Imagine if REASON could throw a 20th anniversary party, with all of you readers invited…
Ladies and Gentlemen, it's an honor and a pleasure to be here with you today and to be the one to kick off this celebration.
My life has been so tied up with REASON's for the last 10 years that it can seem self-serving to dwell on what a feat it is for this magazine still to be alive and kicking at 20. But truly, it is quite a feat. I read once that magazines and restaurants compete for the dubious distinction of having the highest failure rate among businesses. (Wouldn't you know it, these are the two enterprises that stand the greatest chance of claiming my affection!)
And that's just regular old magazines. A magazine of ideas is evidently a particularly difficult venture—not one think magazine in this country operates at a profit. And when you consider that we're talking about a magazine of radical individualist rationalist ideas—not exactly the Zeitgeist in our time…well, you can understand the urge to shout from the rooftops, "Look at us! We're 20 and going strong!"
As we know from the letters you occasionally write, some of you have been with REASON from the first years. You can remember first-hand its beginnings as a six-page mimeographed campus publication at MIT, Harvard, and Boston University. It sold for 10 cents and offered an Ayn Rand–inspired, reasoned alternative to the often-violent, often-collectivist student opposition of 1968.
From where we're standing now, REASON's life divides rather neatly into the first decade and the second. In the first 10 years, REASON evolved into the leading forum for discussion of libertarian ideas, mostly by libertarians and for libertarians. Debate raged fast and furious about the implications of taking individual liberty seriously as a principle. As individualist ideas gained a hearing in academic circles that had for years been dominated by New Deal liberal and even socialist premises—Robert Nozick's landmark Anarchy, State, and Utopia was published in 1974—REASON bridged the academic and popular worlds.
It was heady and fun, but the debates are ones that must in a sense be argued anew by each generation. By the late '70s the people at REASON were ready for a new challenge.
By this time, your numbers had grown to 17,000 (from 400 subscribers at the end of 1970, when a partnership took over publication from the magazine's founder). And yet the magazine was still brought out mostly as a labor of love! It wasn't until 1977 that an editorial staff—Bob Poole, at half-time—was actually paid.
In 1978, as REASON began its 10th year, plans were being laid to give the magazine a firmer financial footing and expand its horizons. A nonprofit foundation was set up to publish the magazine. Still committed to reason as the means of exploring and analyzing the world around us, and to liberty as a necessary condition of individuals' pursuit of happiness, the magazine would reach out to a broader audience, taking up the issues of the day from a libertarian editorial perspective.
And so we arrive at 1988, with a product that is remarkably different from its 1968 and 1978 incarnations while firmly attached to its roots. You subscribers now number 35,000 plus, and you are joined by an increasing number of newsstand browsers. What a party! And what a lineup we have for the occasion.
Our idea was to bring you together on this occasion with a wide array of people from "the REASON community"—writers who've contributed over the years, figures we've interviewed, contributing editors, staff members past and present. I won't delay the proceedings at this point with a list of what we have in store for you—you can consult the printed program on page 5. There's a whole lot there, from Vintage Brickbats to closing words from P.J. O'Rourke.
But before I relinquish this platform, I'd like to publicly offer a word of thanks to staff and near-staff who during my 10 years at REASON have poured their energies into the mini-book that is slipped into your mailbox each month—Don, Gloria, Christine, Anna, Nanette, Cathy, Matt, Eric, Jan, Lynn, Paul, Eric (again), David, Laura, Bill, Lucy, Nanette (the other one), Virginia, James. And, of course, Bob. Thanks a whole lot. It's been a helluva lot of hard work—but also a gas.
Thanks also to you readers, who buy it, read it, tell us what you think, and often support us morally and financially.
And now, let's celebrate!
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Let’s Celebrate!".