In my last blog post I listed some of my top political heroes from the past. This time I’ll list off some of my more modern political heroes, as well as some of my economic heroes.
- Gary Johnson – 29th Governor of New Mexico who vetoed 750 bills (which was more than all the vetoes of the other 49 Governors in the country at that time, combined), which earned him the nickname Gary “Veto” Johnson. In 1999, Johnson became the highest-ranking elected official in the United States to advocate the legalization of drugs, saying the War on Drugs was “an expensive bust.” Under Gov. Johnson’s administration, New Mexico experienced the longest period without a tax increase in the state’s history, the rate of growth in the state government was cut in half, half of the state’s prisons were privatized, a school voucher system was brought to the state, state Medicaid was shifted to managed care, and the state was left with approximately one thousand fewer employees (with no firings) and a budget surplus. Johnson is also an avid triathlete who runs several miles each day and abstains from all drug use, caffeine, alcohol, and some sugar products. During his term in office, he competed in several triathlons and was also an outspoken advocate for physical fitness. In 2003, he climbed Mount Everest.
- Russel Means – One of America’s best-known and prolific activists for the rights of American Indians. In 1987, Means sought the nomination of the Libertarian Party for president and attracted considerable support within the party, but eventually lost the nomination to Congressman Ron Paul. Means began an acting career in 1992, appearing as the chief Chingachgook in The Last of the Mohicans. On December 20, 2007, Means announced the withdrawal of a small group of Lakota Sioux from all treaties with the United States government. Means and a delegation of activists declared the Lakota a sovereign nation with property rights over thousands of square miles in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana.
- Noam Chomsky – An American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, political activist, author, and lecturer. He is an Institute Professor emeritus and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is well known in the academic and scientific community as the father of modern linguistics. Since the 1960s, he has become known more widely as a political dissident, an anarchist, and a libertarian socialist intellectual.
- Michael Badnarik – An American software engineer, political figure, and former radio talk show host. He was the Libertarian Party nominee for President of the United States in the 2004 elections. Badnarik’s political philosophy emphasizes individual liberty, personal responsibility, and adherence to what he considers to be an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. All of his positions arise from this foundation. In economics, Badnarik believes in laissez-faire capitalism, a system in which the only function of the government is the protection of individual rights from the initiation of force and fraud. He therefore opposes institutions such as welfare, and business regulation. I highly recommend watching his excellent class on the Constitution, found here on YouTube (watch all 42 parts!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9Zxl50Suwg&feature=related
- Ron Paul – OBV! The man who cured my political apathy. Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas’s 14th district, former presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 2008 and for the Libtertarian Party in 1988. Founder of the advocacy group the Campaign for Liberty. While still a medical resident in the 1960s, Paul was influenced by Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, which led him to read many works of Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises. He came to know economists Hans Sennholz and Murray Rothbard well, and credits to them his interest in the study of economics. He eventually realized what the Austrian school economists wrote was coming true on August 15, 1971, when President Richard Nixon closed the “gold window” by implementing the U.S. dollar‘s complete departure from the gold standard. That same day, the young physician decided to enter politics, saying later, “After that day, all money would be political money rather than money of real value. I was astounded.” He continued to deliver babies on Mondays and Saturdays during his entire 22nd district career.
- Milton Friedman – An American economist, statistician and public intellectual, and a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. A global public followed his restatement of a political philosophy that insisted on minimizing the role of government in favor of the private sector. As a leader of the Chicago School of economics, based at the University of Chicago, he had a widespread influence in shaping the research agenda of the entire profession. Friedman’s political philosophy, which he considered classically liberal and libertarian, stressed the advantages of the marketplace and the disadvantages of government intervention and regulation, strongly influencing the outlook of American conservatives and libertarians. In his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman advocated policies such as a volunteer military, freely floating exchange rates, abolition of licensing of doctors, a negative income tax, and education vouchers. Friedman was in favor of abolishing the Federal Reserve System and replacing it with a mechanical system in nature that would keep the quantity of money going up at a steady rate, issued directly by the government and cutting back on fractional reserve banking powers for the banks.
- Peter Schiff – An American economic commentator, author and licensed stock broker who currently serves as president of Euro Pacific Capital Inc. Schiff is a supporter of the Austrian School of Economics and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and was an economic adviser for Ron Paul’s campaign in the 2008 Republican Party primaries, through which Schiff also expressed support for sound money, limited government, and free market capitalism. Schiff is best known for his bearish views on the United States economy and his claims to have predicted the economic crisis of 2008. He has risen to media prominence following the publication of his book Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse. Aside from his writings, Schiff maintains a significant media presence, often appearing on US financial news programs on networks such as CNBC, CNN, CNN International, Fox News, Bloomberg TV and Fox Business where he is generally booked to provide a bearish counterpoint to more bullish commentators.
- Friedrich Hayek – An economist and philosopher known throughout the world for his defense of classical liberalism and free-market capitalism against socialist and collectivist thought. He is considered to be one of the most important economists and political philosophers of the twentieth century. One of the most influential members of the Austrian School of economics, he shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics with Gunnar Myrdal. His famous book, The Road to Serfdom, gives the thesis that all forms of collectivism lead logically and inevitably to tyranny, and he used the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany as examples of countries which had gone down “the road to serfdom” and reached tyranny. Hayek argued that within a centrally planned economic system, the distribution and allocation of all resources and goods would devolve onto a small group, which would be incapable of processing all the information pertinent to the appropriate distribution of the resources and goods at the central planners’ disposal. The failure of central planning would be perceived by the public as an absence of sufficient power by the state to implement an otherwise good idea. Such a perception would lead the public to vote more power to the state, and would assist the rise to power of a “strong man” perceived to be capable of “getting the job done”. After these developments Hayek argued that a country would be ineluctably driven into outright totalitarianism. Sound vageully familiar to what’s happenning in our country??
- Ludwig Von Mises – An Austrian economist, historian, philosopher, author, and classical liberal who had a significant influence on the modern free-market libertarian movement and the Austrian School. When working under Mises in a post WWI government office is Austria, Hayek said that, “I came to know him as one of the best educated and informed men I have ever known…” It was Hayek’s development of Mises’ innovative theoretical work on the business cycle which later earned him the Nobel Prize in economics. The magnum opus of Mises’ work is a book called Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. It presents a case for laissez-faire capitalism based on Mises’ praxeology, or rational investigation of human decision-making. Mises argues that the free-market economy not only outdistances any government-planned system, but ultimately serves as the foundation of civilization itself.
- Murray Rothbard – An American economist of the Austrian School who helped define modern libertarianism and founded a form of free-market anarchism he termed “anarcho-capitalism.” In Murray Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalist model a system of protection agencies compete in a free market and are voluntarily supported by consumers who choose to use their protective and judicial services. Anarcho-capitalism would mean the end of the state monopoly on force.
- Jesse Ventura – Statesman, retired professional wrestler, Navy UDT veteran, actor, and former radio and television talk show host. Running as an Independent and member of the Reform Party, he was elected the 38th Governor of Minnesota and served from January 4, 1999 to January 6, 2003 without seeking a second term. Sharing some views with libertarians, Ventura frequently described himself as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” While funding public school education generously, he opposed the teachers’ union, and did not have a high regard for the public funding of higher-education institutions. Additionally, Ventura supported the use of medicinal marijuana, advocated a higher role for third parties in national politics, and favored the concept of instant-runoff voting. He is an excellent debater and I highly recommend watching some of his interviews with the press. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind!