A friend who edits a well know conservative business magazine is anticipating the new Obama administration. He wants to know what liberal thinkers will be influential in the coming years.

He writes:

Barry: We’re putting together a list of the 50 most influential liberal thinkers/intellectuals in America (academics, thinktankers, columnists, even politicians…) for a XXXXXX.com Opinion section slide show. I’d love to have your thoughts on some names that should be there. . . Obviously not all 50, but as many as you can muster without cursing me out!

The first few off of the top of my head are Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, George Soros, Al Gore, Barney Frank, Lawrence Lessig (Stanford), Dean Baker (Center for Economic and Policy Research).

Media: Keith Olbermann (MSNBC), Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (Comedy Central), Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo), Mark Morford (SF Gate), Bob Herbert (NYT), Gary Trudeau (Doonesbury), Joe Conason (Salon),

Bloggers: Arianna Huffington, Kevin Drum (Mother Jones), Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (Daily KOS), Matthew Yglesias,

Authors: Greg Palast (author), Jake Tapper, Nat Hentoff (VIllage Voice).

And lastly, I have to add John Maynard Keynes, who remains to this day one of the most influential liberal thinkers in terms of economics.

(How could I have forgotten Bono! — Oh wait, he’s not American!)

Who else would you consider an influential liberal thinker?

Category: Economy, Financial Press, Politics

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

122 Responses to “Who Are the Most Influential Liberal Thinkers?”

  1. Scott Frew says:

    Let me think about it for an hour.

    Start with Nat Hentoff.

    How about Howard Dean, Jared Bernstein, Harold Meyerson, Robert Kuttner?

    James Galbraith, Thomas Frank.

  2. Your list is good, but you are missing:

    Rachel Maddow (of course),
    Barbara Ehrenreich (author),
    Katha Pollitt (Nation columnist, author and poet),
    Katrina vanden Heuvel (editor and publisher, The Nation, and frequent “voice of the left” on TV commentary shows

    And, thinking of The Nation, I’d like to throw in John Nichols, whose coverage of the political scene has been invaluable.

    And, in the Senate:
    The lion of the Senate, Senator Edward Kennedy and also Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont.

    And do we want to add Michael Moore?

  3. Gene Solomon says:

    Good list. Here are some you might consider adding: Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean of Univ. of CA, Irvine, Law School), Brad deLong (econ prof. at Berkeley and blogger), Roubini probably doesn’t count but might, Robert Reich, Robert Scheerer (columnist). Those are ones that quickly come to mind.

  4. Mike Barrett says:

    It looks like you’re talking about living liberals.

    I’d include

    Seirra Club Executive Director Carl Pope,
    Economist and Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich,
    Former Slave and Peace Activist Sojourner Truth (deceased)
    Jimmy Carter
    Filmmaker Theo van Gogh (deceased)
    Filmmaker Michael Moore
    Filmmaker Robert Greenwald
    Mountaineer, Author and school builder Greg Mortenson

    There should be more women on the list, I just couldn’t think of any.

    - Mike

  5. Marc Brazeau says:

    Glenn Greenwald, Rick Perlstein, Michael Pollan

  6. E says:

    Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, and William Saletan. Thomas Friedman maybe.

  7. PastTense says:

    Nat Hentoff was fired from the Village Voice a few days ago:

  8. gilead says:

    I would not include Kevin Drum nor Thomas Friedman on a list of liberals. YMMV.

    But I would consider Duncan Black (http://www.eschatonblog.com/), digby (http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/), Chris Bowers/ Matt Stoller/ David Sirota (http://openleft.com/), Juan Cole (http://www.juancole.com/), Tom Tomorrow (http://www.thismodernworld.com/), and David Neiwert (http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/).

  9. Winston Munn says:

    Looks like the invite list to an Ayn Rand book-burning party. Are you sure this isn’t simply an anti-Libertarian list?

    What is a liberal nowadays – someone who disagrees with Fox?

  10. Marcus Aurelius says:

    Bill Maher

  11. Marcus Aurelius says:

    Rachel Maddow

  12. this is, yet, more abuse of the English Language, and, with that, all whom choose to use it.


    above, well crystallizes it the idea at hand(yet again..)

    and, to, further bait the hook:

  13. schmoo says:

    I think you’d want to include Chalmers Johnson and Amy Chua.

  14. schmoo says:

    oh. Let’s not forget Paul Hewson (aka “Bono”).

  15. patfla says:

    shmoo> you’re obviously referring to the ‘new’ Chalmers Johnson. I took a course under the ‘old’ Chalmers Johnson while a student at Cal (Berkeley).

    Ok I know they’re supposed to be contemporary, but I vote for John Stuart Mill (e.g. On Democracy). Among other things, at a point-in-time when English ‘democracy’ was up on its legs and shaking considerably less, Mill invented the notion of “the Tyranny of the Majority”.

    And remember: the ‘new’ liberal thinkers inherit a tradition. Many of their ideas are, again, received ideas. And back somewhere pretty near an English (as opposed to Greek) origin of the liberal tradition is John Stuart Mill.

    Actually I’m not sure there _was_ a Greek tradition as regards Liberalism. Democracy yes – but Liberalism no. Liberalism may only have been a product of modern Europe and in particular Great Britain.

  16. Theodore D. says:

    You need at least one Justice – Ginsburg perhaps? Maybe the swing vote of Kennedy?

    Haven’t commented in a while and I have a question that is real off topic. I am trying to understand exactly the purpose of the FED and figure out why it is a private institution and I have stumbled across some conspiracy theoryish videos. I don’t understand enough to fully criticize some of these videos but I can do bits and pieces.

    I wanted to just share this video I found on Google Video – although it is 3.5 hours (really) it is fairly interesting and offers a good amount of historical perspective on money creation. I know enough to realize that much of what says is B.S. but it talks about business cycles over a much longer period of time then most books/people etc.


    I tend to get drawn in to conspiracy theories fairly easily and often need a slap in the head to come back to reality. (ie still don’t understand what fully happened on 9/11, wondering about city planning of D.C. and a few others).

