadequate. Nandan Nilekani, an engineer who played a crucial role in bringing the high-tech revolution to India by co-founding IT giant Infosys Technologies, is looking to change that.

Nilekani’s 2009 book, Imagining India, laid out an ambitious reform agenda based on twin pillars of education and private enterprise. Now he appears determined to tackle the problem head-on, leaving the private sector to chair a new government agency charged with compiling a national identification system for all Indians. It’s not hard to see why the job, which combines his technological skills with his drive for rational government, appeals to Nilekani. For too long, he says, the country has been run on an “aching-tooth approach,” treating its problems only when crisis arises.

44. Zheng Bijian

for trying to keep China’s rise peaceful.

Geostrategist | China

Zheng Bijian, one of the leading intellectuals of China’s Communist Party, was a key architect of the idea of China’s “peaceful rise,” which he introduced to the West in a 2005 Foreign Affairs article. The theory laid the groundwork for a global strategy that would allow the country to continue its transformation into an economic juggernaut, while also seeking to allay fears that Beijing would use its newfound power to overturn the existing international balance of power.

But as China’s success has now become a geopolitical reality, this attractive theory has come under assault from hard-liners on both sides of the Pacific. It has been left to Zheng to formulate a solution that reimagines the “peaceful rise” doctrine for the decades ahead. Introducing a clean-energy collaboration with the Brookings Institution this year, he said, “It is not only necessary, but also possible for China and the U.S. to transcend our differences.” Let’s hope he’s right.

45. Mohamed El-Erian

for reminding us just how bad things could get.

CEO, Pimco | Newport Beach, Calif.

The world’s best financial minds have closely watched the prognostications of this Oxbridge-trained economist ever since January 2007, when Mohamed El-Erian, then the head of Harvard University’s endowment, bet $1.6 billion of the school’s money that global markets were headed for a downturn — and turned out to be right.

Author of the 2008 book When Markets Collide, a former IMF economist, and head of investment colossus Pimco, El-Erian helped popularize the term “the new normal” to describe the post-crisis economic era: one in which growth remains stubbornly low everywhere but the developing world. This year, as hopes for a rapid recovery have faded, he has penned a series of full-throated articles warning that world leaders aren’t taking the potential consequences of a prolonged downturn seriously enough.

China or India? The world cannot afford an either-or.
Kindle or iPad?

46. Kwame Anthony Appiah

for forging a code of ethics to fit a globalized world.

Philosopher, Princeton University | Princeton, N.J.

Once described as “our postmodern Socrates,” Kwame Anthony Appiah has this year turned to the big subject of the social uses of honor around the world: His 2010 book, The Honor Code, documents how it has been used to bring about “moral revolutions” — the end of abhorrent practices such as slavery and foot-binding — in the past, and how it can be used to end present evils such as honor killings. “You have to figure out how to get honor to concede to morality,” the Princeton University professor said recently. “My thought is: Don’t abandon honor; reshape it.” It’s this unabashedly activist posture that sets Appiah — who wrote an eloquent letter nominating Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize — apart from many of his colleagues. In fitting abstract concepts to the changing demands of the modern world, he is trying to make philosophy relevant again.

Reading list: American Grace, by Robert Putnam and David Campbell; Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen; Fault Lines, by Raghuram Rajan.

Best idea: The World Health Organization’s “Global Patient Safety Challenge,” led by Atul Gawande.

Worst idea: The proposal, introduced at the United Nations, to prohibit “defamation of religion.”

China or India? Neither.
Kindle or iPad?

Photo by David Shankbone

47. Jacques Attali

for not letting a crisis go to waste.

Economic advisor | France

When debt crises exploded in Greece, Ireland, and elsewhere this year and many were predicting the euro’s demise, Jacques Attali, who had been present at the creation of the euro, kept his cool and pushed for deeper economic integration, insisting that disaster has always driven progress in the European Union. “The Greek crisis today will, in the end,” he argued, “have been the midwife of the completion of the European project.” Attali saw a more urgent crisis for Paris closer to home — namely, the national debt threatening to strangle the country’s overly rigid economy. As head of an independent commission set up by the French government, he released in October a set of politically incorrect, but economically vital suggestions for bringing the French welfare state into line, from increasing taxes to means-testing family benefits. As austerity measures threaten political crisis in France, Attali might be exactly the right person to help his country weather the storm.

Reading list: Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes; War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy; Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman.

Best idea, worst idea: Altruism is both the best and the worst idea I have heard this year. The best, because we need altruism in these times of crisis. The worst, because altruism is often not understood in its true meaning.

Kindle or iPad? The BlackPad.

48. Robert Shiller

for bringing economics (and economists) down to earth.

Economist, Yale University | New Haven, Conn.

If there is one financial indicator that has defined America’s current economic malaise, it’s home sales. And if there is a man who has defined that indicator — literally — it’s Robert Shiller. As the co-creator of the go-to reference on the subject, the S&P/Case-Shiller Index, the economist has become the world’s most important housing guru. A decade after famously warning that the dot-com boom was just so much “irrational exuberance,” he was among the first to predict that the housing bubble would pop, and he has spent the last two years saying that we’re not in the clear yet.

Shiller’s unconventional brand of economics — he cites his wife, a psychologist, as a major influence on his thinking — has left him skeptical of optimistic recovery scenarios drawn from past downturns such as the 1990s Asian crash. As he put it in September, “Hopes that the aftermath of the current crisis will turn out better are still in the category of thoughts, theories, and dreams, not science.”

Reading list: The Road from Ruin, by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green; Fault Lines, by Raghuram Rajan; Too Big to Save? How to Fix the U.S. Financial System, by Robert Pozen.

Best idea: Restore Depression-era New Deal job-creation programs.
Worst idea:
Reduce the large debt holding back the country by spurring rapid inflation.
Kindle or iPad?

49. Vaclav Smil

for keeping the West honest about its plight.

Environmental scientist, University of Manitoba | Canada

The brilliant Czech-born Vaclav Smil has led a 30-year career of interdisciplinary contrarianism, writing hundreds of scientific articles and dozens of books attacking sacred cows of Western environmental and geopolitical thought. This year alone, he published four books and took on carbon sequestration and peak oil; Thomas Friedman’s flat world (“hard to believe how [he] could get it so wrong“); the environmentalist obsession with alternatives to fossil fuels; and the notion that the West could tear itself away from oil in a couple of years given the political will (“We are structurally cooked“). Bill Gates, enthusiastic funder of some of the exact innovations Smil deplores, often cites Smil and his “phenomenal” books.

Stubbornly clear-eyed about the human race’s sorry muck-up of the planet, Smil advocates radical energy conservation as our only hope — and even that is a distant one. “It’s doable, but doable only by catastrophe and crisis,” he said cheerily in October. “People will not voluntarily abandon their Hummers.”

Read more: Smil talks to FP about how the West got tricked into thinking it could overcome its gasoline addiction.

Reading list: Special issue of Granta on Pakistan (depressive does not begin to cover it); World War II and the American Dream, ed. by Donald Albrecht.

Best idea: An old standby: Economies should learn (again) to live within their means.
Worst idea:
A new faith: Mass deployment of green energies is just around the corner.
China or India?
After decades of writing about China, I must say India.
Kindle or iPad?
Neither, I prefer my books between two covers.

50. Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart

for keeping the focus on governance, not just guns.

Co-founders, Institute for State Effectiveness | Afghanistan, Washington

While others have been focused on winning the war in Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart have been thinking about how to win the peace. The two founders of the Institute for State Effectiveness, the world’s most influential state-building think tank, have very different backgrounds: Ghani was born and raised in Afghanistan, trained as an anthropologist at Western universities, and served as his homeland’s finance minister from 2002 to 2004 before his failed 2009 presidential bid; Lockhart was a lawyer and investment banker before stints at the World Bank and the U.N. But they share a common goal: a government in Kabul that can manage its own affairs.

Their 2008 book, Fixing Failed States, suggests how to achieve this in bite-size chunks, and Ghani and Lockhart have since been invited to lend their nation-building insight to governments from Sudan to Lebanon to Nepal. And both remain staunch critics of Afghanistan’s status quo, whether it’s Ghani launching jeremiads against corruption or Lockhart pointing out that Afghanistan has wasted money by trying to convince expat Afghans to return home instead of investing in high schools and universities.


