31. Bernard-Henri Lévy
for offering a powerful critique of how Old Europe's left has failed.
political commentator | France
Lévy, a philosopher par excellence, is simply France's top public intellectual, a raffish and very public provocateur. This year, BHL, as he's known, met with the usual klieg lights and controversy after issuing an impolitic apologia for fugitive director Roman Polanski, tweaking Barack Obama for being soft on the Palestinians, and telling European critics of the United States they have much to learn from across-the-pond successes. He also continues to engage in a serious examination of the unmooring of left-wing ideals and obsolescence of left-wing parties in Europe. In 2008's Left in Dark Times, he argued that leftists (particularly in France) abandoned their egalitarian ideals for a toxic knee-jerk hatred of capitalism, the United States, Israel, and Jews -- a hatred that's driven them blindly into enemy-of-my-enemy associations with unsavory figures like Saddam Hussein. It's a powerful, damning argument.
32. Anwar Ibrahim
for challenging the Muslim world to embrace democracy.
Opposition leader | People's Justice Party | Malaysia
Two decades ago, it would have been impossible to imagine Anwar pulling together rural Malays, ethnic Indians and Chinese, and Islamists into a coherent political bloc. Back then, Anwar was deputy prime minister in a de facto single-party state that espoused preferential treatment for ethnic Malays. It was a policy that Anwar had pushed from his days as a youth leader right up until 1997, when he denounced his patron, then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, for corruption. He would spend the next six years in solitary confinement on trumped-up charges for that political betrayal. And he would leave jail in 2004 with a bold message for change in a country now at the forefront of the struggle for democracy in the Muslim world. Today, Anwar's political career is blossoming, despite a new, politically motivated indictment. Abroad, he has become an outspoken advocate of religious tolerance.
He sat down with Foreign Policy to talk about his big ideas:
On Muslim countries and the West: You can't just erase a period of imperialism and colonialism. You can't erase the fault lines, the bad policies, the failed policies, the war in Iraq, and support for dictators. That to me is the reality. But what is the problem? When you … apportion the blame only to the West or the United States. They want to deflect from the issue of repression, endemic corruption, and destruction of the institutions of governance.
On his time in prison: I spent a lot of time reading. I decided to focus on the great works and the classics. Friends from around the world were sending books, but it takes months for [the prison] to vet them. There came a book on the Green Revolution at that time. The officer said, "Anything revolution -- out!" even though it was about agriculture. But the books kept coming. The officers were not even graduates, and [the books] were in English. They would say, "Anwar, out of 10 books, can you send back one?" So I would select something I had already read or something I was not interested in and say, "We should reject this."
On politics: Of course, you simplify the arguments [for politics], but the central thesis remains constant. People say, "Anwar, you are opportunistic. How can you talk about Islam and the Quran here, and then you talk about Shakespeare and quote Jefferson or Edmund Burke?" I say, it depends on the audience. You can't talk about Edmund Burke in some remote village in Afghanistan. Then you go to Kuala Lumpur and you quote T.S. Eliot. If I quote the Quran all the time to a group of lawyers, [they will think] I am a mullah from somewhere!
33. Robert Zoellick and Dominique Strauss-Kahn
for using the crisis in service of a good cause: helping the world's poor.
President, World Bank | Washington // managing director, International Monetary Fund | Washington
Zoellick and Strauss-Kahn have led the world's banks through what has surely been one of their most pivotal years. Just months before the Wall Street crash, the two institutions were verging on irrelevance. But after the world plunged into recession, Strauss-Kahn positioned the IMF as the world's go-to lender of last resort and won the support of the G-20 summit.
As the IMF was bailing out such countries as Latvia and Ukraine and getting flexible credit lines to the likes of Colombia and Mexico, Zoellick's more development-minded World Bank was warning that almost 100 million people would be driven into poverty by the crisis. Though Zoellick is a free-trader and Strauss-Kahn a French socialist, both are on the same page when it comes to involving emerging markets more intimately in the decision-making and direction of the financial institutions. Together, they pushed for, and got, reform -- not just within countries, but at the international level, where they created a broader role for developing countries, envisioning a post-crisis world that will be truly multipolar.
Best idea: Broadening global economic governance beyond the G-7.
Worst idea: That the global economic crisis is over. It's far from over -- especially in the developing world, where more than 90 million more people will be trapped in extreme poverty and tens of millions more people will be out of work.
34. John Holdren and Steven Chu
for putting cutting-edge science back into power.
white house science czar | Washington // Energy Secretary | physicist | Washington
George W. Bush wasn't known for his love of science. In the Obama age, however, the scientists are in charge. As energy secretary, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Chu has transformed his office into a bully pulpit, pushing for the creation of government incentives for private scientific research into alternative energy sources. In this way, he hopes to use the profit motive to encourage the development of the next generation of energy-saving technology, sparking what he calls a "new Industrial Revolution." Holdren, a nuclear physicist by training, directs the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy and shares his boss's passion for arms control. He has aggressively supported a reduction of the United States' nuclear stockpiles and has said the elimination of nuclear weapons "is not only a practical but a legal and moral necessity."
Reading List: Innovation Nation, by John Kao; A Life Decoded, by J. Craig Venter; Science, Truth, and Democracy, by Philip Kitcher; Unscientific America, by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum; Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World, by Gary Hirshberg.
