Since its founding in 1968, REASON has interviewed scores of people, ranging from Nobel Prize winners to TV stars, anarchists to statists, friends to foes. What follows is a sampling of the more provocative, memorable, and--on occasion--absurd comments. As a record of the issues and ideas that captivated not just REASON but the times of which it was part, these interviews comprise something like an oral history of the past 30 years. As REASON enters its fourth decade, they also underscore two enduring themes of the magazine: the unpredictability of the future and the need for principles by which such uncharted territory may be navigated. (Many of these interviews are available in full on Reason Online at www.reason. com.)
From "Break Free!," an interview with therapist, author, and
Ayn Rand protégé Nathaniel Branden
Reason: What about sex without love?
Nathaniel Branden: What about it?
Reason: Do you approve of that?
Branden: What am I, your mother? Are you asking my permission? Of course there can be sex without love....the question is not: sex with or without love?--but rather: sex with or without personal involvement? Sex without personal involvement, sex between two people who...are not interested in each other as persons, is degrading to both participants. However, it happens between people who are married all the time.
"The old enemies of capitalism used to denounce it on the grounds of its alleged exploitation of the worker. But today, when the American worker is so well off materially, that argument doesn't carry much weight, not that it ever did. Now the emphasis is shifting; now the talk is all about `alienation' and how capitalism and technology `alienate' man from his `true self.' When that argument wears thin or wears out, they'll come up with something else. But why? What is it they really hate? That's the question. And why do they hate it? That's another good question."
"[Ayn Rand and I] cared for each other very much....There was a good deal between us that was very happy, very rewarding, and fulfilling. It will never come again. Sometimes when I am alone, in spite of everything I know I find myself feeling affection and smiling at her in my thoughts. And then I wonder, at whom am I smiling? Does the person exist? Did she ever exist?"
"I wish that the book [Who Is Ayn Rand?] had never been written....I speak for Barbara Branden as well as myself in saying we repudiate that book...Our repudiation applies, primarily, to Barbara Branden's biographical essay on Miss Rand....Too much was left out of that essay....Miss Rand's penchant for extravagant self-compliments. Her fits of temper over trivia. Her obsession with absolute personal loyalty of her friends. Her deadly, eternal moralizing. Her anger and defensiveness when challenged about her ideas. Her bitterness and suspiciousness and resentment. Her idea of encouraging a person to be independent is to tell him, in effect, `Go and think it over--until you see things my way.'...All of her friends, all of the circle of which I was a member, were in terror of her--and no one would admit it, because to admit it would be to open the door to the wider implications of her behavior."
From "Your Money and the Next Devaluation," an interview with
Harry Browne, author of How You Can Profit From the Coming
Devaluation and How I Found Freedom in an Unfree
"I believe there will be widespread bank failures eventually. They could occur very suddenly. Even small-scale bank liquidity problems could create a great inconvenience. I think it's valuable to have at least a month's spending money somewhere safe."
From "Non-Zoning: The New Approach to Planning," an interview
with law professor Bernard Siegan, author of Land Use
"The zoning process is a political process. It has no relationship whatever to looking at each land use and making a prudent decision on it, whether it's good for taxes or whether it's not good for taxes--whether it's good legally or good this way--it's a political process. People gather, make compromises and whoever screams the loudest has his way."
From "Why I Did It!," an interview with Pentagon Papers
whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg
"To whom did [the Pentagon Papers] convey a great deal of information? To whom were they valuable? Not to foreigners on the whole, or foreign adversaries. Ho Chi Minh did not need a document to know the president misrepresented the very things being said to Ho Chi Minh in negotiations, or the actions the U.S. was taking against North Vietnam....But to credulous Congressmen and many American voters who wanted very much to give the benefit of the doubt to the President, then the existence of documentary evidence made a great deal of difference."
From "Libertarian Politics," an interview with Rep. (and
later Sen.) Steve Symms (R-Idaho)
Reason: Would you agree...that Watergate may be healthy in the sense that it's healthy to build a basic distrust of bureaucracy and government in Washington?