Best idea: Stewardship of the environment.
Worst idea:
The division of Afghanistan.

China or India? What I see is India and China’s collaboration to create the Asian inland, continental economy.

Kindle or iPad? Kindle.


Reading list: Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirky; Cold Front: Conflict Ahead in Arctic Waters, by David Fairhall; Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed.

Best idea: The Eurasian Corridor: a new energy-environment-economic nexus across Central and South Asia.

Worst idea: Continuing to rely on aid projects as an instrument of development — especially during a recession — instead of focusing on building indigenous capacity.

Kindle or iPad? iPad.


51. Ahmed Rashid

for being the world’s eyes and ears in one of its most volatile regions.

Journalist | Pakistan

Listen to Ahmed Rashid. In 2000, the Pakistani journalist and veteran of Central Asian conflicts since the late 1960s published a book about an obscure band of religious extremists who had taken over Afghanistan, a subject of so little general interest that Taliban was only picked up by a university press. Just a year later, journalists and government officials were fighting each other for copies.

His 2008 book, Descent Into Chaos, offered a meticulous and unsparing chronicle of the United States’ strategic blunders and missed opportunities in post-9/11 Afghanistan and Pakistan, not to mention his own growing disillusionment with his once-close friend, Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In the wake of Pakistan’s devastating summer floods, Rashid has continued writing prolifically with an even more urgent message: that the confluence of natural disaster with the country’s manifold security and economic problems poses an existential threat to the Pakistani state. As he wrote this summer, “the very fabric of the country is falling apart.” Rashid’s diagnosis isn’t what anyone wants to hear — but then again, the best advice hardly ever is.

Best idea: There are some good ideas out there about how to change the world, but leaders are not listening.

Worst idea: To bomb Iran.
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

52. Mo Ibrahim

for holding Africa to high standards.

Founder, Mo Ibrahim Foundation | Britain

Mo Ibrahim, a Sudan-born cell-phone mogul, hatched a brilliant plan a few years back: to create a foundation solely targeted at inspiring better governance in Africa.

The heart of his initiative is the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s leadership prize, which grants $5 million over 10 years — plus a $200,000 annual stipend thereafter — to retired African heads of state who were democratic and incorruptible. For the last two years, however, not a single retired African leader has lived up to the selection committee’s standards. Indeed, this year Ibrahim’s continent-wide governance index warned of a possible backslide: Two-thirds of African countries are at risk of experiencing what Ibrahim dubbed a “democratic recession.” “Why are we poor?” Ibrahim asked TV host Charlie Rose in April. “It’s absolute mismanagement of our resources and our governments.”

Reading list: Sudan, by Richard Cockett; It’s Our Turn to Eat, by Michela Wrong; Fighting for Justice, by Jay Naidoo.

Best idea: Mobile operators such as Safaricom or Zain using mobile-phone-based transfer systems to create savings accounts and, recently, interest-bearing bank accounts.

Worst idea: Burning the Quran.
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?

53. Miles Morland and Rosa Whitaker

for seeing Africa as the land of opportunity.

Investor | Britain

Consultant | Washington

As the world poured foreign aid into Africa over the last decades, few noticed that an economic revolution was already taking place. It started in the early 1990s, when Morland’s London-based investment firm proved that profit could be made in African economies that the world had long ago written off as too risky. Morland’s success spawned a host of imitators and admirers, among them Rosa Whitaker, who, a decade later, while serving as the first U.S. assistant trade representative for Africa, saw that the continent could be a vibrant consumer market as well as a hot spot for yield-seekers. In 2000, Whitaker helped draft and implement the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which encouraged trade between African economies and the United States.

Now celebrating its 10th year, the bill has proven more effective at boosting trade and growth than anyone could have imagined. Africa’s overall economy has expanded consistently each year even as the world’s has stagnated, and trade with the United States has more than doubled. As Morland said recently, Africa is “one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, where banks haven’t needed bailing out, no large companies have folded, with no accounting scandals, and where the biggest problem businessmen have is getting capital to finance growth.” It’s largely thanks to Morland and Whitaker that this sentiment now seems like conventional wisdom.

54. Paul Romer

for developing the world’s quickest shortcut to economic development.

Economist, Stanford University | Palo Alto, Calif.

“I’m quite happy to offend everyone,” Paul Romer once said. The latest project of this renowned economist seems designed to do just that: As founder of a venture called Charter Cities, Romer is trying to convince developing countries to invite wealthier states to commandeer sections of their territory. Those countries would, in turn, establish a consistent rule of law, invite international businesses to invest, and put locals to work. Romer’s idea, a twist on the “special economic zones” that have brought jobs to places like China and Vietnam, is that governance can effectively be imported: The fastest path to development is to let a thousand Hong Kongs bloom.

Where Romer sees a shortcut to economic progress, others see neocolonialism, and only one country — Madagascar — has expressed any interest. But Romer is undeterred. “They say that for political reasons, it will never happen,” he said. “Many times, all that holds us back is a failure of imagination.”

Reading list: Aerotropolis, by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay; The Plundered Planet, by Paul Collier; Why We Cooperate, by Michael Tomasello.

Best idea: Payroll taxes in Singapore as a countercyclical policy.
Worst idea:
Spending time on Facebook.

China or India? Why pick one? The acceleration of growth in these two countries is one of the most important developments in our lifetime.

Kindle or iPad? The real contest is between e-books and paper books, and paper is losing.

55. Christopher Hitchens

for refusing to surrender in the darkest of times.

Author | Washington

Even in a life as well lived as Christopher Hitchens’s, June 2010 qualifies as a particularly eventful month. The legendary transatlantic intellectual and perpetual debunker of conventional wisdoms released his memoir, Hitch-22, which tells the story of his involvement in and disillusionment with leftist radicalism; his fraught friendships with Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, and others; and his controversial support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But Hitchens was forced to cut short his book tour when he began treatment for esophageal cancer, saying grimly, “The statistics in my case are very poor.”

Despite his condition, Hitchens has kept up his staggering productivity, churning out provocative and passionately argued columns weekly on issues ranging from the “Ground Zero mosque” controversy to the growing influence of Hezbollah. And lest you think that the God Is Not Great author might take to prayer in the face of a life-threatening illness, a resolute Hitchens told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in August, “I don’t think that souls or bodies can be changed by incantation.”

Read more: Christopher Hitchens on religion, his own diagnosis of lung cancer, and the value — or not — of prayer at life’s end.

56. John Bolton

for not giving up.

Senior fellow, American Enterprise Institute | Washington

For a while, John Bolton was the droopy-mustachioed personification of the Bush administration’s foreign policy at its most bellicose and uncompromising. Famously contemptuous of the United Nations to which he was briefly George W. Bush’s emissary, Bolton mocked the very concept of negotiation (“I don’t do carrots”).

His brand of smash-mouth diplomacy has fallen precipitously out of favor in the Obama era, but the man himself is unbowed: Over the past year he has emerged as one of the most vocal veterans of a Bush foreign-policy team that has mostly retreated from politics. Bolton has blasted the Obama administration’s nuclear treaty with Russia for “seriously weakening both our strategic offensive and defensive capacity,” urged Israel to bomb Iran’s Bushehr reactor, and accused Obama of pursuing an “anti-Israel” policy in the Middle East.

Bolton’s anti-U.N. crusade, meanwhile, has been shored up by the somnolent presence of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. And even Barack Obama might concede at this point that doing carrots is sometimes harder than it looks.

Michael Nagle/Getty Images

57. Nathan Myhrvold

for making a business model out of solving the world’s big problems.

Entrepreneur | Bellevue, Wash.

It’s probably easier to list the things that Nathan Myhrvold hasn’t done than to list those he has. Microsoft’s former technology chief has degrees in economics and four kinds of physics. He is an accomplished master chef and a paleontologist (his digs over the past decade have turned up nine T. Rex skeletons). He built his own house.

