35 Years of reason

A history in excerpts


May 1968

INTRODUCING REASON: We accept the responsibility that others have defaulted on. Others preferred to smear the issues with irrelevancies and falsifications. We don't. Others preferred to be incomprehensible and incoherant [sic.]. We don't. Others preferred to ignore your mind. We won't.

When REASON speaks of poverty, racism, the draft, the war, student power, politics, and other vital issues, it shall be reasons, not slogans, it gives for conclusions. Proof, not belligerent assertion. Logic, not legends, Coherance [sic.], not contradictions. This is our promise; this is the reason for REASON.

— from reason's first issue

September 1969

A private business whose sales volume had increased 15-20% annually for seven years (and showed many signs of continuing to do so) would probably view its future with eager anticipation. In the government-controlled, privately "owned" cartel known as commercial aviation, however, the expected growth in air travel is viewed…in horror.

— "Fly the Frenzied Skies," Robert Poole Jr.

January 1970

We are trapped in the middle of a street war between two breeds of pigs, the police and the New Left.

–—"Animal Farm 1970," Lanny Friedlander

April/May 1971

The natural tendency of a bureaucracy is to defend and perpetuate itself, to resist all fundamental change. A business which does this eventually goes bankrupt…unless…it can get the State to protect it from competition through a legally enforced monopoly. This, of course, is precisely what the public school system is all about.

— "The Case for Education Vouchers," Robert Poole Jr.

October 1971

President Nixon's executive order providing for stabilization of price, rents and wages is an act of supreme defiance against the free market and the freedom of Americans.

— "The Wage-Price Freeze: Bold Action Against Free Enterprise," Manuel S. Klausner

August 1972

It is quite possible that the advances in human biology in the remainder of the twentieth century will be remembered as the most significant scientific achievement of the animal species known as Homo sapiens. But in order to become a part of medical history, parahuman reproduction and human genetic engineering must circumvent the recalcitrance of an antiquated culture. If they succeed, the rewards will be immeasurable.

— "The New Biology," Winston L. Duke

June 1973

A very important secondary objective—second only to the objective of getting a change in our Vietnam policy—was the hope of changing the tolerance of Executive secrecy that had grown up over the last quarter of a century both in Congress and the courts and in the public at large. It seemed to me that our Vietnam policy reflected an accumulation of Executive power, which in turn had exploited very critically this tolerance of Executive secrecy.

— "Why I Did It!," an interview with Daniel Ellsberg

July 1974

The Watergate scandal has spawned numerous proposals for limitations on private campaign contributions and total campaign spending, as well as plans to finance campaigns out of tax revenues. All of these proposals would deny fundamental rights of individuals, increase the politicians' control of elections and do nothing to eliminate the root causes of Watergate.

— "The Libertarian Case Against 'Public' Financing of Elections," Sara Baase

October 1974

If someone who has more authority or power than you do wants to pin a nasty label on you, and wants to justify this by what drug you take….There is no use telling him that it's none of his business what drug you take: he will…say that you are a menace to civilized society. What you must tell a person who wants to stigmatize you because of the drug you take is not that the drug is harmless but that he is harmful.

— "Straight Talk From Thomas Szasz: A Reason

July 1975

REASON: Let me ask you do you believe in conscription?

Ronald Reagan: Only in time of war.

REASON: What about in 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.

— "Inside Ronald Reagan: A Reason Interview"

October 1975

For six years I refused publicly to pay my taxes in England. I became in my area of business, which is publishing, the biggest single earner of foreign currency from Britain. I structured my company in such a fashion as I did not have to pay the taxes that they would normally require of me. And I gave my reasons. I said you did everything possible to stop me, and a great deal of other things happened in England to show that I was not acceptable to Britain—not being an old public school boy in the British system, not being British, being American, being Italian-American and all that sort of thing—so I said, "Well, fuck you. You know I've worked for this money and it's mine."

— "Fighting Censorship for Profit: An Interview with Bob Guccione"

April 1977

I spent four years in 29 jails and prisons on four continents—all this for being in a car where someone else had, without my knowledge, less than half an ounce of marijuana. I wouldn't say my treatment was cruel, but I would say [it was] very unusual.

— "Timothy Leary's New Trip: A Reason Interview"

May 1978

The two greatest enemies of free enterprise in the United States, in my opinion, have been, on the one hand, my fellow intellectuals and, on the other hand, the business corporations of this country. They are enemies for opposite reasons.

