Letters to the Editor: The Most Influential

Our year-end cover package profiling 50 of the new global elite elicited many responses. While some hailed trailblazers such as Barack Obama and scientist Jay Keasling, one questioned the omission of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Another added, "Today's troubled world needs these people to make this planet a better place."

The Blessings and Curses of Power
As a recently retired marine colonel, I was amazed at Jon Meacham's hyperbole in addressing "The Story of Power" ("The Global Elite," Dec. 29/Jan. 5): "Many right-of-center Americans, too, find the conversation unsettling, for it inevitably leads to thoughts of a governing elite, which conservatives in recent decades have chosen to vilify for rhetorical purposes." For rhetorical purposes? Power is the most dangerous corrosive that human nature has yet to encounter. It works on the mind in a subtle, seductive and insidious fashion that self-justifies its use over time. Meacham speaks of the dark side of power as blithely as one who has never exercised life-and-death authority over fellow humans.
David H. Gurney, editor Joint Force Quarterly
Washington, D.C.

NEWSWEEK's feature on "The Global Elite" was extremely engrossing. One only hopes that the planet's 50 most powerful people, headed by Barack Obama, will not negate promises in this hour of global recession and turmoil by feeding us with empty spoons. Today's troubled world needs every ounce of these powerful people's initiatives to make this planet a better place to live.
K. Chidanand Kumar
Bangalore, India

This year may well be a good time to consider the nature of power, as stated in Jon Meacham's introduction, but it is certainly not the "last year of the first decade of the 21st century." Since the first year of the first century had to be the year 1, then the last year of any decade of a century must be a multiple of 10. To complete the reasoning, 2001 was the first year of the 21st century, and therefore 2010 is the last year of the first decade. Time flies fast enough, so let's not rush it!
Robert t. Foldes
North Bellmore, New York

Unless I'm missing something, it seems to me an overstatement when Fareed Zakaria says that saving capitalism would determine the success of the next American president ("The Global Elite: Barack Obama"). That sounds more like a task for corporate executives, stakeholders and consultants. Barack Obama, however, will be in a position to determine what capitalism can and cannot do. Zakaria's views on capitalism tend to be micro-driven. Ultimately, Obama's success will be judged on how he deals with the fundamental problems and issues underlying the American political economy—an area for which he has expressed concern. Positively viewed, President Obama needs to focus on what capitalism can do. In that regard, what it can and must do for America in the decade ahead is to set the country on the right path in four critical, distinct and interrelated areas: work (employment and consumption patterns and their meaningful relationship), national health care, economy and environmental protection (vis-à-vis climate change and global warming) and the struggle to end the scourge of terrorism around the world. In this new century that is the real challenge for capitalism and the new American president.
Marshall H. Sheen
Taipei, Taiwan

To think that capitalism needs to be rescued says more about Fareed Zakaria's ability to judge reality than about the state of capitalism. By now—as even Moscow, Beijing and Havana realize—there is no alternative to capitalism, to the means of production in the hands of the most productive people. We can quarrel on details as to which social measures are needed to correct the obvious imperfections of capitalism, but no more. Obama will not be judged on whether he saves capitalism but on far more mundane matters like unemployment, national security, energy independence and health care.
Victor ben Abraham
El Ferrol, Spain

Reading "Saving the World, One Molecule at a Time" made me shout, "Yes, there is a Santa!" He can be found in the unselfish, brilliant scientist Jay Keasling, who, along with the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, will offer their malaria drug at cost to millions of mostly poor recipients. All this when greedy multinational corporations are earning outrageous profits. In fact, Wall Street has brought us to our knees, and with little good news in any sector, Jay Keasling and Sanofi-Aventis are bright lights in the darkness.
Theresa Hirschman
Jericho, New York

Incredibly, you left out of your "Global Elite" list one of the world's most influential leaders: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Ban has been the driving force in moving the climate-change discussion to the fore. Moreover, when Cyclone Nargis decimated Burma, it was Ban who confronted that country's generals and got permission so that the vast array of humanitarian agencies queuing up in Bangkok could get in the country to assist the hundreds of thousands of victims. Does NEWSWEEK actually believe that the president of Brazil is more influential than the secretary-general of the United Nations?
Paula Miller
Frankfort, Kentucky