But Myhrvold’s greatest contribution of late has been his attempt to reshape not only which ideas are in circulation, but how we come up with them in the first place. His firm Intellectual Ventures serves as a kind of technology salon, bringing together investors and innovators with the aim of solving big problems and making money doing it. Among the ideas on the table are using geoengineering to fight climate change, zapping malaria-bearing mosquitoes with lasers, and developing nuclear reactors that can run on uranium waste. “If one out of 100 malaria ideas succeeds, I’m going to count that as a success, not as 99 failures,” Myhrvold told FP this year. “A good idea can totally change the world.”

Reading list: Wars, Guns, and Votes, by Paul Collier; The Rational Optimist, by Matt Ridley; Energy Myths and Realities, by Vaclav Smil.

Worst idea: It is unfortunate that no great new ideas have been presented with regard to climate change and geoengineering. I believe the worst idea of 2010 is actually the lack of these new ideas.

China or India? China.
Kindle or iPad?

58. Sendhil Mullainathan and Richard Thaler

for bringing behavioral economics out of the ivory tower.

Economist, Harvard University | Cambridge, Mass.

Economist, University of Chicago | Chicago

The main stumbling-block with traditional approaches to development, Sendhil Mullainathan said in a talk this year, is “this little three-pound machine that’s behind your eyes and between your ears” — the human brain. “This machine is really strange, and one of the consequences is that people are weird. They do lots of inconsistent things.” Mullainathan, winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant and co-founder of think tanks at MIT and Harvard, is determined to work with human inconsistency, not against it, in fighting poverty.

Until the financial crisis, Mullainathan’s work was mostly focused on the developing world, particularly his native India. More recently, however, like his longtime collaborator Richard Thaler, the University of Chicago economist famous for his “nudge” theory of social policy, he has turned his subtle approach on the victims of the U.S. housing crash. Mullainathan and Thaler have argued for more sensible policies toward struggling borrowers and defaulters: reshaping the mortgage code to avoid opaque language, restructuring existing mortgages, and staying in touch with panicked borrowers. Three-pound machines everywhere are grateful.


Best idea: Fantastic new social-science data sets: Google searches to predict recessions, night lights in satellite images to measure economic activity, cell-phone calls to measure social networks — the list is growing and growing more interesting. With new data come surprises; I can’t wait to be surprised!

China or India? China for economic growth; India for political freedom; neither for human rights.

Kindle or iPad? On a long flight, a movie or a video game is a must, so …


Reading list: The Big Short, by Michael Lewis; The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande; Fault Lines, by Raghuram Rajan.

59. Ory Okolloh

for teaching us how to crowdsource emergency relief.

Executive director, Ushahidi | Kenya

When Kenya exploded in a frenzy of reprisal killings after its disputed 2007 elections, Ory Okolloh realized that no one knew where the violence was taking place, how often, and against whom. So together with a few tech-savvy friends she launched Ushahidi (a Swahili word meaning “testimony”), a site that allowed users to report violent incidents using their mobile phones, creating a real-time map of the conflict.

By 2010, Ushahidi was being deployed for everything from the earthquake in Haiti to the floods in Pakistan to immigration reform in Arizona, transforming emergency response. “What we’re trying is [to] break down the … top-down approach” to conflict monitoring, she told FP.

Okolloh is much more than a tech guru. Mzalendo, a website that she co-founded in 2003, lets citizens monitor the performance of Kenya’s notoriously corrupt politicians. And on her popular blog, Kenyan Pundit, Okolloh champions a new African generation, driving the continent to the forefront of the digital age.

60. Fan Gang

for articulating how China can become more than the world’s factory floor.

Director, National Economic Research Institute | China

In the often-opaque, sometimes deliberately obscure world of Chinese high finance, Fan Gang is a welcome window of accessible high-level opinion. As director of the National Economic Research Institute, as well as a sometime advisor to the Chinese central bank, Fan carries substantial weight both inside and outside the government. This unique balance allows him to authoritatively articulate Beijing’s priorities, as in September when he argued that a large appreciation in China’s currency wouldn’t help the global economy, and to occasionally, ever-so-gently, push back against the status quo, as when he told the Los Angeles Times that if China doesn’t add 150 million jobs over the next 20 years to keep up with growth, “we could face social crises.” “China feels cornered,” he added, a telling admission of vulnerability from within China’s new establishment.

Best idea: Increase taxes on financial institutions.
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?

61. Ayaan Hirsi Ali

for her staunch defense of Western values.

Scholar, American Enterprise Institute | Washington

The first time you heard about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, it was likely the story of a brave Muslim woman fleeing her forced marriage in Somalia to become an outspoken critic of Islam. But her flight didn’t stop there; after more than a decade living in the Netherlands, she left Europe and its painful debates over assimilation for more comfortable ground: conservative America. With her 2010 book, Nomad, we get a glimpse of the intellectual foundations of her spiritual and political revolt. Hirsi Ali argues that the key to eliminating extremism is for the West to embrace its own “side” of a cultural war that is already very much happening.

Detractors have called Hirsi Ali’s argument bigoted, naive, and even dangerous in a world where intolerance is already all too rife. But she brushes off the criticism, telling the Daily Telegraph, “It’s important once you get your voice to keep going.”

Reading list: Human Accomplishment, by Charles Murray; The Clash of Civilizations, by Samuel Huntington.

China or India? India.
Kindle or iPad?

Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images

62. Tariq Ramadan

for remaining convinced Islam can make peace with the West.

Philosopher, Oxford University | Britain

Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss-born scholar of Islam at Oxford University, has made a career out of convincing European Muslims that it is indeed possible to reconcile democracy with religious dogma. This year’s reversal of a Bush-era U.S. travel ban on him paved the way for Ramadan to make his case to American Muslims as well.

His American debut wasn’t met with universal praise — the New Yorker‘s George Packer accused him of avoiding “hard questions about the conflicts between the open society and fundamentalism.” It’s a charge that also bedevils Ramadan throughout Europe, where his critics have assailed his willingness to say one thing on French television and quite another when addressing a neighborhood mosque.

But Ramadan, grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, argues that the Western and Muslim worlds share more values than they commonly admit — and sees his role as bringing greater appreciation of this to both cultures. “A mediator is a bridge,” he wrote in his recent book What I Believe, “and a bridge never belongs to one side only.”

Reading list: The Arabs, by Eugene Rogan.
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?

63. Vinod Khosla

for betting that green technology can be profitable.

Venture capitalist | Menlo Park, Calif.

Vinod Khosla, a legendary Indian-born venture capitalist, became one of the richest men in America during Silicon Valley’s go-go years. But now he’s trying to do more than create a better laptop: He has plowed his fortune into efforts to improve the environment and alleviate global poverty. These enterprises, he argues, will not only restore the planet’s health — they’re also good business.

Khosla’s venture-capital firm has now invested more than $1 billion, including hundreds of millions of his own money, into companies researching green technologies. He has also tried to apply these principles in his homeland — and, in doing so, ruffled some feathers among India’s traditional aid organizations. Khosla favors investments in commercial microfinance lenders over traditional NGOs — the profit motive, he says, allows microfinance to make a more enduring change to impoverished communities. “It has to be done in a sustainable way,” he told the New York Times. “There is not enough money to be given away in the world to make the poor well off.”

Reading list: How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer; The Predictioneer’s Game, by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita; Cyber War, by Richard Clarke and Robert Knake.

Best idea: Positive Black Swan technologies will solve the world’s energy problems.
Worst idea:
Angela Merkel claiming that multicultural society has failed in Germany.
China or India? India.
Kindle or iPad?

64. Mario Vargas Llosa

for depicting the realities of tyranny — so as to end it.

Author | Peru

This year’s Nobel literature laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa, has outdone the history books over and over again during his half-century career, from Feast of the Goat‘s study of tyranny’s corruption to The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta‘s satire of Peruvian rebels. “We still have in Latin America … this atrocious tradition of authoritarianism and brutality … in politics,” he told journalists after winning the Nobel. “I think that is the reason why Latin American literature is impregnated with political preoccupations.”

For Vargas Llosa, those obsessions extend into public life. In 1990, he made a failed run for president of his home country, Peru. More recently, as an advocate and essayist, his distaste for dictators has set him decisively against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, with whom he has an ongoing feud. As Vargas Llosa said himself, “I think literature is an expression of life, and you cannot eradicate politics from life.”

