The Atlantic’s 14 Biggest Ideas of The Year

I’m big Atlantic fan.  I think their content is balanced and well-researched, plus I’m always surprised by the topics and stories they choose to cover.  So, when I realized we were due up for their Ideas Issue, I got pretty excited.  While the issue is comprised of a lot of good articles, the bulk of it is taken up by a section called The 14 Biggest Ideas of the Year.  Lists naturally appeal to me, but tend to over-simplify, so I prefer to see this as simply 14 big ideas for 2011 which span finance, economics, politics, foreign affairs, social and environmental policy, sports, entertainment and more.

While I won’t break out everyone of them, I’ll pull out five that I found to be particularly thought-provoking and intelligent.

1. The Rise of the Middle Class (Just Not Ours) – If you read anything, you know the middle class in the US and Europe is shrinking rapidly, a bad thing by anyone’s standard.  However, there is a silver lining, and that is the fact that it’s growing exponentially in developing markets like Brazil, India, China and more.  This means there’s a huge opportunity to sell goods and services to these developing markets.  The question then becomes, are we up for it?  And, will we recognize the opportunity in time?

2. Nothing Stays Secret – The rise of sites like WikiLeaks is reshaping the way governments must approach foreign policy and our government’s interest in trying to prosecute individuals like Julian Assange shows how out of touch they are with the socio-technological revolution that’s taking place right now.  However, and Priest fails to point this out in his piece, the U.S. executed an extremely well-planned capture of Osama Bin Laden that demonstrated that if something really needs to be kept secret, it can be.

8. Grandma’s in the Basement (and Junior’s in the Attic) – the recession created a restructuring in the living situations for many America’s.  What we’re now seeing is a return to the multi-generational household, which in my opinion has more pluses than minus, and could, depending on how long it lasts, result in a reinvention and diversification of our understanding of the nuclear family.

12. The Player Own the Game – Historically, professional athletes have been high-paid indentured servants to the teams they played for.  With leagues, like the NBA and NFL, so dependent not on they’re teams, but they’re superstars, power is shifting away from the owners and into the hands of the players.  Just keep watching how the NFL lockout plays out.

13. The Maniac Will Be Televised – While I, in know way, think this belongs on the list of important ideas, I loved these sentences from Walter Kirn, “Sheen was the spilled beaker in the laboratory who proved that in an age of racing connectivity, a cokehead can be a calming presence. His branching, dopamine-flooded neural pathways mirrored those of the Internet itself, and his lips moved at the speed of a Cisco router, creating a perfect merger of form and function.”

Anyway, some good 30,000 foot thinking.  Head over to The Atlantic’s website to check out all 14 essays as well as a bunch of accompanying content.  And, if you feel so inclined, please drop a comment about your thoughts on this list.



  1. Not sure the players own the game in pro sports. It’s an owner-decided lock out in the NFL and the NBA is about to lock out it’s players, too. Yes, the players have more rights than in the past, but the owners still pay the salaries and collect the revenues. When’s the last successful player strike in pro sports?

    • Your points are hard to argue with, Bill. I just look at leagues like the NBA and they’re all built around the individual, not the team. Owners have the power no doubt, but the players bring the fans and nowadays people don’t have patience for teams that don’t win. If owners want the big returns they’ve got to bring the talent. But, the next year should shed some serious light on this debate.

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