Reason magazine was started in May 1968 by a visionary college student named Lanny Friedlander, a design genius and Objectivist who would go on to become a major editorial inspiration to Louis Rossetto, founder of a little Bay Area tech magazine called Wired. "Logic, not legends," Friedlander promised in his mimeographed, typo-flecked first issue. "Coherance [sic], not contradictions."
Lanny, who Nick Gillespie has memorably described as "the Syd Barrett of libertarianism," died in 2011 (read the moving obituaries by Gillespie and Robert Poole). Though he had long since left and even lost contact with the magazine (at least until the very end of his life, when we re-connected), his mad and persistent vision, his stubborn refusal to accept that life (and discussions thereof) couldn't be one whole hell of a lot more robust, is an integral part of our DNA. And, I think, yours.
As we close out the last day of our annual Webathon, in which we beg and plead and make asses of ourselves in order to get 800 of you to give us tax-deductable donations for our ongoing journalism experiment, let's take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?
As laid out in the lengthy oral history of Reason compiled for our 40th anniversary issue by Senior Editor and leading historian of the libertarian movement Brian Doherty, Friedlander handed over the reins in the early '70s to Bob Poole (a systems engineer type), Tibor Machan (then working on a philosophy degree), and Manuel S. Klausner (an L.A. attorney). These Three Musketeers gave some needed structure and financial footing for the organization, while putting out a fascinating mag filled with trippy cover art and engaging interviews with the likes of Ronald Reagan (who gave us the memorable if questionably accurate quote "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism").
And oh by the way, these co-founder of the Reason Foundation also coined and popularized the term "privatization," and heavily influenced the necessary, liberating deregulations of the 1970s, especially of airlines. As the British author and historian John Blundell recently wrote,
In the early/mid 1970s Robert W Poole wrote a monograph for the Reason Foundation entitled Cutting Back City Hall. It was packed with great examples of cost savings and productivity increases associated with contracting out. [Back then privatization was the term we used for contracting out and denationalization was the term we used for selling off a state enterprise. Today contracting out is called contracting out and denationalization is called privatization]. I imported say 10 or 12 copies of the Poole study and inter alia gave a copy to a young rising Tory star called Michael Forsyth. He took Poole's arguments and examples and wrote no less than three monographs, two for the Conservative Party and one for the ASI which sold I believe something like 200,000 copies and Pirie's brother Eamonn (!) recently told me it is (30+ years later) still their #1 best seller of all time. And contracting out spread like wild fire.
I don't need to tell you about 1990s Reason Editor Virginia Postrel (aside from "ever since Virginia Postrel left…." DRINK!). But among her many, many gifts to our discourse was Virginia's foundational insight that the more meaningful modern political divide is between stasists and dynamists, between those terrified of the future and the rest of us trying to hasten it along. She has made us all smarter, and was pivotal in raising the journalistic level of the magazine (and introducing me to the distinction between "big L" and "small l" libertarianism way back when….Thanks, Virginia!).
Postrel's replacement, despite his significant racial handicap, has turned out all right. His pathbreaking "Culture Boom" cover story in 1999 still explains more about the world we live in than 99 percent of cultural commentary, and carries not a small amount of that ol' Friedlander DNA. Also, did you hear he co-wrote a book last year?
Want 45 more years of this? Please give a tax-deductible donation to the 501(c)3 nonprofit that makes all this and more possible. We are so damned close to our goal of 800 donors. Put us over the top! Make a statist cry! Kiss the lobster….