Samantha Power was awakened to humankind's true potential for cruelty while, as an intern at CBS Sports, she watched the uncensored feed of Chinese protesters being violently suppressed in Tiananmen Square. Over the next two decades, her battle against genocide took her to the Balkans, Rwanda, Darfur -- and now the White House.
Power, whose Pulitzer-winning book on genocide first brought her to Barack Obama's attention, has a more influential perch than ever -- and by all accounts, the president's ear -- to advance her argument that the United States has a duty to halt atrocities. "If we are to bring about an end to the world's worst atrocities," as she once put it, "there has to be the creation of political noise and political costs in response to massive crimes against humanity." Although the U.S. record may be spotty, world leaders are increasingly adopting Power's views, as the intervention in Libya showed. And with American flags now being waved there, not burned, Power and the Obama administration are proving that humanitarian intervention isn't only the right thing to do -- it can also be good for U.S. interests.
The world has finally caught up with Mohamed El-Erian. For nearly half a decade, the CEO of the world's largest bond fund has guided his investments and widely quoted public writings by the same unhappy theory: Things are going to get worse before they get better. The global economy isn't just weathering a tough spell, El-Erian argues -- it's undergoing fundamental structural changes on the road to a "new normal," and the longer we put off dealing with them the more painful they will be. A former IMF economist and manager of Harvard University's endowment, El-Erian knows just how change-averse institutions can be, and in his voluminous commentary he has increasingly turned his fire on a global policymaking elite in denial, criticizing "mindsets that have difficulties recognizing regime shifts, preferring instead the illusionary comfort of the more familiar cyclical frameworks." He has also warned, early and often, of the global implications of developments like Greece's debt crisis and the United States' S&P downgrade, reminding us that, like it or not, we're all in this together.
A former World Bank economist, Martin Wolf has called his job as a financial journalist an accident. But the nuanced, prescription-heavy columns that he has penned for the Financial Times since 1996 -- complete with dense, data-rich charts on everything from U.S. bond yields to the latest Chinese stats -- have earned him a devoted following among top economists, politicians, and financiers. Whether offering remedies for the European debt crisis, critiquing the Obama administration's approach to the U.S. deficit, or warning of further economic shocks looming on the horizon, Wolf's columns pack in enough academic rigor and specificity to serve as cheat sheets for top government officials. "I'm writing for the people who are doing these things, who are running these things," he told the New Republic. If only they'd listen more often.
Muse William Shakespeare.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list The Plundered Planet, by Paul Collier; Imperfect Knowledge Economics, by Roman Frydman and Michael D. Goldberg; Keynes: The Return of the Master, by Robert Skidelsky.
Best idea None I can remember.
Worst idea Fiscal austerity will stimulate the economy.