Steve Symms: Yes...As a practicing Republican...it's not a political plus for me to be a member of Congress in the Republican Party....But it's kind of interesting....I don't have any sympathy for anybody that's involved in it. If they're guilty, I say they got to face the music, and the truth goes a long way in politics. The quicker it comes out the better. I hope that it weakens the Executive Branch of the government, because the Congress has for too long sat down here and handed over the power to the President.
From "Straight Talk," an interview with psychiatry critic
Reason: You mean you don't believe that heroin is addictive?
Thomas Szasz: Not so fast. It's precisely the word "addiction" that's my quarry. Suppose you give a cigarette to a youngster who has never smoked. He smokes it. Will he enjoy it?
Szasz: OK. Suppose you give him a martini. His first martini. Will he enjoy that?
Reason: Probably not.
Szasz: Well, I think you can see what I am getting at. Drug use--whatever the drug--is like any habit: it must be learned. In my view, drug addiction--that is, the habitual use and craving for a drug--is not something that happens to a person unwittingly, against his will; it's something he does to himself, generally by practicing assiduously how to use--and enjoy--a particular substance. The idea that a single experience with a drug...makes one a "slave" to it, makes one unable to exist without it, is simply not true. It's what I call "pharmacomythology"--in contrast to pharmacology, which has to do with the real chemical effect of drugs.
From "An Interview with Milton Friedman," Nobel laureate
"There's a strong argument to be made that a free society is a fundamentally unstable equilibrium, in the language of the natural sciences....There's a great deal of basis for believing that a free society is fundamentally unstable--we may regret this but we've got to face up to the facts....How often and for how long have we had free societies? For short periods of time. There was an essentially free society in 5th-century Greece. Was it able to survive? It disappeared. Every other time when there's been a free society, it has tended to disappear."
Reason: It's paradoxical but...you are attributing to the collectivist intellectual a better feeling for the market.
Milton Friedman: Of course. But while there's a bigger market for Fords than there is for American Motors products, there is a market for the American Motors products. In the same way, there's a bigger market for collectivist ideology than there is for individualist ideology. The thing that really baffles me is that the fraction of intellectuals who are collectivists is, I think, even larger than would be justified by the market.
From "Economics, Politics & Freedom," an interview with
Nobel laureate economist F.A. Hayek
"What I expect is that inflation will drive all the Western countries into a planned economy via price controls. Nobody will dare to stop inflation in an ordinary manner because as things are at present, to discontinue inflation will inevitably cause extensive unemployment....People will find they can't live with constantly rising prices and will try to control it by price controls, and that of course is the end of the market system and the end of the free political order. So I think it will be via the attempt to regress the effects of a continued inflation that the free market and free institutions will disappear. It may still take ten years, but it doesn't matter much for me because in ten years I hope I shall be dead."
From "Inside Ronald Reagan"
Reason: Do you believe in conscription?
Ronald Reagan: Only in time of war.
Reason: What about the last 10 years?
Reagan: I disagreed with it, and I'll tell you why: I believe Lenin...on that. Lenin said that he would force the capitalist nations to maintain military conscription until the uniform became a symbol of servitude rather than patriotism.
"I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer, just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals--if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom, and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is. Now, I can't say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say..."
From "Fighting Censorship for Profit," an interview with
Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione
Reason: Do you think that the government should have the right to control the price at which you sell a copy of Penthouse?
Bob Guccione: I don't think that Dick Nixon or Gerald Ford have the right, the intelligence, the know-how or the talent to control anything other than their own bowel movements, and even that is somewhat in doubt.
From "Reminiscences & Prognostications," a roundtable
featuring "10 Key Libertarian Activists," including Reason
Foundation President Robert W. Poole, Cato Institute head Ed Crane,
and businessman and philanthropist Charles Koch, discussing "the
significance of the movement they helped build."
Ed Crane: The right wing is atrophying for good reason, and if libertarianism is going to succeed as a political movement in this country...we're going to have to attract support from the left....I view that leftward drift of the [libertarian] movement as very helpful."
Charles Koch: We've seen libertarians go into government. We've seen the Milton Friedmans and the Alan Greenspans in government, and they haven't decreased it; they've helped say, "How can this work more efficiently?" which in the end expands government. It is particularly tragic in their case, because they perhaps were very effective when they were out of government. But in government, they get co-opted; they become spokesmen for it and emasculate the opposition.