    Maybe someone has already seen this and knows some place where it is critiqued. Any insight on this would be greatly appreciated.

  17. Groty says:

    Barry Ritholtz
    Noam Chomsky
    Chalmers Johnson
    Ted Turner
    Jane Fonda
    Tom Hayden
    Jerry Brown


    BR: My liberal friends cringe at my free market, open trade policies. And my taste in big, petrol burning V8s (and V12s when the missus lets me).

  18. mdesq says:

    Lawrence Tribe (Harvard)

  19. Theodore D. says:

    Howard Zinn?

    Found a link that highlights the main points of the video I linked to above. Oddly enough it was deleted from wiki – hmm…


  20. johnnyA says:

    [BR: My edits below]

    Hank Paulson (GOP appointee)
    Hugo Chavez (Not American)
    Chuck Schumer
    James Hansen, NASA
    Christopher Cox (GOP appointee)
    any Associated Press editor (Individuals, not groups) — plus, Editors are more conservative than journalists
    Ban Ki-moon of the Republic of Korea, UN gen’l secretary (Not American)
    Jim Cramer
    Wm. Ayers, education expert
    Fred Wilson
    David Blood, of Gore’s Generation Investment Management
    Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Not American)
    Arianna Huffington, and any editor of her brilliant site TheHuffingtonPost.com
    Harry Reid
    Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson
    Ted & Caroline Kennedy
    Tom Daschle
    future Sec of State Hillary Clinton
    former president Bill Clinton
    writer Fareed Zakaria, author of book THE POST AMERICAN WORLD
    Russian professor Igor Panarin, he predicted the break-up of the US (Not American)
    the YouTube editors (Individuals, not groups)
    Eli Pariser, the executive director of MoveOn.org
    David Axelrod
    President-elect Obama, of course
    former president Jimmy Carter
    Mayor Michael Bloomberg
    former London mayor Ken Livingstone (Not American)
    West Wing/ A FEW GOOD MEN creator Aaron Sorkin
    San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom


    BR: What an interesting and weird list! I struck thru those that weren’t qualified (individuals, Republicans, groups of people, foreigners) and while I disagree with much of your list — Zakaria ? Hansen ? Plame ? — It is thought provoking

  21. vaughn says:

    a list of the 50 most influential liberal thinkers/intellectuals in America….would have to include such noted Socialist thinkers as
    Hank Paulsen, Benjamin Bernanke, Larry Summers, Geithner, Kashkari, G-dub, Pandit, Maurice Greenberg………their influence will continue to be widely felt in ’09 and beyond….(until it ISN’T)

  22. KJ Foehr says:

    My list,

    Obama, in my opinion he is the most liberal person elected in my lifetime. I put in roughly in the same place on the spectrum as McGovern in ’72; will he govern from there that is the question, but if he does them he will be the most influential liberal thinker by far for at least the next 4 years.

    You got to have Nader on there; he’s abrasive as hell but smart as hell too.
    Howard Zinn,
    Alexander Cockburn,
    Christopher Hitchens, (yes I think he is a liberal, even if he denies it from time to time),
    Albert Einstein. JM Keynes, and FDR (for old times sake),
    Michael Moore (even though I dislike him),
    Oprah Winfrey (“Yes, I think he’s the one!”),
    George Soros (money does talk),
    and I think you gotta have Arianna Huffington on there too.

    And lastly, one rising liberal star – Nouriel Roubini.

  23. Bruce in Tn says:

    Thomas Friedman

  24. Steko says:

    Oprah, Mike Malloy, Warren Buffett, Dennis Kucinich, Jeffery Sachs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger and anyone writing for or sitting on the Editorial Board of the The Nation.

  25. I don’t see Nouriel as necessarily Liberal (I certainly don’t perceive my own views that way)

    Libertarian and Reality based does not = Liberal

  26. Groty says:

    Warren Buffett
    Paul McCulley (Keynes lover)
    Peter Beinart
    Joel Stein
    Keith Boykin

  27. rmasand says:

    Bill Clinton
    Mario Cuomo
    Malcolm Gladwell
    and the freakonomist Steven Levitt.

  28. RW says:

    I’d tell your friend to be careful, because: (1) it is becoming obvious Obama and those he seems to favor are not ‘classic’ liberals in the historical sense of that term; e.g., he’s getting economic advice primarily from U of Chicago folks like Goolsby and academic/Wallstreet insiders such as Larry Summers;
    (2) there are as many differences between liberals (broadly construed) as there are between conservatives so the matter of criteria is critical but tends to be neglected in many quarters because
    (3) the country has drifted so far rightward that economists such as Stiglitz or Krugman who at one time would have been considered at most slightly left of center are now considered far-left by a significant portion of the population (which basically means that portion lacks a means to distinguish between a centrist, a communist, a socialist, a Nazi, and a Martian); and
    (4) Obama isn’t asking these people for advice, in fact his models of leadership do not appear to be living people (Abraham Lincoln being a case in point) and the remaining civil rights era leadership doesn’t seem to have any more access to him than the ‘old school’ liberals do (and you can tell the old leadership knows it too).

    In many areas Obama seems to be an incrementalist, willing to set a broader course but also willing to take smaller steps to get there, but the course he seems to be plotting rather clearly judges the country to have been on the wrong tack for some time with the ship now run aground. Frankly it seems just about everyone he has chosen for his team are individuals who know how to get things done so one way or another there will be motion, first a kedge off and then a turn.

    At this point I would consider it a fools game to guess who or what course will be set afterward but that’s a slow ship and there will be time to figure it out; the best advice I can think of is to pay close attention to Obama’s cabinet choices, indulge in some critical thinking, and set febrile imaginings and the niggling nabobs of negativity aside for awhile.

  29. Scott Frew says:

    The Ten Young Progressive Intellectuals Who Make Me Hopeful
    By Andrew Golis – December 31, 2008, 2:04PM

    I’m convinced that progressives own the future. Not because Obama won (although that was pretty nice), but because the intellectual energy in America today is young and on the Left.

