Pakistan has caused international alarm by expanding its nuclear arsenal -- it is now believed to have more nukes than Israel -- even as the government becomes more unstable and less able to hold onto these powerful weapons. But one Pakistani scientist from within the nuclear program, Pervez Hoodbhoy, head of the physics department at Quaid-i-Azam University, has become a powerful voice in denouncing his country's growing religious fundamentalism. In his book Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality, Hoodbhoy questions why a culture that produced some of the most significant early advancements in science and mathematics now lags behind. Rather than better technology or faster Internet access, Hoodbhoy has written, "Muslims need freedom from dogmatic beliefs and a culture that questions rather than obeys."
Hoodbhoy is also known for his fearless critiques of the Pakistani military establishment at a time when others remain silent. Following the death of Osama bin Laden, when most public discourse in Pakistan condemned the American incursion, he expressed hope that it could be a turning point for the generals: "The country must decide whether to decisively confront Islamist violence, or continue with the military's current policy of supporting jihadi militants with one hand even as it slaps them with the other." Let's hope Pakistan listens.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? China.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, by Mohammed Hanif; The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini; Bloodmoney, by David Ignatius.
Best idea For the U.S. to exit Afghanistan.
Worst idea For the U.S. to exit Afghanistan in indecent haste.
In his influential 2007 book, The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier (No. 56) argued that the world's poorest 1 billion people are concentrated in just 58 badly governed countries. Now, fellow economist Andy Sumner says he has identified a "new bottom billion," and his findings, released last year, stand to reshape how we think about poverty.
In 1990, an estimated 93 percent of the world's poor lived in low-income countries, according to Sumner. But that has radically changed; by 2007, more of the world's 1.3 billion poor -- almost three-quarters of them -- lived in countries now classified by the World Bank as middle income, a diverse group that includes China, India, and Indonesia, as well as Pakistan, Cameroon, and Angola. In comparison, only 370 million poor people live in low-income countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty, in other words, is no longer just "a poor country issue," as Sumner has put it.
His research means a radical redrawing of the aid map -- a complex challenge that involves not just old-fashioned handouts but everything from new trade deals to revised political partnerships. Still, finding out where the poor really are is a good first step.
Stimulus or austerity? Something new altogether.
America or China? The rebirth of global public policy.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? A Global Spring.
Reading list Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson; The Haves and the Have-Nots, by Branko Milanovic; Arrival City, by Doug Saunders.
Best idea The "catalytic class," the new middle-class revolutionaries or those newly non-poor and emerging lower- middle classes in many countries who are fed up and in the mood for protesting.
Worst idea Too many to mention.
In 2009, Iceland's government became the first casualty of the global economic crisis. And following decades of ill-advised deregulation and financial speculation under the country's male-dominated political elite, Iceland went in a radically different direction -- backing a former flight attendant turned union rep turned legislator, Johanna Sigurdardottir, as its first female prime minister and the world's first openly gay country leader. Sigurdardottir has since presided over a feminist revolution. Nearly half the country's legislature is now female, as are four of its 10 cabinet members. She has supported high-profile campaigns against rape and domestic violence, and a law legalizing same-sex marriage passed unanimously -- allowing Sigurdardottir to marry her longtime partner in 2010. Prostitution and strip clubs have been banned.
It seems to be working: Iceland's economy is finally starting to show signs of life after much lighter cuts to social welfare programs than in other European countries. Maybe it's time for them to dump the boys' club, too.
Once forced out of his country for blowing the whistle on a massive government graft scandal, John Githongo has become a global symbol of the struggle against government corruption since returning to Kenya in 2008 and beginning a crusade for transparency in one of the world's more venal countries. Githongo had been the government's anti-corruption czar but fled in 2005 after accusing top ministers of fraud. Now he has adopted a more grassroots approach, launching a campaign called Ni Sisi! ("It is us!") to empower local businesses and act as a watchdog on opaque government contracts. If successful, it's a model that could be exported to other countries where corruption is rampant.
Githongo believes Africa may be ripe for the kind of uprisings recently seen in the Arab world. "The Tunisian street vendor who set himself alight was not so different from the disaffected young men of Nairobi's and Kampala's slums," he wrote. "They are Africa's overwhelming majority: poor, marginalized and angry about corruption and soaring food and fuel prices."
Muse Inequality rules, and the youth shall define both what it means and how it will shape the future.
Stimulus or austerity? Austerity with drastic reform of the financial sector.
America or China? America, some of its core values have global, multicultural currency.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring but with lots of rain.
Reading list Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling, by Patrick Chabal; The Spirit Level, by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson; How Rich Countries Got Rich … and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor, by Erik S. Reinert.
Best idea From a young Kenyan: "Africa is the final frontier in economic growth, democracy, and development."
Worst idea Let only economists explain what's wrong with the economy.