Robert Poole: We should be radical in our principles and clearly state what they are and make as exciting and attractive a case as we can for our libertarian theory and political principles. But we are failing to attract more than a few percent of voters, of average citizens, because of the way we fail to translate those principles into specific programs that they can relate to in the present political context....If we use the principles to establish step-at-a-time programs that...show real progress in a direction that is in the self-interest of the individual citizen, we'll get a lot further. We'll be taken seriously as providing an alternative that is real and that's responsible.
From "Reason Interview: Thomas Sowell," economist and social
"One of the problems with the market from the standpoint of those who think they are the brightest, the best, and ought to be telling the rest of us groundlings what to do, is that the market allows ordinary people to go out there and make their own decisions. And people who think they have the Truth and the Light don't want that; they want no part of that. It's really what they hate most, I think, about a market system."
"When you think of all the laws that were thrown in the past at the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Jews, it gives you a very heartening sense of the futility of laws. If laws were really effective, neither the Chinese nor the Jews would be prosperous in most countries of the world. Most of those laws aren't effective. Conversely, most laws designed to improve the positions of ethnic groups have not been effective either."
"I'm pessimistic. Because I don't see any easy way that one reverses--I don't see any way that one reverses--totalitarianism from within. I don't know of any example where it has ever happened. And if democratic nations can always become totalitarian, but totalitarian nations will not become democratic, then in the long run, ultimately, the whole world will be totalitarian."
From "Reason Interview: Murray Weidenbaum," chairman of
President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers
"The capitalist society is very disorderly. The variance is great and may be on the basis of ability, luck, all sorts of happenstance, external circumstances. That upsets people's sense of order. But this is why someone who I think is concerned to find a system that provides more discretion for the individual will put up with all that disorder and unpredictability of results. It's not just that on the average, in an economic sense, you'll do better in a capitalistic society; it's that you have more opportunities for those adjustments as an individual."
From "Reason Interview: Mark S. Fowler," Federal
Communications Commission chairman
"Why is it that we now single out one form--over-air television--and imbue it with specific social duties when we don't do the same for film, for example? Why is there this national obsession to tamper with this box of transistors and tubes when we don't do the same for Time magazine? Why don't we have a `fairness doctrine' for Time or the Washington Post, when we have one Washington Post in the city and seven television stations?...The television is just another appliance--it's a toaster with pictures...We've got to look beyond the conventional wisdom that we must somehow regulate this box, we must single it out."
From "Reason Interview: Karl Hess," anarchist author and
former Goldwater speechwriter
"The thing is, people now understand that...welfare programs are bullshit. They've had experience with them. But they have not had experience with a huge military operation for a while. And I believe there is a feeling generally that our humiliation in Iran and various other places was simply due to not spending enough money on the problem. You see, perfectly reasonable people who can tell you that you can never solve domestic problems by throwing money at them, like Reagan, are eager to tell you that you can solve international problems by throwing money at them. At any rate, what they're doing is expanding the power of the federal government, which I think is the whole idea anyway--to expand power because they want an orderly society."
Reason: What is the role of the poor and the minorities in the Reagan years?
Karl Hess: To be poor. That's what their job has always been, and until they understand that this is literally a job, I don't think they have any chance of reversing the situation. Poor people stop being poor when they lose habits, when they stop thinking poor and start creating wealth. This doesn't mean becoming rich; it just means producing wealth, working....The concerns of the poor have never been addressed by anyone. The liberals have simply said they were addressing them but kept people poor by putting them on welfare. The Republicans will say, "We're gonna keep you poor, and we won't keep you on welfare." At least that will be the implication. Unfortunately, it won't be the truth. If it were the truth, then we'd have a lot of poor people who would stop being poor.
From "Reason Interview: Irving Kristol," neoconservative
intellectual and founder of The Public Interest
"If you have standards, moral standards, you have to want to make them prevail, and at the very least you have to argue in their favor. Now, show me where libertarians have argued in some comprehensive way for a set of moral standards....I don't think morality can be decided on the private level. I think you need public guidance and public support for a moral consensus. The average person has to know instinctively, without thinking too much about it, how he should raise his children."