    To make this case (and in light of the timeless practice of end-of-the-year list-making), I’ve put together a list of 10 young (under 40) intellectuals who I believe to be shaping a progressive future that is forward-looking, effortlessly intersectional, technologically sophisticated and engaged in not just the world of ideas but the world as it is lived. In other words, they’re of the left, they’re brilliant and they’re helping to get shit done.

    These are the ten young progressives who make me hopeful for the future. (I’ve included a video of each in case you’re meeting them for the first time).

    In no particular order:

    1. Rachel Maddow - Might as well get the obvious out of the way. Rachel Maddow is the breakout success in progressive media in 2008. Her show on MSNBC doubled the ratings in that time slot. As Rebecca Traister put it, “Remarkably, this season’s discovery isn’t a glossy matinee idol or a smooth-talking partisan hack but a PhD Rhodes scholar lesbian policy wonk who started as a prison AIDS activist.” Maddow has done the unthinkable, she’s made being sophisticated and liberal a good thing.

    2. Jay Smooth – Jay is my favorite video blogger (outside of TPM, of course). Like Maddow, he’s been able to accomplish a difficult thing in a medium that lends itself to outrage and anger: make compassion and thoughtfulness entertaining. And he does it while engaging hip hop culture and acting as a cultural translator for it.

    3. Samantha Power – Power would be on any list of intellectuals left or right at any age. By 38, she’s managed to get tenure at Harvard, win a Pulitzer Prize, and be a close advisor to the next leader of the free world. Frankly, just thinking about everything that she does makes me exhausted and slightly disappointed in myself.

    4. Jacob Hacker – Speaking of politically influential academics, when Obama takes up health care reform in the next year or two, he’ll almost certainly propose a plan designed by a 37-year-old Cal professor named Jacob Hacker. “Health care for America,” published by The Economic Policy Institute, then championed by Campaign for America’s Future, then taken up by John Edwards during the Democratic primary, is a textbook example of new progressive infrastructure bringing brilliant ideas into the political mainstream. He may be an academic, but he’s managed to push his work out of the ivory tower straight into the White House.

    5. Van Jones – Van Jones was talking about “Green Jobs” before they were cool. Heck, more than anyone he made them cool. The brilliance of Jones’ argument – that we can solve economic problems and environmental problems simultaneously by employing the least prosperous among us in the work of “greening” our economy – is that it creates its own political coalition. Green Jobs is a project environmental activists, labor unions and advocates of ending urban poverty can all agree on. That’s no small feat. I’ve also never seen a movement leader/thinker so effectively and subtly slip so many radical ideas into a project that is so readily embraced by the mainstream.

    6. Rebecca Traister – Rebecca Traister has repeatedly been the source of the best final word on the fraught debates in the last year over gender and American politics. She mainstreams gender analysis and justifies it to an often resistant public. Her analysis of Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and the new women of the news has been essential.

    7. Rinku Sen - Rinku Sen somehow manages to simultaneously run a think tank that works with community organizers, publish a magazine and blog, chair the board of the Media Consortium, and write books. She’s able to bridge movement politics and media, and brings pointed criticism to bear on politically sensitive topics like race and immigration.

    8. Chris Hayes – As Ezra Klein wrote (paraphrasing from memory cause search on his site sucks), “sometimes I think Chris Hayes exists simply to write pieces I wish I’d written.” As the DC editor of the Nation, Chris has managed to make topics as seemingly dry as heterodox economics as interesting as they are important, and written brilliant profiles of MoveOn, Larry Lessig, and Obama. All of this while established a mild-mannered lefty presence as a regular on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. All before the age of 30.

    9. danah boyd - I’m sure most readers will have never heard of danah boyd. She’s not a traditional political journalist, activist or pundit like the others on this list. But her sociological work on the impact of online communities on youth culture and development is central to understanding our digital future. Most importantly, her ability to apply cultural, gender, racial and class analysis to that projects makes her work explicitly, and essentially political.

    10. Rick Perlstein – Perlstein’s Nixonland, about not just Richard Nixon but the divisive conservative populism he mainstreamed, came at an interesting time. It arrived just as McCain/Palin picked up the mantle of Nixonian politics and Obama seemed to vanquish it to the wilderness. Perlstein’s histories (his first was on Barry Goldwater) are central to the political analysis of a lot of young progressives and he already has a New York Times Best seller before the age of 40.

    So, there you have it. I’m sure there are folks I missed, who would you have added? Let me know in the comments. I probably would have included Jessica Valenti and Josh Marshall if not for the painfully obvious conflicts of interest (fiancee and boss). I might also have included a few more bloggers (Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Atrios) but for a desire to not overwhelm things with whiteboysblogging.

    Who else am I forgetting?

  30. Transor Z says:

    Bill Moyers

    Steven Spielberg

    James Carville

    Bob Dylan

  31. Theodore D. says:

    Forget my post I found some great critiques the video is B.S.

  32. bobby says:

    blogger category—It’s hard to believe only one mention of glenn greenwald so far…

  33. KJ Foehr says:

    I’m not sure on Roubini; that’s just my best guess based on reading between the lines of his blog posts and videos over the last 10 months or so. I’m thinking he is a European style social democrat at heart.

  34. Tom K says:

    @Mark E Hoffer

    Liberals aren’t “liberal” and Progressives aren’t “progressive”. Truth in labeling doesn’t apply in politics.

  35. ckapilla says:

    Greenwald, Maddow, Moyers!

  36. Transor Z says:

    Rev. Jesse “Rainbow Coalition” “Two Sheds” Jackson

  37. gloppie says:

    Maybe we need to rediscover Thomas Paine;
    “American Crisis”
    “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated”

  38. johnnyA says:


    What> There’s no ‘reaching across the aisle’ here?

