For reason’s 40th anniversary, I interviewed over a dozen key characters in the rise and evolution of the magazine (“40 Years of Free Minds and Free Markets: An Oral History of reason”). reason began in 1968 as a mimeographed publication, launched by Boston University student Lanny Friedlander. By 2008, the magazine was the linchpin of “a bicoastal foundation that advances liberty through public policy research and journalism available across a rich variety of platforms.”
In the past five years, those newer platforms have grown. Reason TV, our video site, was not even a year old when that oral history was published. Our producers have now generated more than 2,000 videos seen over 30 million times. Meanwhile, reason.com has more than tripled its average monthly visitors in the past half-decade, with the total now topping 3 million a month. We’ve also seen over 75,000 downloads of apps allowing people to read reason content on their handheld digital devices.
There has been some good news for reason’s political agenda as well as our ability to spread the message. Recreational marijuana is now legal under limited circumstances in two states, and gay marriage is legal in 11. Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 McDonald v. Chicago decision, states and localities have been required to honor an individual right to own weapons for self-defense in the home.
Ron Paul’s two presidential campaigns brought a bracingly libertarian message about civil liberties, fiscal and monetary policy, and peace to the Republican Party, with the longtime libertarian congressman winning 2 million primary votes in 2012. Private space travel has progressed, with the first private launch to the International Space Station via SpaceX in 2013. Attempts to hogtie Internet freedom, from the Stop Online Piracy Act to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, have failed to become law. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision knocked down legal barriers to political expression, and new communications technologies have knocked down still more.
Government spending and debt remain out of control, undeclared wars are still waged, and reason’s mission of changing minds remains vital. Yet what I wrote in 2008 is even truer five years later: “The culture is wider and wilder, and more people than ever recognize that top-down planning by force isn’t the best way to run the world.”