From "Reason Interview: George Stigler," Nobel laureate
Reason: What is capitalism's constituency?...Who's in favor of capitalism?
George Stigler: Oddly enough, aside from Chicago professors of economics, not as many as should be. In the long run, of course, workers and consumers are the main beneficiaries--easier jobs, higher incomes, and so forth. That is the main performance of the system. The businessman can make a killing, but it's a small killing compared to society's killing. Henry Ford made a lot of money making cars at one time, but that was a small advantage to him compared to the benefit to millions of people who for the first time in their lives were emancipated from common public carriers and could live where they wanted, move at the hours they wanted, to the places they wanted. Ford collected a billion bucks, but that was peanuts compared to the benefits.
From "Reason Interview: Henry Hazlitt," journalist and author
of Economics in One Lesson
"I'm glad that I'm not going to live for many years now, because I see a very dreadful time. Now that we have discovered the atomic bomb, I can't see how we're going to keep somebody from using it, just out of sheer curiosity."
"You can write limits into a constitution, but the question is, is there any way to ensure the preservation of a limited democracy? Even if you have a good system, if the majority has its way, it's sure to lead to bad policy, because the majority doesn't understand limited government."
From "Reason Interview: Charles Murray," author of
Losing Ground and The Bell
Reason: The most remarkable thing in all this [the reaction to Losing Ground] is that you, to my knowledge, have not been called a racist and you've been taken seriously even by the left.
Charles Murray: I've been very surprised that I have not been called a racist. I expected that, and it has not happened....I think that when change [in welfare policy] comes, it's not going to come as a result of the Reagan administration pushing for it. It's going to come probably because people on the left, with the moral fervor they have brought to almost everything, become attached to what I see as the real problems of the poor.
"There are many whites who pay lip service to programs, pay lip service to values and behaviors and other things in blacks they completely disdain when they appear in whites. We've got to recognize that and ask ourselves, `White people, just what are we up to?'"
"What do we owe the poor? We owe them a chance, we owe them opportunities that they can make good on, with no guarantees, but most of all with no penalties for success."
From "Reason Interview: Clarence Thomas," then chairman of
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and now a Supreme Court
"When I was asked to go to the Department of Education as well as come [to the EEOC], you're dang right I was insulted. What other reason besides the fact that I was black? But then I had to ask myself, if you don't do it, what are you going to say about these issues in the future? If you had an opportunity to get in there and you didn't do it, what standing do you have to complain? As one friend put it to me, `Clarence, put up or shut up.' And I wasn't going to shut up [laughs]. There is no way anybody was going to shut me up."
Reason: What were [black college students in the '60s] rejecting?
Clarence Thomas: We rejected a very stable, disciplined environment. An environment with very strict rules, an environment that put a premium on self-help, an environment that did not preach any kind of reliance on government--there was a feeling that you had an obligation to help other people, but it didn't come from your government.
Reason: Why do you think that this agency [the EEOC] should exist in a free society?
Thomas: Well, in a free society I don't think there would be a need for it to exist. Had we lived up to our Constitution, had we lived up to the principles that we espoused, there would certainly be no need. There would have been no need for manumission, either.
From "No Third Way Out," an interview with Czech Republic
Finance Minister Vaclav Klaus
"We want a market economy without any adjectives. Any compromises with that will only fuzzy up the problems we have. To pursue a so-called Third Way is foolish. We had our experience with this in the 1960s when we looked for a socialism with a human face. It did not work, and we must be explicit that we are not aiming for a more efficient version of a system that has failed. The market is indivisible; it cannot be an instrument in the hands of central planners."
From "The New Mr. Chips," an interview with Cypress
Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers
Reason: The new argument is, "OK, we'll have an industry-led industrial policy. We'll allow the captains of industry to get together and essentially decide how the government money should be allocated." Is that what happened with Sematech [a government-financed consortium of computer-chip manufacturers]?
T.J. Rodgers: Who's the captain of industry? The captain of industry is the guy who's got the best lobbyist in Washington. I'm absolutely sure saving America is the equivalent to saving Intel in [Intel CEO] Andy Grove's mind--and he's a bad guy to pick because he runs a good big company. And I'm quite sure saving America is saving National Semiconductor in [National Semiconductor CEO] Charlie Sporck's mind. It's not at all clear to me that America's better off by using government money to save National Semiconductor.
