Tibor Machan, a Founding Editor of Reason, RIP

Refugee from communism, academic philosopher, Objectivist, popular columnist brought precision and clarity to Reason's early years.


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I'm sad to write that Tibor R. Machan, who along with Robert W. "Bob" Poole and Manny Klausner was one of the people who sustained and grew Reason magazine into the premier libertarian voice in public debates over politics, culture, and ideas, has died at the age of 77.

We at Reason express our deepest condolences to his family and friends, and our gratitude to the world for having benefited from knowing and working with him.

Reason magazine was started by Lanny Friedlander (1947-2011) in Boston in 1968 as a publication dedicated to providing a libertarian alternative to the fractious and often-violent left-right political discourse of the late 1960s. Unable to produce the magazine on a regular basis, Friedlander sold it to Bob, Manny, and Tibor, who moved the production to Santa Barbara, California, where Bob worked in the aerospace industry and Tibor was completing his Ph.D. at University of California. In 1978, the three created Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.

Tibor's impact and influence on the growth and development of Reason can't be overstated. Especially in those early years, he brought not just a rigorous philosophical mind-set to our pages but, as a refugee from communist Hungary, a personal fire for individual liberty and a free society that energized all our efforts. Tibor was also a longtime columnist and consultant to Freedom Communications and the author and editor of dozens of books, on topics including Ayn Rand's Objectivism, what he called "the pseudo-science of B.F. Skinner" and other behaviorist psychologists, animal rights, and much more.


Here's a link to Reason's June 1971 issue, which features a piece by Tibor titled, "On Securing Liberty." It captures the cast of his mind and his method of argumentation:

…a climate of relative freedom in the United States produces, through the activities of relatively free people, a life for most citizens which, all things considered, is both qualitatively and quantitatively superior to the lives of most people outside our borders.

…in defense of military conscription, zoning, or other coercive activities of government, some socialists have claimed that, since we are economically interdependent, we have obligations to "society" which we have not assumed voluntarily.

Not long ago, the British government drew the logical conclusion from this and instituted measures against scientists who wanted to participate in the "brain drain." The government and its defenders argued that these scientists had no right to leave the country since their skills and existence hinged on what their "society" had done for them.

Apparently, few of these people considered that Communist Hungary and the other countries of the Soviet bloc use the same argument to justify the shooting down of people who attempt to leave without the explicit permission of the government.

(The whole issue, which can be read online as a pdf, is something of a time capsule well-worth rummaging through.)

As it happens, Tibor spoke last year at Reason Weekend, our annual donor event, which happened to be taking place in Santa Barbara, so it was a reunion of sorts. In a conversation about the history and direction of Reason's journalism division—the print magazine, this website, and our video platform Reason TV, Tibor recalled the role that he and his co-founders had envisioned for the magazine. "Reason was always meant to be an outreach tool," he said, "not a movement newsletter." He stressed that he and the other co-founders wanted a platform that would produce serious journalism, essays, interviews, policy pieces, and debates that would grow the audience for and influence of libertarian ideas and practices.

Just as we benefited from his massive contributions to our past, we'll continue to do our damnedest to fulfill that dream for Reason.

Members of the Reason community will be contributing their memories and appreciation of Tibor in the coming days. Here are two videos that capture him well. The first, from 2009, is part of series Reason produced on the legacy of Ayn Rand (watch all 14 parts of Radicals for Capitalism here). In it, Tibor discusses what drew him to Rand's philosophy and fiction and how her ideas influenced the world.

The second video is from 2013 and features a discussion about Reason's first 45 years. Moderated by Reason magazine editor in chief Matt Welch, the conversation includes past Reason editor Virginia Postrel along with Bob Poole, Manny Klausner, and Tibor.

To read Tibor Machan's Reason archive, including interviews with figures ranging from Nathaniel Branden to Thomas Szasz to William F. Buckely, go here. Many of his articles are from issues that are not currently available online but we are updating his archive to remedy that.