— "Which Way for Capitalism?," Milton Friedman

Don't expect anything of her as a person. Don't expect help. Don't expect understanding. Don't expect sympathy. Don't even expect sanity. Say, "Thank you," and let go.

— "Thank You Ayn Rand, and Goodbye: Remarks by Nathaniel Branden at Reason's Tenth-Anniversary Banquet"

November 1978

America is in controlled revolt. Cued by the media, the people are focusing their rebellion on a single target: taxes. And into this rebellion is going all the frustration of years of living with government that seems more like an uncontrollable cancerous growth than like a public servant.

— "Seizing the Day," Derek Brownlee

August 1979

The nature of the computer's information revolution is the exact opposite of that of the steam engine's Industrial Revolution. The steam engine made start-up costs for the individual entrepreneur larger and larger, so that today "there is no way an ordinary citizen could walk into a modern complex factory and use its facilities to construct something useful for himself." But the data banks of tomorrow are going to be places into which every part-time enthusiast can telecommute. In all jobs connected with the use of information, start-up costs for the individual entrepreneur are going to grow smaller and smaller and smaller.

— "Shrinking Government," Norman Macrae

April 1980

A look at the record of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms leads to the inescapable conclusion that it is making an art out of…entrapment of innocent and law-abiding citizens….It is clear that the Bureau has purposely created and perpetuated ambiguities, allowing for citizens to be misled into violations of the law. And that's where entrapment, of both licensed dealers and private citizens, enters the picture.

— "American Gestapo," John D. Lewis Jr.

July 1980

Turner's 24-hour, all-news network was set to begin service on June 1. The Cable News Network (CNN) will provide detailed analytical coverage of breaking news and important issues to an initial audience that could be four million subscribers. The "big three" networks all publicly scoff at the hint of any real threat to their control of the market. But if past performance is any indication of Turner's entrepreneurial expertise, they may be whistling in the dark.

— "Cable News Upstart," Patrick Cox

February 1981

If you believe that the guilty party in the Love Canal tragedy is the Hooker Chemicals & Plastics Corporation, which the Justice Department is suing, rather than the Niagara Falls Board of Education, which bought the dump from Hooker in 1953; or if you believe that Michael Brown's famous book that has become the popular authority on the whole mess, Laying Waste: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals, sets out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Love Canal, then you've been snookered.

— "Love Canal: The Truth Seeps Out," Eric Zuesse

June 1981

There is no "Reagan New Deal," and nothing either historic or revolutionary is going on….There are no budget cuts; there is no tax cut. The government deficit continues to be huge; the disastrous inflationary monetary policy continues in place.

— "The Reagan Fraud," Murray N. Rothbard

September 1984

In trying to subdue Afghanistan, the Soviets may well be playing a game of Russian roulette. Almost 20 years ago, Louis Dupres predicted, "If you want to kill the Soviet Union, get it to try to eat Afghanistan." After going inside the country twice with the mujaheddin, and personally witnessing the spirit and courage of the Afghan people, I think there is a chance he may be proven right.

— "Fighting the Soviet Imperialists," Jack Wheeler

October 1985

Passage of the Indianapolis anti-pornography ordinance is the culmination of a trend toward repression that has been mounting for more than a decade. It also symbolizes the power of a surprising new tactical alliance between left-wing feminists and political conservatives on censorship issues. Those two disparate factions might disagree on everything else, but they are linked by a determination to eliminate the circulation of values they consider anti-social.

— "Porn Busters," Ted Galen Carpenter

November 1986

An energetic new prime minister, Jacques Chirac—known as "the Bulldozer" for his determined style when mayor of Paris—has taken office on a platform that includes privatization, tax cuts, deregulation, and other sweeping assaults on the traditional practice of dirigisme, or state-directed development.

— "The French Revolution of 1986," Mark Frazier

June 1987

Hardly anyone today anywhere in the world will say that the way to get efficient production is through nationalized enterprises or that the way to solve every social problem is to have government throw more money at it. In that area we have won the battle.

— "Where Are We on the Road to Liberty?," Milton

November 1987

Why do you need a Department of Labor, why do you need a Department of Agriculture, why do you need a Department of Commerce? You can go down the whole list—you don't need any of them, really.

— "Interview with Clarence Thomas"

May 1988

What a difference 20 years makes, even in the everyday accoutrements of life. In 1968 you could still get in trouble for hooking up a "foreign attachment"—like an answering machine or a designer extension—to your phone line….To travel long distance, you could choose between two (or sometimes three) airlines. You asked your travel agent what the price was—not what discount fares were available but simply the price, the one set by the government. The roundtrip coach fare from New York to Los Angeles was $948 in today's dollars.