From "Champion of Choice," an interview with Wisconsin state
Rep. Polly Williams, the legislator behind Milwaukee's school
"White liberals feel guilty about blacks, and they do things to convince themselves they are helping blacks. It's feel-good politics, which is really just helping themselves. Poor people becomes the trophies of white social engineers. We have to be saved from our saviors. They have been feeding us pablum for so long, we are finally tired and demand some real meat. We want self-sufficiency, self-determination, and self-reliance, not a hand-out."
"None of the people who oppose my [voucher] plan lack choice in education themselves. They have no idea what the lack of choice in education means, the damage it does when you have to go to an inferior school that will trap you for life."
From "Capitalist Tool II," an interview with publisher Steve
"Growth is like creativity, it doesn't go along very neat, precise plans. You get clogged highways before you figure out a way to open up capacity. You get pollution before you figure out a way to fight it. With automobiles you get accidents, you get carnage. With anything new you have benefits and costs. But that doesn't mean you should say, `Gee, it's bad.' It's much better to have those problems than the problems of stagnation, where nothing happens."
From "Of Mice and Men," an interview with cancer researcher
"I'm incredibly optimistic because science is growing so fast. There are millions of scientists in the world, and every new rich country needs them and trains them. And everybody's communicating. Life expectancy gets longer every year, and it's going to get even longer, and it's due to modern science and technology. All these romantics are trying to paint science and technology as the thing that's dooming the world--I just don't believe that either. Everything I know says the opposite.
From "The Road from Serfdom," an interview with F.A. Hayek
(conducted in 1978 and published posthumously)
Reason: Are you optimistic about the future of freedom?
F.A. Hayek: Yes. A qualified optimism. I think there is an intellectual reversion on the way, and there is a good chance it may come in time before the movement in the opposite direction becomes irreversible. I am more optimistic than I was 20 years ago, when nearly all the leaders of opinion wanted to move in the socialist direction. This has particularly changed in the younger generation. So, if the change comes in time, there still is hope.
From "Outlaws and Addresses," an interview with economist
Hernando de Soto, author of The Other Path
"If you take a walk through the countryside, from Indonesia to Peru, and you walk by field after field--in each field a different dog is going to bark at you. Even dogs know what private property is all about. The only one who does not know it is the government."
From "Voodoo and Violence," an interview with magician Penn
"My mom, who's never seen a Playboy and doesn't want to...doesn't understand why people should complain about stuff that costs money that they don't want being out there. She says, `If you break into my house and open Screw magazine and staple it to the wall, I'm going to be angry. Until you do that, I have no problems. I don't want it. I also don't want a microwave. And the only danger I have is that you might buy me one for Christmas. But I tell you I don't want one and we're done. I don't want Playboy. I don't want a microwave. Why are these two issues different?'"
From "Mind Alteration," an interview with drug policy critic
"What I most care about is advancing this notion of individual autonomy. When women talk about having control over their own bodies vis-à-vis abortion, they should realize that's one and the same as talking about control over one's own consciousness vis-à-vis drugs. If people want the power to sell their bodies--the same thing. When gays and others talk about sexual privacy, once again it's the same thing. And all these freedoms are not fundamentally different from the freedoms of speech, press, and religion that most Americans now take for granted--but that were once as contentious as the right to control one's body and one's consciousness is now."
From "The New, New World," an interview with author Richard
"We've always assumed that America somehow belonged on this land. Well, maybe you can put America in a suitcase and take it to Hong Kong. Maybe you can take it to Shanghai. And maybe what our Scandinavian ancestors of the 19th century would recognize as America, or as an American city, they would see more clearly in Tijuana now than they would in San Diego."
"Education is not about self-esteem. Education is demeaning. It should be about teaching you what you don't know, what you yet need to know, how much there is yet to do. Part of the process of education is teaching you that you are related to people who are not you, not your parents--that you are related to black runaway slaves and that you are related to suffragettes in the 19th century and that you are related to Puritans. That you are related to some continuous flow of ideas, some linkage, of which you are the beneficiary, the most recent link. The argument for bilingual education, or for teaching black children their own lingo, assumes that education is about self-esteem. My argument is that education is about teaching children to use the language of other people."