    Hank Paulson SHOULD BE on the list — he’s BFF w/ Chuck Schumer. It doesn’t matter that he was a President Bush appointee. Paulson dismantled Goldman’s Wall St. competition — Mission Accomplished.

    Is the list just confined to American? I didn’t know that. I put the liberal Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams on the list b/c he just gave Al Gore’s cleantech firm Generation Investment Management $150MM.

    Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone is on the list b/v he was the first one to come up with ‘congestion pricing’ to combat traffic in a major city.

    Hugo Chavez should be on the list not just b/c of the good will he’s shown toward the lower income people in the US when he gave them heating oil, but b/c of the success his socialist regime has had in Venezuela.

    Ban ki moon should be on the listnot just b/c of the great work he’s done, but b/c of the ideal that the UN stands for, especially their defense of the Palestinians.

    I was also going to put Tzip Livni of Israel on the list, but forgot.

  39. VennData says:

    Liberals want free markets, free people, free thinkers. We’re all liberals now.

  40. johnnyA says:

    & I agree w ‘ Bruce in Tn’ — NYTimes writer & author Tom Friedman should be on any list of lib thinkers.

    I’ve liked Friedman since right after 9/11 he said ‘Saudi Arabia is to terrorism as the Soviet Union was to communism’.

  41. BR: What an interesting and weird list! I struck thru those that weren’t qualified (individuals, Republicans, groups of people, foreigners) and while I disagree with much of your list — Zakaria ? Hansen ? Plame ? — It is thought provoking

    I understand that the request was for ‘American’ “thinkers”, but, to me, it is beyond fatuous to think that /only/ ‘American’ voices will bend the Ear of any President..let alone, BHO..

    especially, queer, in light of Phillip J. Berg’s petitions:

    Case of Berg vs. Obama, U.S.S.C. Case No. 08-570, in the U.S. Supreme Court has been scheduled for two [2] Conferences [January 9th and 16th, 2009].

    The Justices of the Supreme Court will read letters sent to them. Let them know how important it is for them to hear our case; how “standing” is important on the issue of Obama’s qualifications;

    these are some, truly, different days..

    past any of that, I appreciate RW’s take, above, his label, “incrementalist”, is exact.

    see: Fabians believed in gradual nationalization of the economy through manipulation of the democratic process. Breaking away from the violent revolutionary socialists of their day, they thought that the only real way to effect “fundamental change” and “social justice” was through a mass movement of the working classes presided over by intellectual and cultural elites. Before TV it was stage plays, written by George Bernard Shaw…

  42. phreddy says:

    You can’t list Keynes w/o including Emile Despres.

  43. Josh says:

    No list of top-flight liberal thinkers is complete without the inclusion of Glenn Greenwald, whose column has been required reading for me ever since I found it a few years ago. He is undoubtedly one of the best liberal minds — more likely just minds, period — of our time.

  44. leftback says:

    Barry, this regime has been so anti-science and anti-intellectual that you need to make some room on your list for liberal scientists, engineers and technologists. The fact that few can name any is a sign that they have been almost completely marginalized from American society, an entire class of educated citizens simply shunted out of sight to make room for “bright, engaging, articulate” investment bankers.

    In fact the scientists have all been hiding in the upstairs bedroom for the last eight years, waiting for the “intelligent design/not evolution” lady and her “global warming is a myth” husband, with their “no nuclear power” son and “ban stem cell research” daughter to leave the house in their four separate SUVs before they would come out again….

  45. “In many areas Obama seems to be an incrementalist, willing to set a broader course but also willing to take smaller steps to get there, but the course he seems to be plotting rather clearly judges the country to have been on the wrong tack for some time…”–RW, above

    incrementalist, interesting..

    by Republicae
    Monday, August 4, 2008
    The Fabian Society began in England in 1887 by a very small group of elitist socialist that sought to reform society gradually into one of socialism instead of through violent revolution. At first their purpose was to be an alternative in Britain for the more dominate Marxist Social-Democratic Federation, but their true goal was to accomplish socialism through a very gradual process using the voting booth and representative democracy as their instrument of change. In fact, one of their symbols is a Turtle with the motto: “When I Strike, I Strike Hard”. Another symbol is the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing and the Globe on an Anvil being hammered into the Fabian model.

    The Fabian Plan for gradual Socialist Revolution was as definitive as it possibly could be, to say it has been a conspiracy is simplistic in the extreme. It instituted a widespread educational program for its leadership and its minions, as time progressed, it opened schools, such as the London School of Economics, and the New School of Social Research.

    One stroke of genius was that instead of advocating a Socialist State, they assisted in the implementation of the Welfare State, which as we should all know is merely a few steps away from a purely Socialistic State. It was, of course, implemented gradually, and played upon the weaknesses of human nature to gain popularity. Unlike the usual Socialist points of views, the Fabians didn’t advocate complete State ownership of businesses, industry, agriculture or land, instead they sought to involve the State into very specific areas of importance such as electric power production, transportation, precious metals and of course, credit. The remaining balance of economic systems would be left to the private sector however; it would be highly regulated by the State and operated according to the wishes of the State.

  46. Fabian Socialism, from ‘incrementalist’–RW, above

    WP Spam Filter Test

  47. gms777 says:

    Of all the names above, the only one I trust is Bob Dylan, and even he says “Trust Yourself.”

  48. dunnage says:

    If Noam Chomsky is a liberal, the list of liberals would be short. Living and Influential: none.

    Last influential was Timothy Leary.

  49. Mauer says:

    James K. Galbraith his latest book, “The Predator State” was selected as “progressive book of the year” by The Nation.

    Another liberal thinker is Thomas Frank (“What’s the Matter with Kansas”)

  50. rhodium says:

    Elizabeth Warren and Barbara Ehrenreich are quite visible and popular writers. In the sense that they encourage discussion I would classify them as thinkers.

  51. The Chief says:

    Surprised Naomi Klein hasn’t been mentioned yet (http://is.gd/9He8), apparently she’s all the rage.

