Some argue that one should not have heroes, truth being its own witness.
But truth doesn’t move through the ether by itself, it must be carried and honed and broadcast by people, usually people of courage, and it must be made clear. My heroes have all been great expositors of truth.
I believe that there is nothing wrong with having intellectual ‘heroes.’
The problems occur when heroes are held to a higher standard of consistency and advancement than anyone could attain, and then, when their works, actions or shortcomings reveal them to have been only human, they, along with all of their positive contributions, are angrily cast aside. Or when, in a desperate struggle to defend the standing or reputation of their heroes, admirers resort to animadversion toward rivals or critics, a consequence of blinding themselves to reality.
Deserving of heroic standing, in my judgment, are those who have demonstrated intellectual courage, originality, insight, a reliance on reason, compassion, an ability to express themselves, and, most of all, a willingness to stand on principle. All these crusaders had the courage of their convictions; convictions, which, for the most part, at least in certain areas, were both radical and right. Many were not consistent libertarians but in a certain area were inspiring nonetheless.
I like what Duncan Howlett once wrote: “Man climbed out of the jungle and into civilization on the backs of the independent-minded. It was not merely the intelligent who carried the human race forward. It was yet more the courageous, who dared to suggest new thought patterns and who dared to institute new practices in accordance with them. To these bold spirits who have lived in every age, we owe such progress as we have made.”
To be certain, writings and ideas will have quite different effects on one individual as compared to another, which is why even soul mates do not have precisely the same names on their lists. Our intellectual and spiritual heroes, like our libraries, are highly personal. These 45 heroes of mine, all deceased and mostly Americans, are listed in alphabetical order only. While I hold some of them in far higher esteem than I do others, I do not choose to rank them.
To be sure, there have been many other heroes in my life, but most of the others either are still alive or do not fit here.
While there would be many powerful (and interesting) disagreements among this group, and while all of them, like all of us, had imperfections and inconsistencies, each has made my life far richer. I admire them for their honesty, courage and perception, and I commend them without reservation.
ALLEN, Ethan – BARNES, Harry Elmer – BASTIAT, Frederic – BRIGHT, John – BURBANK, Luther – CHILDS, Roy – COBDEN, Richard – EKIRCH, Arthur – EMERSON, Ralph Waldo – FLYNN, John T. – FRANKLIN, Benjamin – GARRETT, Garet – GARRISON, William Lloyd – GEORGE, Henry – GREAVES, Percy — HALDEMAN-JULIUS, Emanuel – HAYEK, Friedrich – HAZLITT, Henry – HENRY, Patrick – INGERSOLL, Robert Green – JEFFERSON, Thomas – KWITNY, Jonathan — LEFEVRE, Robert – MARTIN, James J. — MASON, George – MENCKEN, H.L. – MISES, Ludwig von – NOCK, Albert Jay – PAINE, Thomas – PRIESTLEY, Joseph – RAND, Ayn – READ, Leonard – ROTHBARD, Murray – RUSSELL, Bertrand – SENNHOLZ, Hans — SMITH, Adam – SPENCER, Herbert – SPOONER, Lysander – STIRNER, Max – SUMNER, William Graham – TAYLOR, John – THOREAU, Henry David – TUCKER, Benjamin – TWAIN, Mark – VOLTAIRE (F.M. Arouet).