Numerous personal freedoms that we take for granted were very tenuous in 1968. Unmarried couples staying in hotels had to pretend they were married—sex between consenting adults was still illegal in numerous states.

— "Things Are a Lot Groovier Now," Robert W. Poole Jr.

November 1989

The [Agricultural] Department's budget was $51 billion last year—more than the total net income of American farmers.

— "Bitter Harvest," Karl Zinsmeister

January 1990

These are exhilarating times. History seems to be moving in the direction of liberty. But there are no historical inevitabilities. If we abandon our principles, fail to set firm goals, or place excessive faith in the goodwill and permanence of Mikhail Gorbachev, we cannot hope to see freedom prevail.

— "Gorbomania: The Sequel," Virginia I. Postrel

April 1990

"We are free, Aliosha. The nightmare is over," says Lidyia's faint voice at the other end of the line. After a few moments of silence, during which I hear sobbing, she adds, "I didn't think I would see it during my lifetime."

— "Aid From the Heart," Alex Kozinski

Beneath the rhetoric of survival, behind the Sierra Club calendars, beyond the movie-star appeals, lies a full-fledged ideology—an ideology every bit as powerful as Marxism and every bit as dangerous to individual freedom and human happiness. Like Marxism, it appeals to seemingly noble instincts: the longing for beauty, for harmony, for peace. It is the green road to serfdom.

— "The Green Road to Serfdom," Virginia I. Postrel

June 1990

The message is the same for whatever group. 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.

— "No Third Way Out: Creating a Capitalist Czechoslovakia," an interview with Vaclav Klaus

January 1991

In the future, the Net—the combination of all the computer networks—will be the primary means of information transmission, with print publication merely its adjunct. The Net will replace the press, and users of the Net must enjoy precisely the freedoms enjoyed by the press. If users of the Net have to worry about police surveillance, if censorship is rife, if the state forbids mere discussion of certain topics—then the liberty for which the Founders fought will have been destroyed, not by war or tyranny, but by mere technological change.

— "Closing the Net," Greg Costikyan

November 1991

These new Jacobins are powered by a genuine faith that they are working for an undeniable good—creating and sustaining true equality on campus by eradicating speech that makes minorities, women, and gays feel unwanted. Convinced that they are occupying the moral high ground, they see their opponents as using free speech as a cover for their own racism, sexism, or disgraceful indifference.

— "The New Jacobins," Nat Hentoff

May 1993

Critics of the BATF operation have cited various tactical errors. But the root of the fiasco was strategic: the premise that controlling certain weapons is the key to preventing bloodshed. In this case, the truth was just the opposite. The Waco tragedy has predictably elicited calls for stricter gun control, especially bans on so-called assault weapons. Instead, it should prompt policy makers to reconsider the mindless hunt for evil guns.

— "Waco's Wake," Jacob Sullum

Today, it seems, nearly everyone is speaking the language of free markets and free minds….People, even leftish Democrats, have put away a lot of the old statist rhetoric, taught themselves to speak the language of freedom, and are experimenting with the methods of freedom. It was a Democrat named Jimmy Carter, let us not forget, who was the deregulation president, and quite possibly his cousin from Little Rock will rack up an equally awesome pro-market achievement in one policy arena or another.

— "Do-Good Libertarianism," Paul H. Weaver

February 1994

Such raids and ransackings are standard procedure in most large cities and, except in the most outrageous cases, they receive the approval of courts. Police can get search warrants on the flimsiest of suspicion—even the word of an anonymous informant. In many cases, though, the police don't even bother to get a warrant, since they are virtually unfettered by the risk of successful suits or other sanctions, especially if they confine their warrantless invasions to poor
members of minority groups.

— "Casualties of War: Drug prohibition has shot gaping holes in the Bill of Rights," Steven B. Duke and Albert C. Gross

November 1994

Today's unfolding immigration debate amounts to an attempt to snatch economic defeat from the jaws of victory. California's Prop. 187 is an early round in that debate, and it represents a referendum on the concept of immigration. If it wins, America loses.

— "Sinking Our State," Ron K. Unz

December 1994

[Visiting D.C. is] like going to Mars. When you come back out no one is talking about any of the things the people in Washington are talking about….It gives me a real advantage as a humorist because I get credit for having insight and understanding—and I don't. 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.