Read more: Vargas Llosa’s son, Alvaro, talks to FP about the potentially bland future of Latin American literature.

65. Bjorn Lomborg

for questioning whether we’re going after climate change right.

Political scientist | Denmark

Climate activists aren’t terribly fond of Bjorn Lomborg. But economists — and increasingly, some environmentalists — think he might be onto something. That’s because for the last decade, the Danish political scientist has been asking the tough question about how the world should respond to global warming: Is it worth it?

Lomborg, as he makes clear in his provocative new book, Smart Solutions to Climate Change, doesn’t deny that the planet is heating up. But we can do more good in the world, he argues, if we stop and think before plowing more money and time into questionable political solutions like cap and trade. Lomborg would rather see more resources directed to problems like malnutrition and HIV/AIDS. As for climate change, dollar for dollar, he told Foreign Policy, “We can do 500 times more good if we do it right.”

Reading list: The Climate Fix, by Roger Pielke Jr.; The Plundered Planet, by Paul Collier; Dead Aid, by Dambisa Moyo.

Best idea:The Giving Pledge,” started by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, in which billionaires pledge to give 50 percent or more to charity.

Worst idea: The idea that the Cancún climate summit, by recycling the same solution that has failed for 19 years, is somehow magically going to work this time — or any time.

China or India? India.
Kindle or iPad?

66. Sabina Alkire

for showing that poverty is about more than money.

Economist, Oxford University | Britain

The U.N. Millennium Development Goals received great scrutiny in 2010 as the world took stock of how little progress had been made in reducing global poverty over the past decade. The critique from Oxford University economist Sabina Alkire? Leaders of the developed and developing worlds alike need to think much bigger.

With support from the U.N. Development Program, Alkire spearheaded the creation of a new measure of poverty that aims to radically improve on the old standard of merely tallying income. Her Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), developed together with Maria Emma Santos and James Foster, looks at poverty through what she calls a “high-resolution lens,” taking into account education, health, and factors such as accessible drinking water, rather than just income. The MPI upends our basic mental map of global poverty: According to Alkire’s work, there are more poor people in a handful of Indian states than in the poorest 26 African countries combined. The UNDP was so impressed that it immediately incorporated Alkire’s new method into this year’s Human Development Report, the global standard for taking stock of the world’s poverty problem.

Courtesy of Sabina Alkire

67. Clay Shirky

for encouraging the world to use its “cognitive surplus” for good.

Web guru | New York

Imagine how our world would be different if Americans put the time they spent watching television — an estimated 158 hours per person per month — to productive use. This is no fantasy: Thanks to the collaborative magic of the web, it’s already happening, says Clay Shirky, perhaps the Internet’s most ardent cheerleader and a New York University faculty member. And, for everyone from the amateur encyclopedists of Wikipedia to citizen journalists to open-source software programmers, it’s revolutionary. According to Shirky’s new book, Cognitive Surplus, those millions of newly productive hours are advancing any number of noble causes. To what end? It’s anyone’s guess: “The bigger the opportunity offered by new tools,” he writes, “the less completely anyone can extrapolate the future from the previous shape of society.” But the many fans of Shirky’s last, bestselling book, Here Comes Everybody, will be looking to him for answers.

Reading list: How Wars End, by Gideon Rose; Seeing Like a State, by James Scott; The Myth of the Rational Voter, by Bryan Caplan.

Best idea: New York City switching to Zipcar for its office car fleet.

Worst idea: The African National Congress’s “media tribunal,” which would destroy the free press in one of the critical African democracies.

Kindle or iPad? Kindle.

68. Malcolm Gladwell

for making ideas stick.

Staff writer, New Yorker | New York

Malcolm Gladwell has built a genius for intellectual tastemaking into one of the most potent personal brands in journalism, poring over psychology journals and sociology conference papers for nuggets that support his business-bestseller-ready notion that success, however daunting it might seem, is ultimately explicable, and replicable.

The same breezy idea-hopping that has made Gladwell a bestseller has drawn fire from other quarters: In a withering New York Times book review, Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker (No. 69) wrote that Gladwell’s book Outliers “consists of cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies [that] had me gnawing on my Kindle.” Indeed, Gladwell is at his best when he is deflating intellectual fads rather than creating them. In September, for example, Gladwell compellingly threw cold water on the notion that social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook can be agents of social change. Social media “makes it easier for activists to express themselves,” he wrote, “and harder for that expression to have any impact.” The ideas weren’t all Gladwell’s — among others, he cited FP contributing editor Evgeny Morozov — but the buzz he generated around them was uniquely his.

Gladwell’s top thinker

“Roger Martin is the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto — and an incredibly gifted and prolific thinker. His work inspired a number of my New Yorker stories this year. His work is impossible to categorize, but fundamentally he has an amazing gift for reframing the way we think about things like creativity, management excellence, or power relations. I’d especially recommend The Design of Business, The Responsibility Virus, and The Opposable Mind.”

69. Steven Pinker

for seeing that we’re getting smarter.

Psychologist, Harvard University | Cambridge, Mass.

Cognitive researcher Steven Pinker’s ambitious project is to explain to the rest of us “how the mind works,” to borrow the title of one of his bestselling books. But recently, he has also become known as a fierce proponent of the power of technology to improve human life, wading into the debate over whether Google is making us stupid with a defiant “no.” Internet tools like Google, Wikipedia, and Twitter are “helping us manage, search and retrieve our collective intellectual output at different scales,” he wrote in the New York Times this summer. “Far from making us stupid, these technologies are the only things that will keep us smart.”

An advocate of evolutionary psychology who controversially argues that language is hard-wired into the human brain by biological evolution, Pinker is also one of the foremost scientific challengers to rising global religiosity. As an atheist, he describes himself as a proud member of the “most reviled minority in the United States.”

Reading list: Future Babble, by Dan Gardner; Atomic Obsession, by John Mueller; The Rational Optimist, by Matt Ridley.

Best idea: Palestinians in the occupied territories should adopt Gandhi-esque nonviolent resistance.

Worst idea: Self-proclaimed “everyday people” who are hostile to science and ignorant of history should be elected to Congress.

China or India? India.
Kindle or iPad?

70. John Arquilla

for envisioning the future of warfare.

Military theorist, Naval Postgraduate School | Monterey, Calif.

It’s easy enough to invoke the old cliché about armies preparing for the last war instead of the next one, but what exactly is the next war? Ask John Arquilla: Years before 9/11, the military theorist and a Rand Corp. colleague coined the term “netwar” to describe the new paradigm of global conflict, in which decentralized networks would replace hierarchical armies as the basic unit of combat — more Facebook than 1st Cavalry.

Now at the Naval Postgraduate School, Arquilla argues that the future of warfare will look like the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which 10 terrorists killed nearly 200 people and paralyzed one of the world’s largest cities for three days by “swarming” — attacking in small, agile units. It’s an insight that Gen. David Petraeus and other U.S. military leaders have begun to heed in Afghanistan. “We need to get smaller, closer and quicker,” Arquilla wrote in the New York Times. “The sooner the better.”

Reading list: The Ghosts of Cannae, by Robert O’Connell; Cyber War, by Richard Clarke and Robert Knake; Washington Rules, by Andrew Bacevich.

Best idea: Opening high-level talks with Iran.
Worst idea:
Bombing Iran.
China or India?
China by a nose.
Kindle or iPad?
Kindle by far.

71. Louise Arbour

for putting the world on notice.

CEO, International Crisis Group | Belgium

Before she took the reins at the International Crisis Group in 2008, Louise Arbour had already made a name for herself with her willingness to be impolitic in international bodies known for being diplomatic to the point of impotence. As chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the 1990s, she indicted Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. Later, as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, she nearly doubled her office’s budget and commensurately increased its ambition, in the process offending all the right people (a Zimbabwean official mocked her office as a “deified oracle which spews out edicts we all must follow”).

In her new role, Arbour’s political savvy has transformed her groundbreaking organization from an indispensable source of information on the world’s thorniest conflicts to a full-fledged actor in their resolution. The ICG’s dogged investigation of war crimes committed in Sri Lanka’s civil war, for example, has kept the issue front and center in 2010, a year after the hostilities ended. “The scale of civilian deaths and suffering demands a response,” Arbour told reporters in May. And if there’s one thing Arbour knows, it’s how to get one.

