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Maricopa County, Arizona’s chief law enforcement officer is famous mostly for publicly degrading inmates: forcing them to live in a tent city, work on chain gangs, wear pink underwear. Meanwhile, his more serious transgressions receive far less attention. Arpaio has created citizen posses to track down and arrest illegal immigrants, overseen a jail staff that has violently abused inmates (resulting in the death of three prisoners and the paralysis of a fourth), and used law enforcement resources to harass and intimidate his political opponents.
4. Osama bin Laden
His desire to impose an Islamic caliphate marks the late terrorist as decidedly anti-liberty. But Osama bin Laden’s real crime against freedom was masterminding the murderous 9/11 terror attacks, which not only slaughtered nearly 3,000 people, but also inspired the U.S. government to react with overseas wars, the PATRIOT Act, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Transportation Security Administration. It is thanks in no small part to bin Laden that the United States is far less free.
5. Leonid Brezhnev
Give Brezhnev credit for this much: He made it a lot harder to imagine that communism would be exciting. If Stalin was the supervillain who made the Soviet Union an empire and Khrushchev was the Cold War confrontationist, Brezhnev was the bland figure who enforced a deadly conformity. An adept at bureaucratic warfare, Brezhnev consolidated his power over the course of the ’60s and ’70s as he spread his mixture of economic stagnation and banal totalitarianism throughout the eastern bloc.
6. Fidel Castro
His iron grip over Cuba lasted for more than 50 years of individual, physical, and social ruin. Though Castro formally stepped down as leader in 2008, he passed the reins of the police state to his brother and still serves as an elder statesman of the least free country in the Western Hemisphere.
7. Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney makes the list instead of George W. Bush or Barack Obama because the former vice president provided the intellectual and legal template that both presidents followed to curtail our freedoms. In the wake of 9/11, Cheney, a lifelong defender of executive branch power, pushed the Bush administration to increase secrecy, surveillance, and war. It’s the most lasting legacy in a four-decade career that includes intimate involvement in both Iraq wars, plus the conflicts in Afghanistan, Panama, and Somalia.
8. Hillary Clinton
“It takes a village,” Hillary Clinton famously wrote, and we’ve learned since that her meaning encompassed villages in Iraq and Afghanistan to house American troops, villages of taxpayers to fund her favored programs, and villages of snoops to staff a national security state. Those villages must be prudish, too, given Clinton’s longstanding fear of video-game sex. To Hillary’s credit, she does advocate Internet freedom for villages overseas. Too bad she doesn’t promote the same idea at home.
9. Paul Ehrlich
In 1968’s dystopian bestseller The Population Bomb, this biologist predicted that “hundreds of millions” would die in massive famines in the 1970s. Erlich lamented that it was technically and politically impossible to sterilize people through the water and food supplies, the antidote for which would be rationed by the government. Meanwhile, on a mostly voluntary basis, the global fertility rate has fallen by more than half since the 1960s. Freedom, and the economic growth it generates, turn out to be the best contraceptive.
10. Dianne Feinstein
Say Feinstein’s name in front of anybody who takes the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution seriously and watch that person’s face curdle. The California senator’s federal assault weapons ban, which passed in 1994 and expired in 2004, failed to have any noticeable impact on crime rates. She didn’t allow such facts to keep her from using the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 to unsuccessfully attempt to reinstate the ban. Like the National Rifle Association, she also blames youth violence on video games and has threatened new regulations on that industry as well.