Our Favorite—and Least Favorite—Things in 2012 (Non-Politics Edition)

Forget politics for a minute. Here's what Reason staffers liked - and hated - in the past year.


Although Reason magazine, Reason.com, and Reason TV cover politics, it's a given that libertarians intensely dislike politics as a matter of principle. Politics is usually a zero-sum game in which 51 percent of voters get to sock it to the other 49 percent. Legislative battles tend to produce gloating winners, sore losers, bad feelings, and worse.

When you get outside of politics, though, a thousand flowers can bloom as people go their merry ways and work to create worlds of meaning for themselves and whoever shares their values, interests, and company. That's why libertarians want to squeeze politics—and the need for unified consensus and its enforcement—down to its smallest size possible.

Think about it this way: When religion is the province of politics, it's an ongoing source of social strife, as people are forced to worship in ways they dislike—or are kept from worshipping (or not) however they see fit. When religion is removed from the political realm, it flourishes as a voluntary activity filled with everything from atheists to Zoroastrians in the mix. There are still arguments, of course, but there is also a hell of a lot of peace, tolerance, and experimentation.

Across Reason's various platforms, we try to balance the need to keep an eye on the sorts of coercive, top-down controls constantly being foisted on us with a celebration of the interesting, fun, and meaningful things people are doing far beyond the tawdry setting of Congress, state capitols, and city halls.

Here are some of Reason.com staffers' favorite and least favorite things from 2012 that have little or nothing to do with politics. – Nick Gillespie

Ronald Bailey

Least Favorite Thing: The Duchess of Cambridge, a.k.a. Kate Middleton, is going to have a baby next year. The airwaves and newsstands will be clotted.

Favorite Thing: From 1970 to 2010, global male life expectancy at birth increased from 56·4 years to 67·5 years and global female life expectancy at birth increased from 61·2 years to 73·3 years. Deaths among children younger than 5 years old have declined by almost 60 percent since 1970. Malnutrition fell from the leading cause of premature death to number eight.

Bailey is Reason's science correspondent.

Shikha Dalmia

Least Favorite Thing: Joshua Ledet, one of the best modern gospel singers, being eliminated in the penultimate round of American Idol. As if that was not bad enough, a constipated (if likeable) white boy, Philip Phillips, went on to win. It betrayed my faith in a just cosmos.

Favorite Thing: Watching Daniel Day Lewis—the best actor, living or dead—use his gaunt sexiness to give a tour de force performance in Lincoln. He looked like he was born to play the role—except that he looks like that in every role. But his portrayal of Lincoln grappling with the moral dilemma of making mincemeat out of the U.S. constitution for the sake of a just cause was fricking brilliant.

Dalmia is a senior analyst at Reason Foundation.

Brian Doherty

Least Favorite Thing: Yelp commenters. I'm a confirmed cornucopian and ultimately believe more is always better in the world of choices and information, but damn Yelp (the review site for everything) brings out negative nancies that make those without preternatural self-confidence in their own judgment scared to stay in any hotel, eat in any restaurant, or shop in any store without fear that just maybe they'll have the unmitigated most horrifying experience of their lives.

Favorite Thing: While music-listening service Spotify launched in the U.S. in July 2011, I didn't catch on until this year. Spotify gives you dire powers best not used by mortals (for instance, the ability to listen to all of Kansas's post-'70s LPs) its ease of use and breadth of access makes even this vinyl junkie wonder why he's still got over 3,000 black circles in cardboard sleeves around the house. And yes, it even pays writers and labels, though not in amounts that please them.

Matthew Feeney

Least Favorite Thing: The Olympics. What was supposed to be an exhibition of athletic excellence was little more than an embarrassing PR spectacle. Ethical concerns aside, at least doping would have made events such as handball and water polo worth watching.

Favorite Thing: Felix Baumgartner's free-fall. The Austrian daredevil jumped from a record-breaking 24 miles above the Earth's surface, and became the first human to break the sound barrier without the assistance of a vehicle on his way down. The feat was streamed live on YouTube and watched by more than 8 million people. It was one of the very few genuine awe-inspiring "wow" moments of 2012.

Feeney is assistant editor at Reason 24/7 news.

Nick Gillespie

Least Favorite Thing: Arnold Schwarzenegger's autobiography, Total Recall. There was a brief, shining moment when it looked like the Austrian Oak would transform California the way he had transformed bodybuilding and helped to create a new type of cinematic action hero. But this memoir, erroneously subtitled My Unbelievably True Life Story, boasts one of the least reliable and self-deceiving narrators since Ford Maddox Ford's The Good Soldier. Forget his hugely disappointing governorship (and his inability to explain why everything that could go wrong did -and times 1000). There's no insight here about life, love, or, truth be told, even lifting.

Favorite Thing: Ohio State football's unbeaten season while on NCAA probation. The Buckeyes were put on probation for minor infractions and banned from post-season play by an organization that is aribitrary at best and capricious at worst. They responded with the team's 10th unbeaten season, a poke in the eye to a horrible system that exploits the very players who make it so much fun to watch.

Gillespie is editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason TV and co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents, now out in paperback.

Ed Krayewski

Least Favorite Thing: Fox Business canceling Freedom Watch, and not just because I worked there. Freedom Watch was one of the most libertarian shows ever on television, with Judge Andrew Napolitano providing the kind of analysis and guests rarely found elsewhere on the dial. Though it's no longer on the air, I like to think it's influenced the rest of Fox Business, and even other networks, to pay more mind to the libertarian point of view.

Favorite Thing: Johan Santana pitching the New York Mets' first franchise no-hitter; it took more than 8,000 games, but it finally happened. And against the St. Louis Cardinals and with Carlos Beltran's first return to Queens to boot.

