35 Heroes of Freedom

Celebrating the people who have made the world groovier and groovier since 1968

(Page 2 of 3)

F.A. Hayek. He mapped the road to serfdom during World War II and paid a steep price -- decades-long professional isolation -- for daring to suggest that social democracy had something in common with collectivist tyrannies of the right and left. The economist-cum-philosopher lived to see his arguments vindicated by the failure of the Third Way and even took home a Nobel Prize in 1974. Building on the work of that other great Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, and combining a respect for inherited wisdom with an understanding that freedom is fundamentally disruptive, Hayek showed that the uncoordinated actions of individuals generate wonders -- market prices, language, scientific progress -- that the deliberate designs of central planners never could.

Brian Lamb. The Great Stone Face of C-SPAN has produced more must-see TV than anyone else in the history of the medium. There's no reason to pick a favorite among the likes of Booknotes, Washington Journal, and all the other C-SPAN fare, but his greatest contribution may well be his first: turning a surveillance camera on the den of iniquity known as the U.S. House of Representatives.

Vaclav Havel. Havel demonstrated definitively that the simple act of speaking truth to totalitarians, while being willing to suffer the consequences, is more potent than a
thousand tanks. He pushed artistic boundaries, defended the right of rock stars to be filthy, helped engineer the most magical of the Communist-toppling revolutions, and then remained an influential moral voice long after his regional counterparts faded away.

Robert Heinlein. The author of compelling science fiction with individualist themes was the entry point for millions of readers into rabid, late-night arguments about rights, responsibilities, the state, and really alternative sexual practices. If you don't grok Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and Time Enough for Love, you just plain can't grok anything.

Jane Jacobs. There's Jane Jacobs the scholar, whose books (especially The Death and Life of Great American Cities) undermined the ideas of planners who either hated the city or thought they could mold it into a grand monument without regard for how the people who lived in it preferred to live their lives. And then there's Jane Jacobs the activist, who went to the barricades to keep people like Robert Moses from ripping out the heart of the particular cities she lived in. Few others did as much to defend the lives people forged for themselves against the static visions planning elites love to impose.

Alfred Kahn. As head of the defunct Civil Aeronautics Board during the Carter years, "the architect of deregulation" pushed for free markets in the airline industry, ushering in an age in which virtually every slob in America could afford to fly and providing an unassailable example of markets delivering better prices and greater safety than government regulation. Snobs sniff that Kahn turned once-classy airlines into buses in the sky, which is just one more reason to praise him.

Rose Wilder Lane. The daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lane extensively edited and shaped that great alternative history of American settlement, the Little House books, which place the family, community, and commerce -- rather than male adventure, escape, and violence -- at the heart of our national experience. She was a prolific author in her own right and, along with Isabel Patterson and Ayn Rand, one of the three godmothers of modern libertarianism. Lane's The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority remains a powerful statement about the evolution and necessity of individual rights.

Madonna. As one of the first music video megastars, the Material Girl led MTV's glorious parade of freaks, gender-benders, and weirdos who helped broaden the palette of acceptable cultural identities and destroy whatever vestiges of repressive mainstream sensibilities still remained. Along the way, her continuous self-fashioning has brought so many avant-hip trends to the masses that we can even forgive her current fake English accent and children's book phase.

Nelson Mandela. Mandela cheerfully served a prison sentence that would have left Jesus bitter and spiteful. Sprung from jail, he showed remarkable forbearance and amity in overseeing South Africa's post-apartheid transition, creating a model for how the world might finally push past centuries-old racial strife. His quest for personal freedom continued into his ninth decade, when he divorced the murderous Winnie and happily remarried.

Martina Navratilova. The dominant tennis player (male or female) of her day, Martina defected from Czechoslovakia in 1975 to pursue personal and professional freedom, writing, "I honestly believe I was born to be an American." As the first superstar athlete to admit she was gay and the first woman to play tennis like a man, Martina did more than inspire movies like Personal Best; she smashed stultifying stereotypes like so many poorly hit lobs.

