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Grigori Perelman. For proving the Poincaré Conjecture; for turning down a Fields Medal (mathematical equivalent of a Nobel Prize), for being radically uninterested in success, fame, or money; and for his devotion to his Mum.
Reason senior editor and author of Radicals for Capitalism (forthcoming, February 2007).
Stan Jones. This Libertarian Party candidate for the Senate in Montana had been the poster child for the goofy fecklessness of third-party activism because his skin was literally blue from overuse of the quack therapy colloidal silver. Yet given his 10,324 votes--7,477 more than the gap between winning Democrat Jon Tester and losing Republican incumbent Conrad Burns--and given generally understood assumptions about the voting patterns of the libertarian-leaning, it is very likely that Jones's presence in the race cost Burns his seat--and thus cost the Republicans control of the Senate. And, in classic third party tradition, hardly anyone noticed.
Editorial writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News and blogger at Crunchy Con.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He boldly embodies two of the 20th century's most fearsome demons -- the prospect of nuclear holocaust, and fanatical Jew-hating -- as well as the worst demon (so far) of the 21st: militant Islam. He reveals how utterly impotent the civilized world is in the face of any of them. He's the Balrog on the Bridge at Khazad-Dum, and the rest of us are not Gandalf, but Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Milton Friedman. In many ways, we've been living (thankfully) in the late, great economist's country for the past 35 years or so-an America with no draft and low inflation, and one in which we are more "free to choose" from different ways of living than ever before. Here's hoping that in the coming years, we adopt something like his universal school voucher proposal, which would not only revolutionize education but social class too. He was that rarest of public intellectuals: engaged, passionate, and scrupulously fair and well-meaning toward opponents. When he died in November at the age 94, I thought of the eulogy for the great Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi: "When nature removes a great man, we explore the horizons for a successor. But none comes and none will, for his class is extinguished with him."
Research fellow at the Cato Institute, author of Sandstorm, and blogger at Global Paradigms.
Democratic senator-elect James Webb of Virginia. Earning a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam is Impressive. Authoring best-selling thrillers with juicy sex scenes is hot. Being one of the first public figures to Bash Bush's War is cool. "Maccacing" a would-be Republican presidential candidate in a Senate race in GOP stronghold is big. Providing the final Senate seat that tilted Capitol Hill to Democratic control is huge. Being a bit rude to the Chicken-Hawk-in-Chief is no vice. And having big balls in Washington, DC, is rare. Watch out status-quo buffs!
Reason associate editor.
Maf54. He gave us the great sexless sex scandal of 2006, promising pedophilia, political conspiracy, and lasting outrage-and delivering on precisely none of it. More foreplay than follow-through, more screen name than substance, Mark Foley perfectly embodies the shallow, Pavlovian hysteria behind the save-the-children tripe he traded in.
Norman Borlaug. It's the same choice every year he's alive. Saved about a billion people working with the "green revolution." He even saved more Muslims than anyone in history. Beat that.
Reason associate editor.
Kim Jong-il. Not to state the obvious, but the man tested a nuclear weapon this year. Maybe it was a small one, but a nuke nonetheless. Meanwhile, he holds 200,000 political prisoners and governs the only country in the world with no Internet. What a guy.