  52. Che Stadium says:

    Who was that guy who took on the greedy CEO’s with Sarbanes Oxley, and signed No Child Left Behind and a prescription drug entitlement into law, while expanding the scope of the federal governement in other areas too numerous to mention? If I didn’t know he was a veritable anarchist, I would think he was a big spending liberal.

  53. Boo-urns says:

    I love the Warren suggestion.

    Also, I think Kevin Drum is a self-identified moderate, and he certainly comes off as one. Intensity of opposition to the foolhardiness of Bush Republicans does not, in and of itself, translate to more liberal (just more principled).

    Lessig is also not necessarily a “liberal” in the sense that most folks use that term today. He’s an ardent libertarian, which means that in the area of privacy, he comes off as a liberal, but if you were talking to him about market regulations (particularly prior to this credit crisis), I think he’d seem more in line with Wall Street than your average “liberal” today.

    If you’re going to include Barney Frank, then I think you have to include Henry Waxman and Russ Feingold. Someone previously mentioned Bernie Sanders. Feingold has way more influence, both because he’s more senior, and because he has more cred in the Democratic party.

    As far as economists go, you HAVE to include Joseph Stiglitz on this list. He and Krugman are the key economic intellectuals behind modern liberalism.

  54. johnnyA says:

    …and why would you think it’s OK to include Bono on your own list, Barry, but you crossed non-Americans off my list?

    Great liberal thinkers have to include non-Americans — American liberals aspire to be great liberal minds, especially of the non-American variety. They’d like to be thought of as ‘exotic’. That’s why Obama is so cool to the American liberal. They want a more ‘worldly’ standard, not an ‘America-alone’ brand.

    In that light, I think Chavez, Ban Ki-moon, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, Russian professor Dr. Igor Panarin, and London Mayor Ken Livingstone should be on this list.

    And even though he’s sorta ‘persona non grata’ right now, I think Rev Wright, the man who converted Obama at age 30 and who Obama dedicated his DREAMS OF MY FATHER book to, should be given consideration for this list.


    BR: See post for correction.

  55. victor says:

    Pardon me Scott Frew,

    but the future belongs to the meek (they will inherit this world and the heavenly kingdom), just watch the Hispanic women on any Main Street with four or six kids in tow, waiting at pedestrian X-sings as progressive women zip by in their Mercedeses with a dog as a passenger on their way to a soiree Palin bashing event…. As for the progressives, Scottie boy remember: demography is destiny and last I looked, the progressives fit neatly this: gutless, godless and babyless, I rest my case, Maddow is a genetic dead end, what a relief!!!

  56. what BR might care to do, in the interest of ‘full disclosure’, is post the words/phrases that trigger his ‘Spam’ Filter..

    would be telling to see which ‘colors’ of the big pic, get faded..


    BR: The spam words usual: Casino, poker gambling, various pharma drugs, porn phrases, and multiple URLs (3+).

    Remember, WordPress uses Askimet — you can gain some insight by seeing their rules.

  57. dbowe says:

    Firstly, Bono is an Irish-man. Based on the current performance of the Irish economy and Government, Bono might be getting the call up pretty soon to take over as Taoiseach (Prime-Minister) or at least Minister for Finance / Entertainment.

    One person who I see missing from the list and cannot understand why (I thought he’d be obvious), Greorge Soros’ partner in crime, Jim Rogers.

    He foresaw the commodity boom, the boom in China. He’s practically 100% abandoned the US dollar and has some serious views on the current global ‘situation’.

    He’d get my vote (if we are restricted to Americans)

    Happy New Year :)

  58. Boo-urns says:

    Che Stadium, you’re an xxxxxx.

    SOX was pretty much forced down W’s throat. NCLB was a big program designed poorly.

    The difference between liberals and Bush Republicans: we want government programs to be well run, whereas Bush Republicans don’t give a crap, because if government performs badly, it gives them more fodder to shut down the government programs they don’t like (which tend to be the ones that benefit the 90% of folks who don’t make $200,000 a year).

    And the massive increases in spending under Bush (and Reagan) are in the military. So we can have ABM systems which do exactly zero to stop terrorism.

  59. scm0330 says:

    Barry, for the love of God please don’t turn BP into a hack politically-tinged site. You’re edging closer there, with each day. It’s damned depressing, frankly.

  60. Tom K says:


    I want government to be well run…AND a lot smaller.

  61. Steve Barry says:

    Oprah is very influential…a billionaire who can influence every social strata…and I’ll admit that the main reason I was saying back in late 2007 that Obama would be president was due to Oprah.

  62. gregmills says:

    John Rawls, John Dewey, Richard Rorty, Thomas Nagel, Stewart Brand, Hunter Thompson

    Oh, and Herbert Croly, Adlai Stevenson, Amy Gutman, Barbara Jordan.

  63. victor says:

    Add to the liberals list: Colin Powell…

    Oh, Barbara Streainsard, Geffen, ALL Hollywood (except John Voight)…

  64. vic says:

    Keynes was certainly a pioneer. He was the first liberal to argue that stones could be turned into bread. Now that belief is canon amongst liberals, such as the high priest of Keynesianism, Paul Krugman. Forget Christian zealots, Liberals really are the most religious people in this country.

  65. mark mchugh says:

    This is another one of those threads that I just don’t get the semantics of. I mean, if 2008 proved one thing to me, it’s that conservatives, like unicorns, exist only in the realm of fantasy (yet you never hear about business magazines for unicorns). When it’s time to go down with the ship, they start dressing like women and pushing children aside. So, Paulson’s about as conservative as a gay pride parade, unless we all agree that the word “conservative” has become a euphemism for coward.

    Does anyone consider Barney Fwank a thinker?

    A lot of the people listed here are influential thinkers, most would probably not appreciate the label, but I guess it’s better than labeled a cowardly hypocrite.

    Happy F-ing New Year

  66. microcap says:

    BR- If you read this, I would like to echo scm0330′s comments. I have been a regular reader for about 2 years.

