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.
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.