35. Nicholas Stern
for figuring out the costs of climate change and the politics of a solution.
climate Economist | London School of Economics | Britain
Studious, bespectacled, and self-effacing, Stern is not exactly the climate-change movement's Bono. But perhaps this is precisely the point -- the cold, hard logic of his groundbreaking 2006 "Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change" dragged the issue out from the preserve of ecowarriors and into the global mainstream. In a government-sponsored study, Stern and his team concluded that decisive early action would cost humanity far less in the long run than allowing rising sea levels, dwindling freshwater supplies, and shrinking habitats to reduce global GDP a projected 20 percent. These days, Stern is focusing on how to build the international alliances needed to find workable ways forward. His new book, The Global Deal, adds an increasingly rare element to the global climate debate: optimism. As he puts it, "Collective pessimism about our inability to act will deliver an inability to act."
"What's the alternative to optimism? Unless we act as if we can sort this out, you might as well just get a hat and some suntan lotion and write a letter of apology to your grandchildren." --Stern, speech at the London School of Economics, April 21, 2009
36. Paul Collier
for showing how the world's bad guys are keeping the bottom billion down.
Economist | Oxford University | Britain
Collier knows what makes dictators tick. He knows how they manipulate elections, knock off opponents, and sign resource-exploitation deals that bring revenues to their pockets rather than their people. And that's precisely why the autocrats of the world should fear his 2009 book, War, Guns, and Votes, which musters impressive data to show exactly how the emperors have no clothes, building on his remarkable 2007 book on the world's worst-off, Bottom Billion. Elections as heralds of democracy? Nope, they often allow dictators to buy just enough votes to stay in power. Aid can save the world? Not even close; it will take international intervention to provide security first. The world's 60 smallest, most impoverished ex-colonial countries "will never tap their vast reservoir of frustrated human potential unless the international community, at least for a time, supplies basic public goods that go beyond the typical aid agenda."
Wants to visit: Liberia
Gadget: iPhone -- because I need the GPS facility to save me when I'm lost.
37. Fareed Zakaria
for defining the limits of American power and convening the smartest public conversation about it.
Editor | Newsweek International | New York
Zakaria has emerged as perhaps the most public exponent of the view that the United States has entered a period of inexorable global decline. For many, the message of Zakaria's 2008 book, The Post-American World, rings more true than ever in the wake of the year's economic calamity. Zakaria argued that Americans must recognize that the emergence of new global powers China, India, and Russia will not necessarily knock America off its global pedestal. However, even if the United States remains the world's most powerful country, its leaders must fundamentally reimagine the country's international role. "We know how to handle a recession," Zakaria says. "But how do we handle the rise of the rest?" Zakaria also hosts arguably the most influential weekly salon on U.S. strategy: his CNN show GPS, with such heavy-hitting guests as Gordon Brown (No. 74), Timothy Geithner, and Wen Jiabao in lively debate on everything from troop levels to international monetary policy.
Wants to visit: South Africa
Best idea: Chris Anderson's Free, which is more thoughtful than the simple description of its pieces.
Worst idea: So many!
Gadget: Facebook and BlackBerry.
38. George Soros
for showing us that billionaires can be thinkers, too.
Philanthropist and investor | Open Society Institute | New York
Over the course of 40 years, Budapest native George Soros built a multibillion-dollar fortune speculating on global currency markets. A philosophy and politics aficionado, Soros has used his wealth to bankroll democratic revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe and promote institutional reforms around the world. Lately, though, Soros has committed himself not just to earning capital and giving it away, but to reforming capitalism from the inside out. To this end, he has launched a think tank to foster fresh research, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, saying that "the entire edifice of global financial markets has been erected on the false premise that markets can be left to their own devices. We must find a new paradigm." Most recently, Soros has started pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into green technology, a sure sign of a financial opportunity -- or another bubble-on the horizon.
39. Jeffrey D. Sachs
for being the global poor's most persistent advocate among the global elite.
economist | Columbia University | New York
As with his colleague and sometime rival William Easterly (tied at No. 39), the financial crisis had Sachs even more worried about the poor than usual. He had just spent the last decade trying to convince rich countries to devote a solid chunk of their GDP to bringing about The End of Poverty, as one of his recent book titles proclaims. As special advisor to then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (No. 30), Sachs was instrumental in drafting the Millennium Development Goals, the eight broad poverty-reduction targets the United Nations declared in 2000. In the years since, he has led the U.N. Millennium Project to develop model "villages" across Africa where all eight areas are addressed in tandem. Will the downturn derail his work? In 2009, Sachs fought to keep global leaders honest even in the face of fiscal hardship. After this April's G-20 summit he wrote, "The poorest countries, by and large, were not in the room. As usual, their plight came far behind the immediate concerns of the high-income and middle-income countries."
39. William Easterly
for raising inconvenient truths about the foreign-aid business.
Economist | New York University | New York
After a half-century of what Easterly sees as a failed experiment in international aid, the world risks losing all the hard-won progress it has made in the turmoil of the financial crisis. But not if this outspoken economist and cranky aid skeptic has anything to do with it. After finishing a 16-year stint at the World Bank, Easterly has made it his life's work to puncture holes in what he calls the "ideology of development." His voluminous commentary -- including his explosive 2006 book The White Man's Burden, a seemingly endless spat with nemesis Jeffrey Sachs, and now a blog and prolific Twitter feed -- is necessary reading for those who care about the world's belated and frequently disastrous efforts to help its most benighted citizens.
Wants to visit: Antarctica
Best idea: Understanding political motivations for ideas in development economics.
Worst idea: Intensifying military and civilian intervention in Afghanistan.
Gadget: Twitter and iPhone.