— "'All I Think Is That It's Stupid': Dave Barry on laughing at Very Big Government."

June 1995

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.

— "Best of Both Worlds: An interview with Milton

January 1996

In the past, public health officials could argue that they were protecting people from external threats: carriers of contagious diseases, fumes from the local glue factory, contaminated water, food poisoning, dangerous quack remedies. By contrast, the new enemies of public health come from within; the aim is to protect people from themselves rather than each other….Of all the risk factors for disease and injury, freedom may be the most important.

— "What the Doctor Orders," Jacob Sullum

August/September 1996

Killing a program is not the same as killing a lobby. After a decent interval and a switch on Capitol Hill from old-style Democrats to new-fangled Republicans, the wool people stuck their head up again, and last April their persistence paid off. Thanks to Sen. Larry Craig—a Republican from Idaho and supposedly a conservative—Newt Gingrich's Congress tossed the wool lobby a new National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, empowered with up to $50 million in federal funds to "enhance production and marketing of sheep or goat products in the United States."

— "Eternal Life," Jonathan Rauch

February 1998

Racial preferences are dead. All that is required now is to give them a decent and honorable burial.

— "'Racial Preferences Are Dead,'" an interview with Ward Connerly

April 1999

During the past few decades, we have been exper-iencing what can aptly be called a "culture boom": a massive and prolonged increase in art, music, literature, video, and other forms of creative expression….In an increasingly wealthy and educated society where the overwhelming majority of people have concerns about food, clothing, and shelter pretty well covered, culture takes on more and more mean-ing as the medium through which we articulate our identities, dreams, fears, aspirations, and values. Little wonder, then, that stories about the "culture wars"
have been burning up the pages of newspapers, magazines, and intellectual journals for the past few years: There's so much more to fight about these days.

— "All Culture, All the Time," Nick Gillespie

November 1999

The most potent challenge to markets today, and to liberal ideals more generally, is not about fairness. It is about stability and control—not as choice in our lives as individuals, but as a policy for society as a whole. It is the argument that markets are disruptive and chaotic, that they make the future unpredictable, and that they serve too many diverse values rather than "one best way." The most important challenge to markets today is not the ideology of socialism but the ideology of stasis, the notion that the good society is one of stability, predictability, and control.

— "After Socialism," Virginia Postrel

December 1999

The biomedical revolution of the next century promises to alter our culture, our politics, and our lives. It promises to extend our life span and to enhance our mental and physical capacities. The closer those promises come to reality, however, the more they incite opposition and, in some cases, horror. And they are becoming more real by the day.

— "Petri Dish Politics," Ronald Bailey

March 2000

Rather than promoting enterprise and speech, copyrights and trademarks often restrain them, turning intellectual property law into…"protectionism for the culture industry."

— "Copy Catfight," Jesse Walker

April 2000

The lesson of the Clinton [scandals] is that Nixon should have bombed somebody [during Watergate]….It would have bought him some time. Military actions have such a powerful dynamic of their own that they can overwhelm their political context.

— "Secrets of the Clinton Spectacle," Charles Paul Freund

October 2000

When you look into the eyes of the appropriators, I don't see a lot of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. When it comes to pork barrel spending, I don't see a big difference here on Capitol Hill.

— "Another Kind of Salmon," interview with former Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.)

Ostensibly pro-market conservatives are among the last ones to sell capitalism for what it is: a realm of groovy freedom filled with a dizzying and ever-expanding panoply of strange and wonderful and disturbing lifestyles and identities in which even the lousiest jobs can buy enormous amounts of leisure and the coolest movies, music, video games, and whatever else you want.

Both the right and the left are fully invested in a Puritan-work-ethic version of capitalism, no matter how at odds with reality such an approach is.

— "Rage On," Brian Doherty

December 2000

We participate less in politics for the same reason we stopped going to drive-in movies the way we used to, getting married as teenagers, making dinner at home, and, for men at least, wearing blue suits with white shirts and red ties: not because we can't, but because we don't want to. Our flesh is not weak when it comes to voting; it's just not willing.

The center of gravity in American life has shifted away from partisan politics and into other areas of activity in which individuals (and groups of individuals) have far greater hopes for gaining satisfaction. The big story in American life over the past few decades is not the decline in voter participation but the ever-increasing proliferation of options, of choices, and of identities in everyday life.

— "The AWOL Electorate," Nick Gillespie

January 2001

As one tracks the war against green biotech, it becomes ever clearer that its leaders are not primarily concerned about safety. What they really hate is capitalism and globalization.