Read more: Arbour talks to FP about the future of international human rights law.

Reading list: Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy.
Best idea:
Not to escalate tensions over the sinking of the Cheonan.

Worst idea: Moves to restrict BlackBerry access in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Indonesia, and India.

China or India? Both.
Kindle or iPad?


72. Atul Gawande

for giving us the tools to make sense of an information-addled world.

Surgeon, Brigham and Women’s Hospital | Boston

When Democratic senators were hammering out their landmark health-care reform legislation last year, Barack Obama handed them copies of a New Yorker article he had already made required reading in the White House: a careful dissection of out-of-control health-care costs written by Atul Gawande. A practicing surgeon, medical researcher, and educator with substantial wonk bona fides — he worked as a health-policy advisor in Bill Clinton’s White House — Gawande has been among the most eloquent proponents of one key, if unglamorous, tenet of the reform passed by Congress: that cutting health care costs will require better data and decision-making processes.

In his new book The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande has gone further, offering a critique of how we make decisions in an age of information overload — with lessons that resonate far beyond the operating room. “[T]he volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably,” he writes. “Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.” As one of the big brains behind the World Health Organization’s innovative Global Patient Safety Challenge, Gawande is taking his ideas international, devising a checklist- and data-driven blueprint that is being used by more than 3,000 hospitals worldwide to save lives.

73. Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff

for seeing the financial future in the past.

Economist, University of Maryland | College Park, Md.

Economist, Harvard University | Cambridge, Mass.

What happened in 2008 will happen again — and it has been happening for at least 800 years. That’s the message of the sardonically titled book, This Time Is Different, a history of financial crises over eight centuries by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

What makes the book a must-read is the way it shows the same intellectual pitfalls at work in medieval currency wars and modern subprime mortgage crises, in the irrational exuberance of the 1920s and the early 2000s. Despite the book’s deterministic outlook, its authors are trying to prevent history from repeating itself. In February, two months before Standard & Poor’s downgraded Greece’s credit rating to junk status, Rogoff warned of the danger of a global sovereign-debt crisis. More recently he has been girding us for a recovery that will be nasty, brutish — and slow. “It took more than a decade to dig today’s hole,” he wrote in September, “and climbing out of it will take a while, too.”


Reading list: How Markets Fail, by John Cassidy; More Money than God, by Sebastian Mallaby; Fault Lines, by Raghuram Rajan.

Worst idea: Trade wars.
Kindle or iPad?


China or India? China, but India is hugely important.
Kindle or iPad?

74. Michèle Flournoy and Anne-Marie Slaughter

for setting the tone of how the United States engages with the world.

Policy planning chiefs, Defense and State Departments | Washington

Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 on the promise of changing not just the style but the substance of how the United States deals with its allies and enemies abroad, and the job of figuring out how to enact the changes fell largely to two people in particular. At the State Department, Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of policy planning, is spearheading the department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. The review aims to rejuvenate marginalized civilian agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, preparing for a world in which America’s worst threats are not great-power rivals but the upheavals associated with failed and failing states.

Slaughter’s Pentagon counterpart is Undersecretary for Policy Michèle Flournoy, co-founder of the Center for a New American Security think tank, who articulated a vision for a new Democratic realism in foreign policy that both candidates Hillary Clinton and Obama embraced in the 2008 election. In 2010 she oversaw the Pentagon’s own quadrennial review, a blueprint that cuts back on big-ticket weapons systems and focuses instead on the immediate needs posed by today’s asymmetrical conflicts. Flournoy has also been a vocal advocate for Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, albeit a pragmatic one: “I don’t want to suggest that achieving success will be simple or easy,” she told the Senate in February. “We need to prepare for the possibility that things may get harder before they get better.”

75. Aung San Suu Kyi

for never giving up on democracy.

Dissident | Burma

When Aung San Suu Kyi emerged this fall from a house arrest that had lasted on and off for two decades, the world was impatient to hear what this symbol of Burma’s embattled resistance movement would have to say. Would she rage against her captors, the Burmese junta that had just days before staged its first, extraordinarily flawed election in two decades? Would she call for international intervention to end a regime that has become known for its vicious crackdowns on minority and opposition groups and a dangerously laissez-faire attitude toward the drug barons operating along its borders? Instead, the freed dissident made a remarkably levelheaded call for long-term reform of the sort that comes from within: “value change,” as she put it, not regime change. And she has already begun to take action, filing papers to reinstate her political party and promising an investigation into the recent election. As she said upon her release, “We have a lot of things to do.”*

*Editor’s note: This bio has been updated from the print version to reflect Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nov. 13 release from house arrest.

76. Richard Clarke

for scary prescience about the great threat of our time — again.

Consultant | Washington

The man who famously warned about 9/11, Richard Clarke hasn’t stopped being right just because he’s not talking to the president anymore. For years, Clarke, who was George W. Bush’s special advisor on cybersecurity before he left government entirely in 2003, had been beating the drum about the vague and, for most people, not terribly frightening specter of online terrorism, culminating this year in his book Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It.

But now, cyberwar has gone from outlandish spy-movie plot to fixture of global conflict. The hacking of Chinese dissidents’ gmail accounts, the “Stuxnet” attacks, the alarming probes of critical Pentagon systems, and many other online assaults have contributed to a feeling that everyone is vulnerable. Worse, no one seems to understand how to prevent or fight a cyberwar — or even how to think about it. As Clarke and his co-author Robert Knake write, “The biggest secret in the world about cyber war may be that at the very same time the U.S. prepares for offensive cyber war, it is continuing policies that make it impossible to defend the nation effectively from cyber attack.” Let’s hope that this time, someone’s listening.

Reading list: The Grand Design, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow; The Sixth Crisis, by Dana Allin and Steven Simon; Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.

Best idea: That Iran send its low-enriched uranium abroad for enrichment and processing into fuel rods.

Worst idea: That the U.S. invade Pakistan.
Kindle or iPad?

Alex Wong/Getty Images

77. Helene Gayle

for understanding that poverty and disease can’t be fought separately.

CEO, CARE USA | Atlanta

As chief executive of one of the world’s largest NGOs, a respected epidemiologist, and one of the most high-profile women in international aid, Helene Gayle knows a thing or two about the circular traps of poverty and disease. Chair of a key White House advisory council on HIV/AIDS, Gayle has called for a broad anti-epidemic arsenal that ranges from prevention to counseling and improved support for health-care institutions to a more holistic look at the social and economic factors that enable the disease. This year, Gayle also brought her wide-angle vision to Haiti, where CARE is spending $100 million in the aftermath of January’s earthquake. Gayle has been keen to help Haitians get on with the rebuilding, fortifying institutions from schools to hospitals to sewage plants. As she said in January, “We need to make sure that we’re building back in a way that … gives them an opportunity to really get a leg up after this is all over.”

Reading list: Switch, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath; Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese; The Second World, by Parag Khanna.

Best idea: Columbia University astrophysicist Szabolcs Marka is developing a laser mosquito net that can protect entire rooms for the cost of a couple of mosquito nets.

Worst idea: Not taking decisive action on climate change at Copenhagen.
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?

78. Lester Brown

for explaining the connection between planet and plate.

President, Earth Policy Institute | Washington

Lester Brown was puzzling over the links between ecosystem, economy, and esophagus long before Michael Pollan ever contemplated the omnivore’s dilemma. Brown’s recent work — most notably his much-updated 2003 book Plan B — carries a grim message: that a flawed economic system and political paralysis have conspired to push the environment to the brink of catastrophe, one that will take with it the world food system and, ultimately, civilization. Brown had been warning of rising food prices and shortages years before his predictions came true in 2007 and 2008, and his arguments received another bleak bit of confirmation this year when the worst heat wave in recorded Russian history sparked wildfires that wiped out an estimated 38 percent of the country’s grain harvest. “I sort of assumed that in our modern world, food could not be the weak link,” Brown told FP shortly after the fires. “I now think not only that it could be, but that it probably will be the weak link.”