Willie Nelson. One of the great crossover artists in popular music, the Texas legend pulled off a Martin Luther King Jr.-like achievement by uniting hippies and rednecks in a single audience. An inadvertent hero to tax resisters everywhere, Nelson brought the battle against puritanism to the very roof of the Carter White House, where he famously smoked dope to relieve his -- and our -- national malaise.

Richard Nixon. Between waging secret wars, enacting wage and price controls, and producing Watergate, Tricky Dick did more than any other single individual to encourage cynicism about government and wariness of presidential power.

Les Paul. Paul was a terrific jazz guitarist who invented the solid-body electric guitar in 1947, helping usher in America's most liberating cultural invention of the latter 20th century, rock 'n' roll. He pioneered multitracked recording and built the first eight-track, which put the D into DIY while allowing bands like the Beatles to make lasting works of art.

Ron Paul. Paul is the only member of Congress who always votes according to the principles they all should follow. First, he asks if the program is authorized by the Constitution. If it is, he then consults his campaign promises, which include pledges to never raise taxes or increase spending. Look for his votes in the nay column.

Ayn Rand. While her private life outstripped them in terms of melodrama, there's no denying that novels such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged introduced libertarian ideas to millions of readers in a vivid, compelling way, encouraging them to reject the cult of self-sacrifice, oppose the demands of collectivism, and question the rule of experts. In contrast to the half-hearted, pusillanimous defenses of capitalism offered by
conservatives, she explained why a system of peaceful, voluntary exchange is morally right as well as efficient.

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  • ||

    I don't get the Larry Flynt. Just because someone exercises a specific freedom doesn't make them a "hero of freedom." He's and advocate for federal funding of Planned Parenthood and even did a gag about S.E. Cupp, saying that she "read a little too much Ayn Rand in high school."

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    You probably haven't read the editorials in Hustler then.

    Flynt is a true (for) freedom fighter.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    And he's probably not going to read your comment either, since his was made almost 2 months ago

  • Almanian!||

    I ONLY buy "Hustler" for Flynt's editorials.

    *aside to CampaigningInYourPark - are there REALLY 'editorials' in Hustler? WHO KNEW?*

  • Cylar||

    Why is Reagan missing from this list? The man who did more than anyone else to get rid of Soviet communism? Thatcher made the list but he didn't? Huh?

    Why is Ashcroft included? The citations of his contributions to freedom sound backhanded and sarcastic. Either the list is sincere, or it isn't. Consistency please.

    Ted Turner is just another media figure who cozies up to dictators and calls for government imposition of population control. His CNN network has proven to be little more than an apologist for Democratic presidential administrations. Hardly a key nominee for freedom.

    Ron Paul is an isolationist loon who thinks the US should turn its back to the plight of suffering people in other countries, even to the point of ignoring the American interest sometimes inherent in helping them. His unnecessary presence in presidential elections has done much to help elect socialist candidates by helping to water-down the Republican vote.

    He's a 9/11 "Truther" and has legions of deranged followers...some of them bitter racists. His 20 years in Congress have produced absolutely no notable legislation passed into law, save for a couple of public buildings erected in his native Texas. For someone who's apparently a hero to so many, he seems to have remarkably few concrete accomplishments. Thankfully, he's retiring and his son Rand seems to have more sense and less loopy fans.

  • sarcasmic||

    His 20 years in Congress have produced absolutely no notable legislation passed into law

    Why is that a bad thing? Show me a "great accomplishment" by a politician and I'll show you lost liberty, increased debt, and more interference in our daily lives by government assholes.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    You forgot "Go fuck yourself"

    All of Cylar's complaints about The Good Doctor are features, not bugs.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    Soviet communism got rid of itself for the reasons laid out by Mises 70 years before: without a price system and ecosystem, centrally planned economies can't distribute goods efficiently. Reagan solidified massive federal budgets and defense spending, took the next step in continuing American intervention in the ME, embraced gun control, and in general was a friend of cronyism and empire building. That he managed to tame the inflation beast is notable, but it's difficult to see him as a friend of individual freedom.

