6. The New New Deal (2012),
Recommended by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein
Before Bill Clinton sung the praises of Barack Obama's economic policy at the Democratic National Convention in September, Time magazine senior national correspondent Michael Grunwald had crunched the numbers to figure out whether Obama's $787 billion stimulus package in 2009 had really worked. In short: yes. With his new book, adapted for an article in Foreign Policy's September/October issue, Grunwald says it's time to give the president credit.
Critics often argue that while the New Deal left behind iconic monuments -- the Hoover Dam, Skyline Drive, Fort Knox -- the stimulus will leave a mundane legacy of sewage plants, repaved potholes, and state employees who would have been laid off without it. Even the Recovery Act's architects feared that like Winston Churchill's pudding, it lacked a theme. In reality, it's creating its own icons: zero-energy border stations, state-of-the-art battery factories, an eco-friendly Coast Guard headquarters on a Washington hillside, a one-of-a-kind "advanced synchrotron light source" in a New York lab. It's also restoring old icons: the Brooklyn Bridge and the Bay Bridge, the imperiled Everglades and the dammed-up Elwha River, Seattle's Pike Place Market and the Staten Island ferry terminal.
By Lawrence Lessig
Recommended by danah boyd and Luigi Zingales
Best known for pushing to modernize U.S. copyright laws, in his latest book Lawrence Lessig tackles what he sees as the primary obstacle preventing those and other legislative reforms: corruption in Congress. In the year of the Occupy movement, the Harvard law professor nailed the body for the outsized, but legal, role that money -- in the form of lobbying dollars and campaign financing -- plays in the policymaking process.
The great threat to our republic today comes not from the hidden bribery of the Gilded Age, when cash was secreted among members of Congress to buy privilege and secure wealth. The great threat today is instead in plain sight. It is the economy of influence now transparent to all, which has normalized a process that draws our democracy away from the will of the people. A process that distorts our democracy from ends sought by both the Left and the Right: For the single most salient feature of the government that we have evolved is not that it discriminates in favor of one side and against the other. The single most salient feature is that it discriminates against all sides to favor itself. We have created an engine of influence that seeks not some particular strand of political or economic ideology, whether Marx or Hayek. We have created instead an engine of influence that seeks simply to make those most connected to the rich.
By Rebecca MacKinnon
Recommended by Sana Saleem and Jonathan Zittrain
In Consent of the Networked, Rebecca MacKinnon -- a New America Foundation fellow and FP contributor who co-founded of the international blog network Global Voices -- argues it's time for policymakers to address what Harvard political scientists Joseph S. Nye calls "one of the great unsolved problems of the 21st century": how to prevent governments and corporations from infringing on Internet users' civil liberties, or, as MacKinnon puts it, "how digital technology can be structured, governed, and used to maximize the good and minimize the evil."
Internet platforms and services, made commonplace by companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, along with a range of mobile, networking, and telecommunications services, have empowered citizens. They have empowered us to challenge government, both our own as well as other governments whose actions affect us. But the Internet also empowers governments themselves -- or at least the growing number whose police, military, and security forces understand how the Internet works and who have learned the value of employing computer-science graduates. All governments, from dictatorships to democracies, are learning quickly how to use technology to defend their interests. ... In the Internet age, the greatest long-term threat to a genuinely citizen-centric society -- a world in which technology and government serve citizens instead of the other way around -- looks less like Orwell's 1984, and more like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World: a world in which our desire for security, entertainment, and material comfort is manipulated to the point that we all voluntarily and eagerly submit to subjugation. If we are to avoid this dystopian fate, political innovation will have to catch up with technological innovation.
Plus: In addition to Acemoglu and Robinson's Why Nations Fail, six other books written by this year's Global Thinkers were recommended by fellow members of the list:
1. Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo (No. 62)
Recommended by Jocelyn Wyatt
2. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt (No. 98)
Recommended by Norman Ornstein
3. The World America Made, by Robert Kagan (No. 50)
Recommended by Hussain Haqqani
4. It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein (No. 46)
Recommended by Jonathan Haidt
5. 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami (No. 49)
Recommended by Scott Sumner
6. Joseph Anton: A Memoir, by Salman Rushdie (No. 33)
Recommended by Ruchir Sharma