(Page 3 of 3)
Dennis Rodman. As a cross-dressing, serially pierced, tattoo-laden, multiple National Basketball Association championship ring holder, the Worm set an X-Men-level standard for cultural mutation. His flamboyant, frequently gay-ish antics place him in apostolic succession to a madcap handful of athletes such as Joe Namath, Rollie Fingers, and Muhammad Ali, all of whom challenged the lantern-jawed stiffness that had traditionally made sports stars such dull role models.
Louis Rossetto. The genius behind Wired magazine didn't merely chronicle the digital revolution that continues to shape our world: He helped to conceptualize and realize it. Long after the tech bubble burst, his crucial insight -- that new technologies are undermining all existing authorities and empowering end users in new and subversive ways -- remains a guide to the future.
Julian Simon. In books such as The Ultimate Resource and The State of Humanity, the late "Doomslayer" patiently and exhaustively collected the data proving that neo-Malthusians such as Paul Ehrlich and Lester Brown were blowing smoke about environmental degradation and overpopulation. More impressive still: This oracle of optimism suffered from depression much of his adult life.
Thomas Szasz. Since the 1961 publication of The Myth of Mental Illness, the great and tireless critic of the therapeutic state (and longtime reason contributing editor) has never stopped pointing out the coercive implications of politicizing medicine and medicalizing politics.
Margaret Thatcher. The much-maligned Iron Lady set the pace for the rollback of nationalized industries throughout Western Europe, doing the heavy lifting needed to change England from the Sex Pistols' land of "no future" to today's Cool Britannia. More important, she outsmarted the racist "repatriation" crowd that put her into office through pro-small-business policies that helped complete the Pakistanization of the U.K. On top of it all, she was the only reliable supporter of the U.S. in the Cold War's final stages.
Clarence Thomas. After surviving the Hiroshima of confirmation hearings, Thomas has emerged as an all-too-rare advocate on the Supreme Court for federalism, the enumerated powers doctrine, and a constrained view of the Commerce Clause. He's also a reliable defender of freedom of speech in such diverse contexts as advertising, broadcasting, and campaign contributions.
The Tiananmen Square martyr. By putting his life on the line in front of his government's tanks, he provided not only one of the most memorable images of the last 35 years but one of the most inspiring too. The free China of the future owes him a statue or two.
Ted Turner. By launching CNN, the socialist idiot savant created the 24-hour news cycle, familiarized audiences around the world with the idea of globalization, proved the necessity of cable television, and inspired countless imitators who have collectively reshaped and improved the news media by giving voice to more and more viewpoints. Bonus points: After 50 years of confrontation via the Olympics, Turner's ironically titled Goodwill Games flop provided a hint that the Soviet Union likely would end with not a bang but a whimper.
Evan Williams. With a little luck and a lot of technology, Williams did as much as anyone in history to provide the once-scarce freedom of the press to millions of individuals, through his co-founding of Pyra Labs, which introduced easy-to-use Blogger technology and free-as-air Blogspot hosting to the masses.
The Yuppie. This widely reviled Reagan-era social construct opened up to ordinary people countless pleasures and pursuits once reserved for the upper class, from "gourmet" food to good-looking cars to nicely designed furniture to fancy-pants literary devices to an obsession with Tuscany. In striving "upward," Yuppies spurred a massive exfoliation of choice at all levels of American society.
Phil Zimmermann. By inventing and distributing Pretty Good Privacy, a free, easy, and damn-nigh uncrackable e-mail encryption program, he gave dissidents everywhere the ability to communicate without fear -- all while challenging his own government's attempt to control that ability. He's living proof that a single individual with a good idea can make a huge difference.