    My initial attraction to The Big Picture was your detailed analysis of the faulty methodology of government and privately generated statistics. The blog was extremely helpful to me in understanding what was really going on as the economy imploded.

    I too have noticed a lot of political edge lately versus the market and economic insight I have become accustomed to. It’s not as if there is a shortage of interesting things to comment on!

    Being a veteran of the blog, I know full well that it is YOUR blog and you will write whatever the heck you want– you have always made that abundantly clear. But rather than just fade away as a reader, I would rather express my preference to get back to your roots. Regards for a happy new year to all.


    BR: Its New Years day, there is no data, and I received a request from a major editor.

    I consider it an honor to be able to influence a major media story. Like the Kiplingers piece this month, its a privilege to help shape this sort of commentary. TBP readers practically wrote that article, and I expect the same will take place with this one. Having that degree of influence over major media publications is certainly nothing to scoff at.

    I do about 50 posts a week. If one doesn’t interest you, skip to the next.

    But you read the post, and down to the 80th comment. It obviously held some interest for you!

  67. KJ Foehr says:

    @mark mchugh

    Well said. And reminiscent of Krugman’s own statement, “There are no atheists in foxholes, and there are no libertarians in financial crises.” To which I would add, not exactly, there are some left, but they are safely away from the crisis, day dreaming of mythical free-market economies and libertarian utopias.

    @microcap and others,

    It is a slow news, holiday week, and we are about to inaugurate a new president from the opposition party in about 20 days. So don’t worry; this too shall pass, I expect.

  68. jfk3 says:

    I couldn’t agree more with scmo330 and microcap about the new tone of the blog. do we really need another place to yell at each other about left vs. right? the last six months have been particularly politically charged. heres to a new year where we can all tone down the rhetoric and get back to business.

  69. ReductiMat says:

    Further to the dissent here, aren’t we just running in circles until we can all agree on what a ‘Liberal’ means?

    Give me a shout when you all have that figured out…

  70. Theodore D. Says: January 1st, 2009 at 6:18 pm
    Forget my post I found some great critiques the video is B.S.

    you posted the vid, but not the ‘critiques’?
    “Further to the dissent here, aren’t we just running in circles until we can all agree on what a ‘Liberal’ means?”– ReductiMat


  71. debreuil says:

    I would take all journalists out of that, including newspaper ones. Same with actors or musicians. Lets not confuse famous people who are liberal, with people who are liberal and have good ideas (and actually think). Looking at the lists, I’m hoping Obama mostly finds new liberals : ).

  72. Schnormal says:

    i’m going to assume by “liberal” you mean people who i like to read/watch ;)
    noam chomsky, joeseph stiglitz, josh marshall, christopher hedges, amy goodman, bill moyers, ralph nader (zip it), juan cole, barbara ehrenreich, rajiv chandrasekaran, greg grandin, paul krugman, naomi klein, duncan black, digby (sorry to say i don’t know her real name), markos moulitsas, elizabeth warren, john pilger, glenn greenwald, thomas frank, arianna huffington, ken layne, scott horton, ken silverstein, jeremy scahill, hendrik hertzberg, seymour hersh, robert fisk, lewis lapham, james howard kunstler, pz myers, bob herbert, frank rich, greg palast, laura rozen, al giordano, and stephen colbert

    but i agree w/ microcap et al, BR you are above all this.

  73. spigzone says:

    Rachael Maddow – Stunning depth of comprehension. Stunning clarity of communication. Her deep clear grasp of what she is communicating, a true graciousness and lightly humorous affinitive tone and a spoken delivery of stunning precision and ennunciation put her in a league of her own in her ability to gain access to and increase the comprehension of nearly any who tune in to her. I consider her a national treasure.

    Cenk Uyger of The Young Turks – Highly entertaining, first class intellect, passionate, humorous, clear thinking, broad ranging … when I first tuned into his website I kept rebel yelling as he was breaking down, differentiating and bringing into the light all the bullshit being put out from various sources on a daily basis. He was SAYING what I was THINKING . For those unfamiliar, he’s on Air America, XM Radio and theyoungturks.com. As a reference, his show is somewhere north of 50 million hits on TYT YouTube channel. Cenk ROCKS. His website show is 5pm to 8pm cst but then loops until the next days show.

  74. Transor Z says:

    “Businessman drink my wine,
    Plowman dig my earth.
    None of them along the line
    Know what any of it is worth.”

    Everyone is scratching their heads these days wondering where the value is. Manufacturing? Education? Back to the gold standard?

    Partisanship is just more of the shell game because the argumentation is full of sophistries on both sides.

    Friedman and Hayek had an underlying political agenda. Same with Galbraith (elder) and Keynes. Economics was the handmaiden to their political philosophies. Marx and Engels, same thing.

    So I think it is very appropriate at this time to go back to “first principles” and try to take a sounding of where the hell our culture is intellectually. Not sure the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are even relevant anymore.

    You want some challenging reading? Try Daniel Dennett. Challenges the notion of human soul and free will altogether, basically posits that our minds operate like Windows environments.

    Out the window goes Marx’s liberation of the “human spirit” and Chicago’s emphasis on “free market.” What’s left are fleshy robots running around, with “choices” severely limited by evolutionary programming. (Didn’t Friedman say the Fed should be run by a computer?)

    So while I symphathize with investors who want market analysis, I’m not really sure it’s wrong to try to get at deeper issues since the whole thing just went tilt.

  75. KJ Foehr says:

    jfk3 Says:

    “ heres to a new year where we can all tone down the rhetoric and get back to business.”

    In answer to the plaintive call of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”, we could, but it would be quite boring.

    Seriously, I do agree with your sentiment. But it really is cathartic to be able to blow off eight years worth of pent up steam. Social liberals have been unable to utter a word of criticism or dissent for years without being laughed at, derided, accused of being unpatriotic, and /or of having no ideas of value in the new age of prosperity. But now the shoe is on the other foot, we can speak our minds freely, and it is their retorts, their ideas that ring untrue and feeble in the wake of the financial crisis.

