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.
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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."
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.