Reason

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.

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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.

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  1. “Reason was always meant to be an outreach tool,” he said, “not a movement newsletter.”

    That’s the way I see it, too. And it means a lot to me and a lot of us here.

    A lot of people are more libertarian than they would be otherwise because of that outreach.

    Condolences to his family. He struck a blow for liberty, and it is still resonating.

    1. A lot of people are more libertarian than they would be otherwise because of that outreach.

      Agreed. I count myself amongst them.

      I actually saw him speak at my college, back in the day. A really engaging and intelligent speaker. I wish I’d followed up on what he’d had to say.

      My condolences, to his family, as well.

      1. I wish I’d followed up on what he’d had to say.

        Mind if I ask what it was he was talked about?

  2. Man, those sure were the days, when this was still a real libertarian outlet. Rest in peace.

    1. I wonder what hilarious nicknames Prof. Machan used for politicians during his editorship?

      1. Dickturd Knickscum?

        Lyin’ Brains Johnstun?

  3. RIP, really sorry to hear this.

  4. OT: But…

    Is Hillary going to tap Ben Carson for VP?

    The space aliens!

  5. Okay, all together now: This place really went to hell after Tibor Machan left. Drink!

    But seriously folks, RIP and such.

    1. DON’T TALK ABOUT TI…. oh, wait….please do talk about him.

  6. Damn, that is sad news. A lot of my ideas about the way the world ought to work come from FEE and I know he was a big influence there, he will be missed.

  7. a refugee from communist Hungary, a personal fire for individual liberty and a free society that energized all our efforts

    Didn’t feel the Bern, did he?

  8. Aww, damn. First Garry Shandling, and now Tibor Machan??

    This is sad. Another giant has passed.

  9. RIP
    I really enjoyed hearing him speak at the 45th anniversary.

  10. RIP.

    Thank you for the little history lesson for us ‘newer’ members, Nick. Always good to know the roots of things.

  11. Oh, damned. Not Tibor! This is so sad.

  12. RIP. Another one gone to the great cocktail party in the sky.

  13. I remember an interview with him on C-Span which happened on 2013 if memory serves. It was a 3-hour-long interview which included the viewer call-ins that C-Span is known for, so you can imagine the stupid questions he was getting from the few Marxians who watch C-Span. at one point, some lady from Denver, CO complained that Tibor was shilling for big corporations.

    Tibor was his usual self – charming, eloquent, intellectual; and never boring or condescending. He will be missed.

  14. That is a shame. He was a great defender of minarchism.

  15. Sad to hear of his passing. Tibor quickly became a favored and featured speaker at the SIL conferences that connected together the nascent libertarian movement in the early 70s. Another giant on whose shoulders we all stood.

  16. Well shit. Olav hashalom. or RIP, if that’s your poison.

    Many years ago we knew each other slightly, turning up at the same conferences. I really admired his ability to talk clearly about liberty issues (although we originally met during the heyday of the Objectivist wars, which he was mildly caught up in).

    He was married to another libertarian activist, Marty Zupan, who sends me fundraising letters occasionally, but according to Wikipedia they were divorced some time back.

  17. Aw, damn it – not Tibor! And only 77? Rest in Peace.

  18. RIP, Tibor. You will not be forgotten.

  19. And now his watch is ended.

  20. Sorry to hear this. In earlier days of Reason I read every word he wrote. He needs a successor.

  21. Rest In Peace, Tibor

  22. I did not know Tibor but am glad he helped start Reason.
    Part of him lives here everyday.

  23. The three things Ayn taught and Tibor publicized are to this day undisputed by intellectuals of the looter persuasion:
    1. Think and discover facts rather than believe assertions.
    2. Neither a sucker not a predator be.
    3. Nobody has a right to rob or brainwash others.
    Instead, her detractors change the subject, lead the conversation in another direction, and angle for some character assassinating insinuations.

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  25. So sad to hear about Tibor. He was a wonderful man and I will never forget when I asked him to proof read one of our books and he jumped right in without any hesitation. His critique was invaluable. RIP, friend.

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  28. Gillespit: “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.”

    I see. Is this the same Nick Gillespie who, when editor of Reason magazine, refused to publish any of Tibor’s work?

  29. Had no idea he was so instrumental for Reason Magazine. Taught a course I was in at UC Santa Barbara in 1982. At age 22, I was a welfare-state liberal (hadn’t really started paying taxes, either – coincidence?). Very clear and engaging speaker, thankfully he gave me the tools that led me out of the wilderness. Thank you prof. Machan!
    RIP and condolences.

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