— "Dr. Strangelunch," Ronald Bailey

May 2001

[Third World governments] are cracking down on theft of water and electricity, and trying to enforce patents and copyrights. They have arrested, jailed, and executed gangsters and drug traffickers. They have tightened security measures to control the influence of extreme political sects among the uprooted multitudes.

What they have not done is craft a formal legal system that recognizes those multitudes' property rights and lets them create capital. In other words, they have not learned the lessons of U.S. history. Until they do, they'll remain citadels of dead capital.

— "Citadels of Dead Capital," Hernando de Soto

July 2001

The idea of a world united around a culture of liberty is not a utopia but a beautiful and achievable reality that justifies our efforts. As Karl Popper, one of our greatest teachers, said, "Optimism is a duty. The future is open. It is not predetermined. No one can predict it, except by chance. We all contribute to determining it by what we do. We are all equally responsible for its success."

— "Global Village or Global Pillage?," Mario Vargas Llosa

December 2001

In his September 20 address, Bush posed the rhetorical question, Why do the terrorists hate us? His answer, to be sure, was simplistic, but also carried a fair measure of truth: "They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other." In short, they hate our freedom to chart our own individual courses in life. One only hopes that insight doesn't become a casualty in the War on Terrorism.

— "The New Cold War," Nick Gillespie

March 2002

The first breath of cultural freedom that Afghans had enjoyed since 1995 was suffused with the stuff of commercially generated popular culture. The people seemed delighted to be able to look like they wanted to, listen to what they wanted to, watch what they wanted to, and generally enjoy themselves again. Who could complain about Afghans' filling their lives with pleasure after being coerced for years to adhere to a harshly enforced ascetic code?

The West's liberal, anti-materialist critics, that's who.

— "In Praise of Vulgarity," Charles Paul Freund

June 2002

The real danger we face today is not that new biological technologies will occasionally cause injury but that opponents will use vague, abstract threats to… delay the medical advances growing out of today's basic research. If, out of concern over cloning, the U.S. Congress succeeds in criminalizing embryonic stem cell research that might bring treatments for Alzheimer's disease or diabetes…there would be real victims: present and future sufferers from those diseases.

— "The Clone Wars: A Reason Online Debate," Gregory Stock

August/September 2002

Compared to previous generations, today's Americans are starting work later in life, spending less time on chores at home, and living longer after retirement. All told, 70 percent of a typical American's waking lifetime hours are available for leisure, up from 55 percent in 1950.

— "Off the Books," W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm

October 2002

The open-ended nature of the struggle against it means that the war on terrorism, unlike conventional wars, cannot be viewed as a passing emergency.

That fact has important implications for the debate about how much liberty we should give up so the government can fight terrorism more effectively. Since there's no way of knowing when the war is over—no territory to occupy, no surrender to accept—any sacrifices we make are likely to be permanent.

— "The Forever War," Jacob Sullum

December 2002

Wealthier is healthier for both people and the envir-onment. As societies become richer and more technologically adept, their air and water become cleaner, they set aside more land for nature, their forests expand, they use less land for agriculture, and more people cherish wild species. All indications suggest that the 21st century will be the century of ecological restoration, as humanity uses physical resources ever more efficiently, disturbing the natural world less and less.

— "Wilting Greens," Ronald Bailey

If you regard the United States as 280 million not-very-savvy people who receive their information primarily from the 11 p.m. Action News broadcast, Crossfire, or talk radio, then you might be depressed.

But the glass is not merely half empty. In 1980 there was essentially no desktop publishing. By 2000, a single newsletter-publishing company…was pulling down $100 million in annual revenue. In July 1992 the World Wide Web was in its demo stage. By July 2002, a single Web publishing company…could report that new sites were being created using…"Blogger" technology at a rate of 1.5 per minute….Some cautious optimists might suggest, gently, that the public is better served now that it need not get its news exclusively from Walter Cronkite and the locally dominant daily.

— "Woe is Media," Matt Welch

July 2003

The deepest utopian appeal of The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter is not to an adolescent yearning for a world inhabited by wizards, hobbits, and Jedi knights, but to a modern consciousness torn by mutually contradictory desires….We wish at once to be free and to be a god to others. We would return to an idyllic past and progress forward to an unbounded future. The truly magical power of these films and stories is that they allow us…to believe that as modern individuals we can be both at home in the world and at one with ourselves.

— "Back to the Future," Michael Valdez Moses