From "Life, Liberty, & the ACLU," an interview with
Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties
Reason: What do you make of the argument, for example, that hate-speech codes represent an attempt to balance guarantees of free speech with guarantees of equal protection?
Nadine Strossen: That is the same argument that's made by folks who seek to restrict what they define as "pornography"--that word is always in quotation marks. It's common to say that we have to choose between freedom of speech or equality, that if you really care about equality you can't possibly be devoted to the First Amendment. I absolutely reject that as a philosophical matter and as a practical matter in the hate-speech context. ...I think it's insulting to women, racial minorities--to anybody--to say that we have to choose between freedom of speech and equal opportunity.
From "All I Think Is That It's Stupid," an interview with
humorist Dave Barry
"I don't have any insight or understanding on anything about the government. All I think is that it's stupid--which is the one perspective that's almost completely lacking in Washington."
"I felt ashamed at the time to say I didn't want to go [to Vietnam]. I didn't have any stake in that war. I didn't want to get killed; I didn't know anybody over there that I wanted to go over and kill on behalf of....I was really against that war, but to be a [conscientious objector], you had to believe that there was no circumstance under which you would ever kill anybody. And I can't say I honestly felt like that. I would definitely kill people. I would have liked to have killed my draft board at the time."
From "No Easy Answers," an interview with political scientist
James Q. Wilson
Reason: Is the answer [for increasing government efficiency] to devolve federal government activity to the state and local levels?
James Q. Wilson: I don't think there is much hope for the idea of devolving authority. Once we have sold the idea (which we didn't succeed in selling until 1965) that the federal government is responsible for everything, the idea of state and local control doesn't make political sense....If a radical devolution of powers was possible, it would have been done before.
"Once you emancipate people from strings, once you give them the freedom to prosper, you're going to empower them to do all sorts of things, ranging from the spectacularly good to the heinously bad."
From "Best of Both Worlds," an interview with Milton
"My philosophy is clearly libertarian. However, libertarian is not a self-defining term. There are many varieties of libertarians. There's a zero-government libertarian, an anarchist. There's a limited-government libertarianism. They share a lot in terms of their fundamental values. If you trace them to their ultimate roots, they are different. It doesn't matter in practice, because we both want to work in the same direction."
"As I look around me I'm impressed by the fact that there's increasing attention paid to libertarian ideas. If you look at the picture now, compared with 30 years ago, there's no comparison."
"All battles are perpetual. You go back in the literature of economics, and you'll find the same kind of silly statements 100 years ago, 200 years ago. And you'll find the same sensible statements the other way."
From "Interview with the Vamp," an interview with social
commentator Camille Paglia
"I feel that capitalism has a very bad press with the pseudo-leftists who clog our best college campuses and that in point of fact capitalism has produced modern individualism and feminism. Modern capitalism has allowed the birth of the independent woman who is no longer economically dependent on her husband. I despise the sneering that our liberal humanists do about capitalism even while they enjoy all of its pleasures and conveniences. I just despise it."
"The '50s were a wonderful time if you happened to be a blonde WASP cheerleader. Great! But if you were Jewish or gay or a tomboy, like me, or any kind of dissident, it was a very repressive and conformist period....For my generation, the baby boomers, born just after World War II, the '50s were a horror."
From "Changing Channels," an interview
with C-SPAN's Brian Lamb
"I worked under the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, Arthur Sylvester, who you might remember was quoted early in the Kennedy administration as saying the government had a right to lie....It was my first education into how news was made, and what motivated correspondents and what motivated the government, how government attempted to shade and cover up and lie, and how the media in some cases would be a willing accomplice."
"The biggest change [in media] is the multiplicity of choice. ...85 percent of the American people have a VCR, 15 percent [subscribe to] an on-line service, and radio's been deregulated. So you have this tremendous choice out there of radio stations to listen to. You've got video games. People no longer get up in the morning and say, "What is the Today show doing for me today?" They get up and they really, literally have choice....If you're controlled by the media world, well, then it's your fault and you can't blame the media."