Krayewski is an associate editor at Reason 24/7 news.

Katherine Mangu-Ward

Least Favorite Thing: Comcast, which is my Internet provider at home and at work. It is the bane of my existence. I pay them money to connect my computer to the Series of Tubes. And they do—sometimes. Comcast routinely wins "worst company of the year" awards, including the coveted Golden Poo from Consumerist a couple years back and a massive takedown in Wired in 2009

Favorite Thing: The Uber app. It's 5 a.m. You have to get the airport. It's cold. No cabs in sight. Open the Uber app on your phone. Two clicks. Five minutes later, your driver texts that his black cab is outside. Electronic payment happens invisibly. I love living in the future.

Mangu-Ward is managing editor of Reason magazine.

Damon Root

Least Favorite Thing: The human canvasses on Ink Master. Spike TV's Ink Master features a group of tattoo artists competing against each other for a $100,000 prize and bragging rights in the skin-and-ink trade. It's like Top Chef, except on this reality TV show you can't throw every disgusting entry down the garbage disposal. What kind of person voluntarily assumes the risk of wearing a losing tattoo for life? 

Favorite Thing: "Devil's Angels" by Danzig. Before starting the metal band Danzig, vocalist Glenn Danzig was the driving force behind The Misfits, a legendary New Jersey punk band that sang about zombies, ghouls, and teenagers from Mars. This new cover version of the 1967 biker movie theme song is a welcome throwback to his Misfits-era sound.

Root is managing editor of Reason.com.

Scott Shackford

Least Favorite Thing: Internet Memes.They were fun for a couple of years, with new ones popping up now and then for a good laugh. But as social media has expanded everybody is trying to make everything into a meme. Facebook walls are inundated with "One does not simply…" and "I don't always…" posts, and they're particularly unfunny when they're political.

Favorite Thing: The film Wreck-It Ralph. Gaming long ago transformed from a hobby for a particular American subculture to an entertainment option of interest to millions and shared between generations. Wreck-It Ralph was marvelously crafted with the idea of appealing across multiple generations and on the assumption that most Americans are familiar with the language and tropes that make up the culture of video games.

Shackford is an associate editor at Reason 24/7 news.

Peter Suderman

Least Favorite Thing: Apple's iOS6 Maps App, a near-total failure from a company that has made precious few missteps in recent years, and a warning sign that without founder Steve Jobs, the company may be on its way to lesser things. Thankfully, Google stepped into the breach with a far better maps app of its own. 

Favorite Thing: The video game Dishonored, a surprisingly clever, stealth-action game that allows—and even subtly encourages non-violence. You play an assassin in a steampunk Victorian city filled with gears and magic. But if you look around, there's always an option to avoid killing anyone, including your target. Playing this way is harder. It's also more rewarding.

Suderman is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

Jacob Sullum

Least favorite thing: Season 1 of Elementary. I really wanted to like this new CBS show but was defeated by two things: 1) the basic premise of super-detective Sherlock Holmes as a conspicuously tattooed recovering addict and Dr. Watson as his "sober sitter" sidekick and 2) Lucy Liu as a nosy, nagging Watson. Jonny Lee Miller is good as Holmes, but Liu is more annoying in this role than in anything else I've ever seen her in (possibly because there's a new installment every week). The British update of the Holmes stories, Sherlock, is vastly superior (and no, not just because it's British).

Favorite thing: Season 3 of The Walking Dead. Still one of the week's TV highlights, the AMC zombie drama is consistently engaging, suspenseful, and surprising. 

Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

J.D. Tuccille

Least Favorite Thing: Gangnam Style. It's not that it's so horrible in and of itself; it's just catchy enough to get inside your head, and your friends' heads, and the heads of people who ought not ever consider dancing like a horse, and completely permeate the world. It's like the Macarena, but now its various iterations can be spread on Facebook.

Favorite Thing: DIY e-book publishing. This started a few years ago, but it took off this year as publishing programs such as Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble's PubIt, Lulu, Smashwords and other outfits allowed indie authors to bring new books to readers at competitive prices (averaging around $2.99) while old-line publishing houses continued to offer books in electronic form priced as if each copy was individually hand-crafted by monks. At indie e-book prices you can afford to take a risk, and readers and writers alike win.

Tuccille is the managing editor of Reason 24/7 News.

Matt Welch

Least Favorite Thing: Brooklyn Department of Motor Vehicles. Yes, it's cliche for a libertarian to complain about the DMV. But what if I told you that every employee I met inside Brooklyn's notorious Atlantic Terminal DMV was perfectly nice and outwardly competent, that neither of my two basic procedures met any unexpected delay, and yet still the process took an unbelievable—and utterly predicted – five hours? No wonder Mayor Michael Bloomberg would rather talk about soda-cup sizes and national gun bans: He sucks at basic services.

Favorite Thing: Peter Joseph Osterhaus memorial in Koblenz, Germany. My great-great-great grandfather, Peter Joseph Osterhaus, was a German 1848er who fled revolutionary Mannheim, made his way to the United States with his young family, volunteered for the army of the North (one of 200,000 or so Germans to do so), and eventually became a major general. My mom, a retired nurse, wrote a biography of him that came out in 2010. In large part because of that, the American and German descendants of Osterhaus united this year (along with military representatives from both countries) to erect a proper memorial near his mudslide-damaged grave in Koblenz, Germany. Nothing better than 21st-century technology reuniting a family divided in the 19th, and reminding citizens of both countries about the primacy of democratic principles.

Welch is the editor in chief of Reason magazine and the co-author with Nick Gillespie of The Declaration of Independents, out in paperback.