That would be Thomas C. Schelling, now age 95, whom the late Paul Samuelson once stated that Tom was the most intelligent person he ever met, presumably beating out John von Neumann, whom Samuelson argued with about cigars and general equilibrium theory, and his relative by marriage, Kenneth Arrow, a few months younger than Schelling, who is generally viewed as by far the most respected living economist, and who was a coauthor of the most famous and influential paper on the conditions for the existence of general equilibrium. But Samuelson thought Schelling was ultimately smarter than either of them. After all, he got his Nobel in game theory in 2005 with Robert Aumann for his 1960 book, The Strategy of Conflict, which was by all accounts on the bedside table of JFK during the Cuban missile crisis, and Schelling, a technical adviser on the 1964 film, "Dr. Strangelove," was reportedly the main driving force behind establishing a secure "hot line" between the US president and the Soviet leader.
But indeed there is more to this, including exactly why Schelling was given the Nobel Prize, which does come from arguments made in his 1960 book. So not long after Nash provided his game theoretic equilibrium, arguably more general than the strictly competitive Arrow-Debreu-McKenzie solution, and providing the Kakutani fixed point trick beyond Brouwer's that Arrow-Debreu used after him, it became known that for many games there are many Nash equilibria, probably more often than there are for ADM equilibria, for which one can find conditions that guarantee both uniqueness and stability, even if there is good reason to believe that these do not hold in economic reality.
So what Schelling was given the Nobel Prize for, and the idea he pushed that contributed to the ending of the threat of nuclear war that most now take for granted when many experts now say we are in more danger of a global thermonuclear war than we were in at least the later years of the Cold War, was that of focal points. His original example was a group of friends living near NYC who want to meet for dinner but do not agree on where to meet. So, they look for a focal point they can all agree on, and back in 1960 he said that might be under the clock in Grand Central Station.
The focal point that Schelling pushed tirelessly in numerous channels, most of them private but highly placed, was that there should be an internationally agreed upon focal point that there should be no first use of nuclear weapons by any nuclear weapons holder, which, if all agree to it guarantees no nuclear war aside from accidents. There was resistance to this, within the US most notably in the air force, especially from the late Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, who not only advocated the use of nukes in the Cuban missile crisis (when we came much closer to nuclear war than most realize), but also during the Vietnam War. His retirement certainly ended the last serious public opposition to Schelling's focal point, which somewhere during the 1970s quietly came into force without anybody publicly saying so. And as a result "many [very well informed] people" say he was more responsible than anybody else for why there was no nuclear war during the Cold War.
Unfortunately it would seem that a lot of recent loose talk has begun to undermine Schelling's long accepted and established focal point that has restrained a possible global nuclear holocaust for decades. It started with associates of Vladimir Putin during when Russia was annexing Crimea loosely noting that Russia could still nuke New York City. Spacibo, guys. Since then people friendly with Putin in other nations have been making even looser remarks as the nuclear cat is out of the bag. I mean, according to some of them, just why cannot we use nuclear weapons anyway whenever and wherever we want?
For those interested, Tom is scheduled to speak at James Madison University at 4 PM on Wednesday, September 14 in Zane Showker 105, but if you are interested you should check with us about details. I certainly hope that he will be able to give this important lecture.h