    However, I feel the catharsis has mostly run its course now, and I too am growing a little weary of the endless polemics to which there will never be agreement between equally devout followers of differing political and economic philosophies.

    But, alas, it is difficult to let some statements go unchallenged. So who will lay down their arms first?

  76. curtisabbott says:

    From the NYT I would add Frank Rich. And I’d remove Herbert — he’s liberal but I’m not so sure he’ll be influential. At any rate, I don’t think he’s a very good writer.

    How about Amartya Sen? He certainly ought to be influential.

  77. Econophile says:

    Barbara Streisand, Warren Beatty, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn.

  78. devil_futility says:

    It seems to me that the leadership on both sides of the aisle in this country are in favor of free trade, and it’s just the fringes that do not.

    If we’re including dead people, I’d like to add Thomas Robert Malthus.

  79. polizeros says:

    Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy

  80. usphoenix says:

    @steve barry kudos on the Obama Oprah link. Yes Indeed.

    I Read Robert Reich’s book and found it repulsively anti-labor. Scratch him.

    @transor z Agree totally. We are about to have the most socialist/communist country in the world by virtue of the bailout. How ironic it was all presided over by GW. Yeehaw! Cowboy. What does it matter whether the politburo is in D C or NYC?

  81. holzter says:

    Eric Alterman

  82. @ ReductiMat Says: January 1st, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Further to the dissent here, aren’t we just running in circles until we can all agree on what a ‘Liberal’ means?

    Give me a shout when you all have that figured out…

    Give it two years

    I guess I can now say I was conservative before during and after it was cool. :)

    ….and by conservative I mean essentially living within your means. If you can’t afford it you don’t buy it until you’ve saved for it. If you cut your taxes you cut your spending equally. The military is about defending your borders and your people, not about building empires and securing resources. Those are done by trading your best goods for theirs at fair market value. And best practices are always what is done if and when they can be afforded. If they don’t pay for themselves they are called luxuries. Spending and growth is produced from your own wealth and not the wealth of someone else via borrowing

    Yes, my conservatism is boring and practical but I sleep very peacefully at night and have terrific dreams.

  83. gardenofideas says:

    Bob Somersby
    James Howard Kunstler
    Alex Cockburn
    Shane MacGowan
    Paul Craig Roberts
    John Fogerty
    Andrew Tobias
    Swamp Dog
    Amy Goodman
    Ani DiFranco
    Charles Johnson
    David Simon
    Dennis Perrin
    Barry Crimmins
    Chris Floyd

  84. vaughn says:

    the common man sees it now seize it!

  85. Art of Angles says:

    Barry, I like your selections — great suggestions in the comments, too. I’ll add Princeton professor and public intellectual Cornel West to the list.

    I think Rachael Maddow and Stephen Colbert are 2 of the best at crafting solid progressive thinking while growing a large, attentive audience.

    Personally, I love Digby and Glenn Greenwald.

  86. Tony says:

    Glenn Greenwald, Glenn Greenwald, Glenn Greenwald, Glenn Greenwald, Glenn Greenwald, Glenn Greenwald.

    Nobody is smarter, more prolific or more careful.

  87. TheReformedBroker says:

    Leo DiCaprio
    Linda Ronstadt
    Barbara Streisand
    Toby Maguire
    Warren Beatty
    Harry Belafonte
    Susan Sarandon + Tim Robbins
    The Dixie Chicks

    we’re saying “most influential”, yeah?

  88. ronin says:

    Well, since “liberal” is the root of libertarian and liberty, my list is:

    Many of America’s Founding Fathers
    Lew Rockwell
    Ron Paul
    Walter Williams
    Murry Rothbard
    Ludwig von Mises
    F. A. Hayek
    Peter Schiff
    Jim Rogers
    Richard Branson
    Penn Jillette
    Aaron Russo
    Mark Cuban
    John Stossel

    Seriously, Barry, stop abusing the word “liberal.” Just because someone lives/works in Hollywood or Manhattan, smokes marijuana, pops pills, has sex with the same sex, drinks a martini at lunch, uses improper language in public, scoffs at society, gets really rich then bashes capitalism, and/or thinks the world and people are stupid monkeys incapable of making logical decisions on their own doesn’t mean they are “liberal thinkers.”

    Let’s not confuse the word liberal with aristocrat and/or oligarch please, it makes me nauseous!

  89. CaptiousNut says:

    These liberals are as *liberal* as the Boston Celtics are Irish!

  90. ottovbvs says:

    BR; You got everyone out from under their stones on this one. The trouble is your definition is a bit loose but some suggestions:

    Larry Summers!!! Clearly going to be the “go to” guy on economic issues. His ideas bouncers: Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin, Warren Buffet, Bernanke, Krugman, Orzag, Geithner.

    Hillary Clinton!!!! Clearly the “go to” girl on foreign policy. She’s going to be the most powerful SoS since Kissinger. Ideas bouncers: Bill, Holbrooke, Brezezinski, Richard Haas, Colin Powell, Kissinger.

    Tom Daschle!!!! Healthcare along with financial regulation is going to be the BIG long term reform of Obama’s first term (the stimulus is firefighting) and it’s going to have a huge impact on the way the US operates, labor mobility is going to get a boost for example. Ideas bouncers: Hillary, Bill, Orzag, Barney Frank, Mitt Romney (seriously).

    Barack Obama!!!!!! This guy is every bit as much of a wonk as Bill Clinton but with self discipline. He’s going to delegate heavily which is why he has these big hitters around him but this guy is going to be calling the shots.

  91. Transor,

    re: your ref. of Dennett, here’s his homepage:

    further squawk:

    he, certainly, does bust out with thought-provoking ideas..

    mind as computer/personality as download has been an interesting meme..

    it’s, really, too bad that ‘Cognition’/’Cognitive Psychology’ has been, long, resected from the, now, traditional study of Economics–that has been into a parlor game of Mathematics sleight-of-hand..