Reading list: Climate Hope, by Ted Nace; Stones into Schools, by Greg Mortenson; The Bridge, by David Remnick.

Best idea: Create a world grain reserve to stabilize prices.

Worst idea: Permit corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of funding to political campaigns.

China or India? China.
Kindle or iPad?

79. George Papandreou

for making the best of Greece’s worst year.

Prime minister | Greece

Even before the 2008 financial crisis, the Greek economy was running on borrowed time, an ossified system that predictably buckled under the weight of the crash. When George Papandreou took office as Greece’s prime minister in October 2009, he found that the budget deficit was not 6 percent, as his predecessor had claimed, but 12.7 percent, four times that allowed by the eurozone’s rules.

Papandreou has spent 2010 telling Greeks hard truths about the unsustainable nature of their welfare state — and sounding an international warning that Greece is the canary in the European coal mine. The Minnesota-born son of a former socialist prime minister, he has rolled out an austerity plan that will raise taxes and rein in the bloated public sector, a package ambitious enough to convince Europe to keep Greece afloat even as it has provoked riots in Athens. And he has argued that the disaster should be a wake-up call for the threat sovereign debt poses far beyond Europe’s borders. “It’s not an issue of countries acting on their own,” he said. “We need a more coordinated strategy not only in Europe but around the world.”

80. Niall Ferguson

for showing that economic crises are about a lot more than the economy.

Historian, Harvard University | Cambridge, Mass.

With a rapier wit and the pugilistic instincts of an Oxbridge debater, Niall Ferguson has proved that sometimes, in an economic crisis, what you need most is a historian. While American economists have been debating the Laffer curve and quantitative easing, the prolific author and Financial Times columnist has explained that a lot more is at stake than tax receipts. Ferguson identifies the tipping point in the decline of world powers as the moment when the interest on a country’s debt surpasses its defense expenditures — a moment the United States will reach, he warns, in about five years.

But judging from his latest book, a biography of the German-émigré banker Siegmund Warburg, Ferguson is hardly a doctrinaire supporter of unrestrained markets. Warburg, Ferguson shows, was a revolutionary financier who helped make London a postwar financial capital, but his dynamism was tempered by a degree of caution and skepticism. We’d all be better off, Ferguson suggests, if the constraints on capitalism were likewise self-imposed rather than the product of regulation. “Banking will never be God’s work,” according to Ferguson. “But we can make it less like the devil’s.”

Reading list: Why the West Rules — For Now, by Ian Morris; Violence and Social Orders, by Douglass North et al.; Human Accomplishment, by Charles Murray.

Best idea: Dean Kamen’s universal water purifier, which could save countless lives.
Worst idea:
Paul Krugman’s idea for yet more fiscal and monetary stimulus.

China or India? If we’re just betting on who overtakes the U.S. first in terms of GDP, China. But as an investor, India. I prefer the tortoise to the hare.

Kindle or iPad? Books made of paper, please.

81. Ethan Zuckerman

for showing us how small our online worlds are — and how big they can be.

Founder, Global Voices | Lanesborough, Mass.

Has the World Wide Web made the world any wider? Ethan Zuckerman doesn’t think so. The Internet, he thinks, has fostered a sense of “imaginary cosmopolitanism” in which we mistake communications infrastructure for communication itself, even as we mostly use it to connect with like-minded people.

A pioneering Internet entrepreneur in the mid-1990s, Zuckerman has spent the past decade helping the web live up to its full globalizing potential. In 2004 he co-founded Global Voices, a website where online conversations from around the world are translated and knit together into a true global colloquium. This year, along with Harvard University’s Berkman Center for the Internet and Society, he launched Media Cloud, a project that allows users to track how news stories move through the global media. “The real problems in the world, the interesting problems to solve, are global in scale and scope,” he told a TED audience this summer.

Reading list: The Bottom Billion, by Paul Collier; Let Their People Come, by Lant Pritchett; Cosmopolitan Communications, by Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart.

Best idea: Solar roadways — solar cells and LEDs embedded in roadways at a cost that’s higher, but not much higher, than asphalt roads.

Worst idea: Various recolonization schemes in Africa, from outsourcing commercial agriculture to South Korean companies in Madagascar, to Paul Romer’s Charter Cities.

China or India? Brazil.
Kindle or iPad?
Thoroughly addicted to my Kindle DX.

Photo by Joi Ito

82. Hu Shuli

for enlarging the space for debate in China.

Editor, Century Weekly | China

At the end of 2009, Hu Shuli left the magazine she’d become famous for — Caijing, a muckraking biweekly that published aggressive stories on pollution, corruption, and the 2008 Sichuan earthquake during her 11-year stewardship — in protest over government pressure. While many onlookers lamented the departure of one of China’s most effective advocates for hard-hitting journalism, Hu wasn’t silent for long. In January, she relaunched Century Weekly, formerly an academic journal, as a general-interest investigative newsmagazine. Hu’s signature tough-minded style is already in evidence in recent articles on corruption and the imperative for political reform. As she put it this year, “We chose to leave [Caijing] because we wanted to continue what we had done, not because we wanted to give up.”

Reading list: Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Best idea: That the international community still needs coordination in the post-crisis times.

Worst idea: That the fact that China came out of the economic crisis relatively unscathed justifies the so-called China model.

China or India? China.
Kindle or iPad?
Kindle and iPad.

83. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler

for proving that social networks are more than tweets and pokes.

Sociologist, Harvard University | Boston

Political scientist, University of California | San Diego

Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler’s 2009 book Connected explained how our weight, emotional well-being, and physical health are influenced by hundreds of people, most of whom we will never meet. This year they proved that their research has the potential to improve the largest social network of all: our global health-care system. In a paper released in September, Christakis and Fowler devised a way to predict the spread of infectious outbreaks. By assessing the most interconnected people in a social network, they reasoned, they could predict the spread of a virus before it hit the entire population. And the idea worked: By monitoring the spread of swine flu through Harvard University’s undergraduate population in the winter of 2009, the researchers got a two-week jump on understanding the full extent of the epidemic. “If you want a crystal ball for finding out which parts of the country are going to get the flu first, then this may be the most effective method we have now,” said Fowler.


Reading list: Catching Fire, by Richard Wrangham; The Invisible Gorilla, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons; The Upside of Irrationality, by Dan Ariely.

Best idea: Using the Internet to distribute work to individuals (e.g., via online channels such as Amazon Mechanical Turk or oDesk, or via distributed mobile telephony in the developing world) and/or using the Internet to collect data from individuals (e.g., in the new field of computational social science or in the cell-phone-camera-enabled monitoring of elections in the developing world).

Worst idea: That the United States can stabilize Afghanistan with more troops.
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?


Reading list: The Invisible Gorilla, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons; The Upside of Irrationality, by Dan Ariely; The Art of Choosing, by Sheena Iyengar.

Best idea: We should develop a crowdsourced million-person health study that merges social-network information and medical records.

Worst idea: We should reduce immigration to save the economy.
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?

84. Kamal Kar

for doing the world’s dirty work.

Sanitation expert | India

Kamal Kar spends much of his time thinking about something that many of us would rather not: where and how people poop. It’s not pretty, but improving sanitation is one of the most important aspects of overcoming poverty and waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera, which kill millions of people every year. That’s where Kar, an agricultural scientist by training, comes in. Sanitation is about people, not pipes, he says: “It’s not a question of counting toilets.” Once toilets and sewers are built, getting communities to use them is often a tougher challenge: for example in Bangladesh, where defecating indoors had been strictly taboo.* He suggests such tactics as giving children whistles to blow whenever they see someone defecating outside — a sort of constructive peer pressure.

And it works. After Bangladesh adopted Kar’s ideas, latrine coverage skyrocketed from just 33 percent in 2003 to more than 70 percent today. Kar’s “community-led total sanitation” method is now at work in 39 countries around the world.

85. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

for moving her country away from a troubled past.

President | Liberia

Africa’s first elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came into office in 2006 promising to rebuild Liberia after decades of bloody civil wars. The years since have seen impressive success: Liberia boasts one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, former warlord-president Charles Taylor has been captured and put on trial for war crimes, Sirleaf has appointed women to lead a quarter of her ministries, and the country is beginning to rebuild its battered institutions and infrastructure.