    Your Ron Paul fulmination isn't even worth commenting on. To the slagheap with you, last month's troll.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Soviet communism got rid of itself for the reasons laid out by Mises 70 years before

    No, Reagan most definitely sped it along. There is ZERO evidence of WHEN it would have collapsed under it's own weight and plenty to believe it would have been quite some time, considering it was being basically subsidized by the West.

    Ronald Reagan should be at the very top of the list.

  • CE||

    You expect libertarians to demand consistency? Oh, wait...

  • Dave's not here||

    You have to read between the lines to figure this out. He's included because he was so reviled that the backlash against him created the coalition noted in the article.

  • TJ Boz||

    How in the world can you include Margaret Thatcher on this list? Ask the people of Derry if Thatcher was "Hero of Freedom". Gross.

  • Acosmist||

    Is this some Irish terrorist apologism? I just want to know why precisely it sounds so stupid. If so, cool, I know to ignore it.

  • TJ Boz||

    Yeah...me too!

  • TJ Boz||

    The universe is just an illusion to you isn't it?

  • Goldwin Smith||

    So how is this post any different from a neocon claiming that any article on "blowback" is terrorist apologia?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm going to guess the four people on that cover. Margaret Thatcher, Madonna, Herman Cain and the guy who played John McCain in Battlestar Galactica.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    How could you put Zimmerman on the list??!!!! #justicefortrayvon

  • Kyfho Myoba||


  • Goldwin Smith||

    So why did Thatcher make the list and not Reagan? It's not like either of them were all that libertarian.

  • TJ Boz||

    Yeah. The editors seem to have forgotten about Thatcher and her Bloody Sunday while at the same time honoring the Tiananmen Square martyr. Wow. SMH.

  • Goldwin Smith||

    What Bloody Sunday are you referring to? I'm not sure what sort of role she played in 1972 beyond being a member of Heath's cabinet.

  • TJ Boz||

    I'm referring to the Bloody Sunday when Thatcher used alien technology to implant chips in the people of Ireland.

  • Goldwin Smith||

    Well I think calling it "her Bloody Sunday" implies that she had a direct role in it which I'm not sure of since she was Education and Science Secretary at the time.

  • TJ Boz||

    I know. Thank you for playing.

  • Goldwin Smith||

    Trying to get a rise from the reasonoids who hate the IRA now aren't you?

  • TJ Boz||


  • Drake||

    1988 - Ahh. As good as it got in my lifetime.

    HW Bush took over a few months later and began rolling back Reagan's modest reforms and raising taxes. It has been an accelerating slide towards totalitarian shit-hole ever since.

  • Almanian!||

    1988 - the year I (finally) graduated from college. It's been mo' money, mo' money, MO' money ever since.

    No thanks to the government at any level. The pricks.

  • Drake||

    Year I graduated too. It's been mo' money alright.

    If you told me then that my family income would be well-over 200k, I'd have been thrilled. Until you explain how much would be sucked up by taxes, kids, gas, heating, etc... and that I would still be fairly broke (other than 401k and home equity - so on a day-to-day basis).

  • Almanian!||


  • CE||

    Me too actually.

  • Nazdrakke||

    as it got in my lifetime.

    Drake is undead?

  • Drake||

    Just realistic.

  • Nazdrakke||

    On a positive feedback note, reading Heinlein as a teen definitely put me on the libertarian track. Of course, perhaps it was just meant to be, as I'm named after a character from his books.

    oh, and, Ashcroft? WTF?

  • Raven Nation||

    On Ashcroft; I remember someone arguing that the man most responsible for the economic boom of the 1990s was James Carville b/c he pissed off almost everyone (D & R) in DC in the first six months. So no one wanted to work with the administration, nothing got done & the economy could take care of itself.

  • Almanian!||

    John Ashcroft? Huh. not the first one who jumped to mind.

    Les Paul? I love the old dead guy, but....freedom? Hmmm.

    And this is why I hate "Top 10", "Best Of" and other lists.

  • CE||

    Shouldn't Ron Paul be numbers 1-34, and Ronald Reagan get one vote at number 35?


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