  92. Lil Leg Humper says:

    The Women at FireDogLake

    Jane Hamsher
    Christy Hardin Smith
    Marcy Wheeler

    Markos Moulitsas Zúniga & The Millions of Posters @ Daily Kos <<< 800 Lb Progressive Gorilla


    Matt Stoller & Chris Bowers @ OpenLeft.com

    ThinkProgess.org / Center for American Progress / John Podesta

    David Rees @ Get Your War On

    Electronic Frontier Foundation


    Dan Froomkin @ washingtonpost.com

    Tom Engelhardt @ TomDispatch / The Nation Institute

    Paul Woodward @ War In Context


    Rosa Brooks @ LA Times / Professor at Georgetown University Law Center

    Professor Juan Cole @ Informed Comment / University of Michigan

  93. Gator Got Granny says:

    Andrew Leonard at How The World Works @ salon.com – he saw most of the mess coming a few years back.

    David Sirota – seemingly everywhere.

    Scott Horton on his No Comment blog @ Harper’s and essays at same does outstanding work.

    the folks that have done outstanding documentary film work such as:

    Taxi to the Dark Side
    Torturing Democracy
    Who Killed The Electric Car?
    and many others

    has anybody mentioned Glenn Greenwald ?? LOL

  94. MorticiaA says:

    I’d add to the list Strobe Talbott, Richard Blum, Lawrence Summers (Brookings Institute alum). Also Robert Greenstein.

    How about Bill Gross of PIMCO? I don’t know his party affiliation, but he seems to lean to the left.

    Can’t say enough about the influence of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Rachel Maddow.

    Oohh, what about Alan Colmes? (Threw that one in for comedy’s sake…. please don’t take it seriously.)

  95. Transor Z says:

    @ Mark Hoffer: Personally, I hate Dennett’s smugness but I have to admit he has some very compelling/fascinating/important ideas. Someone (Moyers?) hosted a PBS round-table discussion that included Dennett and Stephen Jay Gould about 10 years ago. Didn’t really work well.

    Dennett might re-frame BR’s topic question as who has been the most virulent spreader of “liberal” memes alive today in America (whatever a liberal meme is). But you might separate (1) media control from (2) generation. A lot of responses here I think rightly point out that media/Hollywood figures are currently the most influential “vectors” of memes. Ronald Reagan, Arnold, Jesse Ventura, Al Franken, Frank Thompson, Fred Grandy, Sonny Bono (the other Bono!). Mixed bag ideologically.

  96. ottovbvs says:

    Lil Leg Humper Says:

    January 2nd, 2009 at 10:20 am

    While I agree with some of the names on your list it’s not because they are bloggers which your list seems to imply. In fact as a generalized comment I think there’s a bit of tendency to over-rate the importance of the blogging classes, sorry Barry. Whenever something happens on an issue where blogland has been vocal there is a tendency for blogland to claim the credit. The defeat of Clinton, which Kos thinks was entirely down to him or blocking Mier’s elevation to the supreme court (Frum’s work according to him) spring to mind. In reality there was a lot of chatter on blogland about these issues but it wasn’t pivotal. In the former case it was Obama’s caucus strategy that was the deciding factor while in the latter it was because there were not the Republican senate votes for the nomination. A couple of current examples. This idiot governor in IL and picking this character Warren to deliver a prayer. The only reason the stories have lasted as long as they have is because the president’s checked out and the media is reduced to reporting Obama had pastrami on rye for lunch and at the end of the day it’s the MSM that drives blogland.

  97. BDW says:

    Here’s my question: Why is this “conservative” (something, I, a “liberal” try to also live up to)

    “….and by conservative I mean essentially living within your means. If you can’t afford it you don’t buy it until you’ve saved for it. If you cut your taxes you cut your spending equally. The military is about defending your borders and your people, not about building empires and securing resources. Those are done by trading your best goods for theirs at fair market value. And best practices are always what is done if and when they can be afforded. If they don’t pay for themselves they are called luxuries. Spending and growth is produced from your own wealth and not the wealth of someone else via borrowing”

    when, historically, “liberal” administrations have actually done a superior job of doing this (outside of Vietnam perhaps) than “conservatives”? I think that is the ultimate rub. Bush is not “conservative” in the least bit, and neither is Newt or Reagan. They are social conservatives and typically run on issues of social division and status quo (or bringing back the 1890′s which they seem to have achieved). And they are certainly not “liberals” in terms of their spending priorities (unless you mean that they spent “liberally”, like in drinking liberally). Remember the tax and spend label for liberals came about during Reagan when he had a Republican Senate and he ostracized said senate for sending him a bloated budget, which has somehow been spun into him attacking the Dems.

    So what is a “liberal”, when the opposite has never lived up to its own name? I don’t think we have an answer unless we start using the terms only for the sake of social issues. And BTW, Obama has an almost identical voting record as Clinton, and she is seen as a Centrist within the Senate. So how did he magically become the most liberal senator…….cherry-picking votes to suit the purpose of the magazine that listed him as such, and nothing more.

    Onto the subject. Many of the liberals of the 60′s-80′s are not going to be influential this go around. There are new voices now. So the Nadars and Jackson’s are finally off to the sidelines, as is the “Hollywood liberals” who might have an “issue” but not much else. Their voices will be there in the media, but not in policy. It will be those like Maddow (an Oxford PhD), and the agenda driven blogs such as Kos and Atrios (who is an economist by trade). I think Frew’s list and ottovbvs’s assessment is actually quite accurate.

  98. PastTense says:

    You need to define what you mean by a liberal before asking
    this question–both liberal and conservative have multiple
    definitions (although conservative in particular seems to
    mean something quite different than it did say 50 years ago).

    What you seem to have here are people who consider
    themselves liberal and listing the people they like, and
    people who consider themselves conservative listing the
    people they don’t like.

  99. RonRH says:

    Thom Hartmann- author and Air America radio host

    EJ Dionne – columnist

    Al Franken- comedian and (probably) US senator

  100. Transor Z says:

    Ira Glass – host of This American Life