Sirleaf’s tenure has not been flawless. Corruption remains endemic, and some of her closest allies have been forced to step down amid ongoing investigations. But as Liberia handles its newfound oil wealth, Sirleaf is gaining the world’s trust: “Today we have a very empowered society in which accountability is demanded by the people,” she says.

*This article has been updated to fix an editorial error.

86. Han Han

for channeling rising China’s restlessness.

Blogger and novelist | China

At 28, Han Han may well be the world’s most popular living writer, perhaps the most-read blogger in a country of some 400 million Internet users. Also a novelist and a professional race-car driver, he has become the inflammatory voice of the provocative, status-obsessed cohort called the “post-80s generation” in China. Han Han has gleefully taken on state TV’s self-censorship, China’s flawed educational system (he dropped out of high school), and particularly wayward officials. And his withering pen is mighty indeed. In May, following news of a schoolhouse stabbing, Han Han wrote on his blog: “Wretched children, it is you who are poisoned by milk powder, harmed by vaccines, crushed by earthquakes, and burned in fires.… I hope that when you grow up, you will not only protect your own children but build a society that protects everyone’s children.” 

87. Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned

for championing education in the Arab world.

First lady | Qatar

If the Middle East ever sheds its reputation as an education backwater more reliant on hydrocarbons than human capital, Sheikha Mozah — or simply “The Sheikha,” as she’s known in Doha — will have had much to do with it. The second and savviest of the three wives of the emir of the tiny, gas-rich Persian Gulf state of Qatar, her highness is on a mission to transform learning in a region that suffers from one of the world’s highest rates of adult illiteracy. For the last decade, the sheikha and her foundation have been building Doha’s ambitious, $8.25 billion “Education City.” She recruited six U.S. universities to set up satellite campuses there, including Georgetown and Carnegie Mellon, and brought in the Rand Corp. to revamp the country’s K-12 education system from top to bottom. Meanwhile, investors have poured $100 million into a science park meant to boost Qatar’s engineer class. “Ignorance,” the sheikha told the United Nations in 2009, “is by far the biggest danger and threat to humankind.”


88. Daron Acemoglu

for showing that freedom is about more than markets.

Economist, MIT | Cambridge, Mass.

Some Nobel Prize selections are a genuine surprise. The same won’t be true if Daron Acemoglu, already at age 43 one of the world’s 20 most cited economists, eventually takes the award. Born in Turkey and educated at the London School of Economics, Acemoglu quickly made a name for himself with papers and monographs that examined how economic incentives align with political life. His specialty is the analysis of the political conditions under which markets thrive — namely, democracy. It’s a theme Acemoglu has explored in a steady stream of academic papers, textbooks, and op-eds — work that so impressed his peers that he won the John Bates Clark medal in 2005, given annually to an outstanding economist under age 40. Acemoglu’s next book, co-authored with Harvard University’s James Robinson, Why Do Nations Fail?, argues that a real “freedom agenda” will start with democratic rules rather than free markets. “You would not need armies to implement such a scheme,” Acemoglu said, “just a functioning bureaucracy.”

Reading list: 13 Bankers, by Simon Johnson and James Kwak; The Party, by Richard McGregor; How Rome Fell, by Adrian Goldsworthy.

Best idea: David Cameron and George Osborne’s idea of cutting middle-class (upper-middle-class) benefits in Britain.

Worst idea: That authoritarian regimes are good for growth. A close second: the United Nations’ idea of establishing the UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo prize for research, named after Equatorial Guinea’s kleptocratic dictator.

China or India? India.
Kindle or iPad?
iPad, though I still have to buy mine.

89. David Grossman

for using fiction to tell the truth about Israel’s open wounds.

Novelist | Israel

In David Grossman’s latest novel, To the End of the Land, a woman wanders the length of Israel trying to flee what she fears will be news that her soldier son has been killed in combat: “This is possible,” she thinks. “It is in her power, and in fact it is the only thing that is possible for her, the only thing that is in her power.”

Coming as it does during a Mideast peace process that is making a mockery of the name and a hard-line ascendancy in Israeli electoral politics, Grossman’s book — finished after his own soldier son, Uri, was killed by an anti-tank missile in Lebanon and published this year in English — sounds a sad cry for his country’s future. This year Grossman was also vocal against the botched Gaza flotilla raid in May and attended weekly demonstrations against evictions of Palestinian residents in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where he was manhandled by the police. “The great temptation is not to expose yourself to these atrocities,” he told the Guardian. “But if you do that, you’ve lost the war.”


90. Martha Nussbaum

for reminding us what we lose in the rush for global competitiveness.

Philosopher, University of Chicago | Chicago

These are perilous times for liberal humanists like philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who find their craft besieged from all sides: by metrics-minded education reformers, by pundits and politicians fretting about U.S. competitiveness in the sciences and engineering, by university administrators faced with budget cuts and shrinking endowments, wondering whether they really need that historian of early Guatemalan kilns on the payroll.

Nussbaum, an eclectic scholar whose last book explored the theme of disgust as it related to the gay-marriage debate, thinks that they do. The liberal arts, Nussbaum argues in her latest book, Not for Profit, are essential to the development of empathy, tolerance, and critical thinking, traits and skills that don’t translate easily into numbers but that are crucial for society. In the rush to retool the American education system in the image of an ever-more-cutthroat global economy, she worries, “values precious for the future of democracy … are in danger of getting lost.”

Reading list: The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope; The Religion of Man, Rabindranath Tagore; Ulysses, James Joyce.

China or India? India!!
Kindle or iPad?

91. Edwidge Danticat

for affirming the moral necessity of art, even in the worst of circumstances.

Writer | Miami

It was a surreal year for Haitian writers abroad. On top of the trauma of Jan. 12’s earthquake, Haiti’s expatriates found themselves suddenly treated as representatives of a country they had taken great pains to escape. Author of award-winning books about Haiti, human rights activist, and 2009 winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant, Edwidge Danticat took on the mantle with honesty and humility, as she has for years in her advocacy for immigrants’ rights both in the United States and in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. She has taken up the plight of Haitian women, a cause left rudderless after four prominent women’s rights activists died in the quake, and worked with the International Rescue Committee to bring literature, including her new children’s book about a boy trapped under earthquake rubble, Eight Days, to the Port-au-Prince disaster zone. “After a tragedy, we’re always trying to get a sense of who we are,” Danticat told Newsweek. “Art is proof that we’re alive beyond breathing.”

Reading list: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot; The Surrendered, by Chang-rae Lee; Tout Bouge Autour de Moi (Everything Is Moving Around Me), by Dany Laferrière.

Best idea: From Haiti, making a brick out of recycled trash.

Worst idea: The parents who pretended to put their son in a hot-air balloon to get a reality TV show.

China or India? Both.
Kindle or iPad?

Photo by David Shankbone

92. Kishore Mahbubani

for being the voice of a new Asian century.

Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy | Singapore

There have been few more ardent evangelists for Asia’s growing role on the world stage than Kishore Mahbubani. And with the advent of the Great Recession, the career-diplomat-cum-scholar is attracting an ever-wider audience: The collapse of the Western financial system, he writes, “has accelerated the end of the era of Western domination of world history.”

While American readers might find this a gloomy take on world events, Mahbubani sees it as a positive development. A world where multiple powers share the burdens of global governance, he argues, will ultimately be more stable than the current fading unipolar moment. That’s why Mahbubani — who says “the stupidity of U.S. congressmen” keeps him awake nights — has pressed for a resolution to the long-simmering U.S.-Chinese trade war and urged China and India to play a more prominent role in global institutions.

Reading list: Imagining India, by Nandan Nilekani; The Betrayal of American Prosperity, by Clyde Prestowitz; Conversations With Lee Kuan Yew, by Tom Plate.

Best idea: The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement brokered between the governments of China and Taiwan.

Worst idea: An Israeli military attack on Iran.
China or India?
Kindle or iPad?

93. Malalai Joya

for embodying an independent-minded Afghanistan.