From "On the Frontier," an interview with cyberguru Esther
"Having seen a non-market economy [in Russia], I suddenly understood much better what I liked about a market economy. ...People who produce things and work get rewarded, statistically. You don't get rewarded precisely for your effort, but in Russia you got rewarded for being alive, but not very well rewarded. A worker's paradise is a consumer's hell. People were beaten down. Everybody drank too much. Everything was hostile and dysfunctional. It was a good education about why the U.S. was a better place."
"Change means that what was before wasn't perfect. People want things to be better. They certainly complain all the time about their problems, but at the same time [it's hard] to be told that rules by which they lived, the assumptions on which they based their lives, that these things were wrong--and that's what change implicitly means. When you get a haircut and people say, `Gee, you look really great,' you always wonder, `What did I look like before?'"
From "Contemplating Evil," an interview with author Dean
"Every time a poll comes out that shows the public has so little faith in this politician or that party, there's a hue and cry. But I actually find that hugely healthy. If 70 percent of the public believes nothing the president says--and an even higher number for Congress and the press--that's actually pretty healthy. It means people will think for themselves, and that's the way it should be."
From "Looking for Results," an interview with Nobel laureate
economist Ronald Coase
Reason: You began teaching at the University of Virginia in the late 1950s, and by the early 1960s the administration there was not impressed with the work being done by yourself, Warren Nutter, James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock--four of the most famous and influential economists of the post-war era.
Ronald Coase: They thought the work we were doing was disreputable. They thought of us as right-wing extremists. My wife was at a cocktail party and heard me described as someone to the right of the John Birch Society. There was a great antagonism in the '50s and '60s to anyone who saw any advantage in a market system or in a nonregulated or relatively economically free system.
From "Risky Journalism," an interview with ABC's John
"It was OK to say that regulatory money was being misspent, that less should be spent on Superfund, perhaps, but more must be spent on self-extinguishing cigarettes or fire-proof furniture. [But] to simply say that regulation itself might be damaging to health and the economy was something no respectable journalist should be allowed to do."
From "Hints From Eloise," an interview with Eloise Anderson,
director of the California Department of Social
Reason: You say the goal of welfare should be a minimum wage job. What do you say to defenders of the status quo who say...these are dead-end jobs?
Eloise Anderson: Dead-end jobs. You know, this is a new philosophy. It's a job. If you want to go somewhere else, go somewhere else. We're supposed to be a free people. If that job doesn't take you where you want to go, move to another job. We don't do slavery anymore. So you don't have to stay on that job....Somewhere in the '60s, we started to believe that work was supposed to make us happy. I didn't grow up thinking work was supposed to make us happy. I tell my kids, `If you want to be happy, be happy at home.' Your home life is supposed to make you happy, not work. If you're lucky, you'll find a job that brings together the vocational and avocational.
From "The Peters Principles," an interview with management
guru Tom Peters
Reason: There's a great nostalgia now in political circles for the 1950s.
Tom Peters: I have a term that I use in my seminars. I call it the "false-nostalgia-for-shitty-jobs phenomenon": Oh for the halcyon days when I could sit on the 37th floor of the General Motors Tower passing memorandums from the left side of the desk to the right side of the desk for 43 years. It's just total shit. It really is. Life was not as glorious as imagined.
"I think you would have to be a total idiot not to realize that Alan Greenspan and the head of the Bundesbank are not as powerful as their predecessors were 50 years ago. But the major Hayekian, Braudelian point was that government really never could do shit, and what was fundamental were the transactions in the private sector. That was their point--long before the Internet became a part of our life. So to a large extent things have never been in control."
From "Stand-Up Guy," an interview with comedian Drew
Reason: What do you like so much about Las Vegas?
Drew Carey: Vegas is everything that's right with America. You can do whatever you want, 24 hours a day. They've effectively legalized everything there. You don't have to gamble if you don't want to. There's tons of churches in Vegas, too: You'll see a church right next to a casino. But a lot of people like gambling, so they make money off it. Nobody forces you to put money in a machine and pull the handle. But the fact is they allow it. Nevada's one of the most conservative states in the Union, but you can do what you want and nobody judges you. And they've got great schools in Vegas (laughs).