Activist | Afghanistan

A vocal defender of human rights, a passionate opponent of fundamentalism, and a fearless advocate of a civic Afghan culture, Malalai Joya — who has stared down numerous assassination attempts since 2003 and was suspended from parliament in 2007 for comparing the body to a “barn full of animals” — is precisely the sort of Afghan woman the West continues to fight for in the Hindu Kush. That doesn’t mean she’s happy with her country’s current state of dependency. “Afghans face three enemies,” she said in a recent interview, “the occupying forces, the Taliban, and the warlords.” Joya got her start as a humanitarian during the Taliban regime, establishing underground health clinics and orphanages to spite the country’s fundamentalist rulers. And she’s just as skeptical of the human rights bona fides of Kabul’s current powers that be. Afghans don’t see the war between NATO, the Afghan government, and the Taliban as an either-or proposition, she argues. As she puts it, “Democracy without independence has no meaning.”

Reading list: Devil’s Game, by Robert Dreyfuss.

Best idea: That all the revolutionaries of Iran would unite to overthrow the criminal regime of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Worst idea: That all Afghan fundamentalists, including the Taliban, would create a unified government under the surveillance of the United States.

China or India? Neither.

94. Madeleine Albright

for keeping NATO relevant.

Former secretary of state | Washington

At a time when its forces are flailing in Afghanistan, its members’ military budgets are feeling the recession’s pinch, and Europeans have little interest in fighting in any case, NATO is in crisis. Fortunately it has Madeleine Albright, who was tasked this year with leading a rare overhaul of NATO’s strategic vision, a not-unfamiliar job: The former U.S. secretary of state was a central figure in articulating the alliance’s direction in the late 1990s. The NATO road map Albright delivered in May reflects an understanding of how much the world has changed since the late Clinton years, when the United States embraced its position at the top of the post-Soviet geopolitical order. But the policy also has distinct echoes of that era: NATO must be willing to mount operations far afield on behalf of the international community, Albright argues, regardless of what Moscow and Beijing have to say. “The truth,” she recently told NPR, “is that NATO is a very powerful tool that we thought should be made more agile and versatile in a period of unpredictability.”

95. Carl Bildt

for telling Europe what it doesn’t want to hear.

Foreign minister | Sweden

You might say the media-savvy, conference-hopping Swedish foreign minister imagines a unified Europe modeled after his own personality: dynamic at developing ideas, intent on charming new friends, and unafraid of daunting challenges. It’s not a vision that has endeared Carl Bildt to the continent’s many cautious leaders, and might have been the reason he was passed over for the top EU foreign-policy job this year. Against the French and Germans, he insists that Europe needs to allow Turkish accession. Where Britain wants to focus on the war on terror, Bildt thinks the continent should earn its foreign-policy stripes by addressing the problems in the Balkans. And against the continent’s many social democrats, he says that Europe must commit to economic reform at home and free trade abroad. “It boils down to whether Europe in the decades ahead will be seen as a model for the future,” he warned in the Guardian, “or as a museum of the past.”

Reading list: The Generalissimo, by Jay Taylor; Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder; Negotiating with Iran, by John Limbert.

Best idea: Reforming the G-20 with a constituency system so everyone will be represented.
Worst idea:
Immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Kindle or iPad?
iPad — though it’s still not available with the Swedish language.

96. Bruce Ackerman

for sounding the alarm about American radicalism.

Historian, Yale University | New Haven, Conn.

With accusations of fascism and socialism bandied about, the advent of trutherism and birtherism, and the Tea Party’s meteoric rise, American politics seem to have coarsened and radicalized in recent years. Bruce Ackerman, an eminent law professor best known for his multivolume history of the U.S. Constitution, We the People, is here to tell us that it’s an age-old reality with potentially devastating consequences both for the United States and the world.

In his new book, The Decline and Fall of the American Republic, Ackerman warns of a steady march of trends that he sees undermining democracy: political primaries that reward extremists, presidents who prefer loyalists over independent-minded experts, and a military gaining an ever-stronger foothold in the civilian domain. And there will be fallout. “When a superpower is in decline,” Ackerman wrote on, “its unreliability will spur rising powers to search for more reliable partners.”

Reading list: The Imperative of Integration, by Elizabeth Anderson; On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, by Avishai Margalit; The Birthright Lottery, by Ayelet Shachar.

Best idea: An annual wealth tax of 2 percent on all family assets over $1 million — a key tool for fighting inequality.

Worst idea: A special national security court for terrorists — it represents the normalization of injustice.


97. Unity Dow

for proving that the rule of law can be a force for change.

Judge | Botswana

When Unity Dow became a lawyer, she took the title of “advocate” rather seriously. Over three decades, she has led a legal and moral crusade for the equality of women, the rights of indigenous tribes, and democracy across Africa. More recently, she has taken up the cause of HIV/AIDS, which has inflicted a horrible toll on southern Africa. “Botswana is at ground zero” for the epidemic, her 2010 co-authored book on the human cost of the disease, Saturday Is for Funerals, explains.

In February, Dow was sworn in as one of three international judges serving on a Kenyan court that will rule on any legal challenges to the newly ratified Kenyan Constitution. Across fields and cases, Dow’s work exemplifies the idea that the law is only as just as those who practice it.

Best idea: The creation of U.N. Women, a special agency for women within the United Nations.

China or India? India.
Kindle or iPad?

98. Michael Mandelbaum

for teaching America how to be a hegemon on the cheap.

Political scientist, Johns Hopkins University | Washington

At the apex of George W. Bush’s neoconservative adventurism abroad, scholar Michael Mandelbaum was touting a more benign sort of American supremacy: a superpower that was a force for stability rather than transformation. In The Frugal Superpower, published this summer, Mandelbaum offers a similarly sensible take on the current American conundrum: how to live within straitened means while not creating a perilous vacuum in international affairs. That means setting priorities rather than trying to do everything, weakening unsavory rivals by reducing oil consumption, and attaching the U.S. economy to sustainable engines of growth. “However the nation performs on that test,” Mandelbaum, a one-time advisor to Bill Clinton, wrote, “American foreign policy will change in a fundamental way.”

Reading list: The Strong Horse, by Lee Smith; Lonely Power, by Lilia Shevtsova; The New Brazil, by Riordan Roett.

Best idea: A European-level gasoline tax in the United States.
Worst idea:
Too many to pick one.
China or India?
China in the medium term, India in the long term.
Kindle or iPad?
In five years, someone will produce a device that trumps both of them.

99. Tarja Halonen

for combating every sort of inequality.

President | Finland

When Tarja Halonen spoke before the U.N. General Assembly in September, she argued for a new kind of globalization based on the principle of fairness: “Growth needs to be green, equitable, and inclusive,” she said. It’s a message Halonen has turned into reality over her decade in office. Finland was the first country to tax carbon and will be one of the only countries to reach the U.N. goal of spending 0.7 percent of GNP on aid by 2015. Meanwhile, the country’s serious emphasis on education means that its pupils regularly score first among developed countries on science and reading, bringing education reformers from around the world to its door. As Finland’s first female president, Halonen knows how much equality matters, and she has leveled the playing field for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. No wonder Newsweek proclaimed Finland the best country of 2010, an honor that redounds to no small degree on its president.

100. Ian Buruma

for insisting that liberalism is more than a fighting faith.

Writer | New York

Many liberals these days seem at pains to establish their bona fides as tough-minded hawks when it comes to global threats, but the Dutch man of letters has made a career out of affirming the classic liberalism of the open-door variety. His writing in recent years has attracted the ire of critics who think he equivocates on the dangers of radical Islam, but Ian Buruma made his response this year with a typically judicious and politically relevant book, Taming the Gods, that reflects on the Western capacity for religious pluralism. According to Buruma, Western society is robust enough to embrace even illiberal practices, so long as these are not violent. “Living with values that one does not share,” he wrote in a recent column on France’s burqa ban, “is a price to be paid for living in a pluralist society.”

Reading list: The Fear of Barbarians, by Tzvetan Todorov; Ill Fares the Land, by Tony Judt; On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, by Avishai Margalit.

Best idea: Legalizing marijuana.
Worst idea:
Going to “war with Islam.”
China or India?
What about Russia?
Kindle or iPad?

Andrew Swift is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.

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