Reason Roundup

Happy 50th Birthday to Us: Reason Roundup

Join Reason in celebrating its 50th anniversary! Also: changes to Title IX, the fiscal impact of ballot initiatives, and the resurrection of an awful neocon meme.



Not fade away… If this magazine were a person, it would now be eligible to join the AARP (not that it would, obviously). This week we celebrate "50 Years of Free Minds and Free Markets" with a spate of Los Angeles events and the release of our December 2018 issue. How did we get here?

Reason was founded in 1968 by Boston University student Lanny Friedlander. (Read more about Reason's origin story here.) Here's an excerpt from Friedlander's first editor's note:

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. Coherence, not contradictions. This is our promise: This is the reason for REASON.

Then an "irregularly published mimeographed 'zine," it wasn't long before Reason was purchased by Robert Poole, Manny Klausner, and Tibor Michan, and professionalized. In 1978, they started the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit now behind Reason magazine.


When Katherine Mangu-Ward took over as editor-in-chief in 2016, she heard a lot about how Reason "finally" had a female lead. But Reason had a woman editor-in-chief as early as 1984, when Marty Zupan took over. Zupan was succeeded by Virginia Postrel in 1989, who held the position until Nick Gillespie took the reins in 2000, followed by Matt Welch in 2008.

These different periods of Reason history saw some major aesthetic shifts as well as the striking of different tones—from mostly manifesto- and policy-focused to a more balanced blend of policy, politics, polemics, and pop culture; from a publication that aimed to bring libertarians together, to one that also strives to spread libertarian ideals and "logic, not legends" to the broader world.

What does it mean, these days, to be a libertarian and to spread libertarianism? In the latest issue, libertarian icons, from Cato Institute executive vice president David Boaz to former ACLU head Nadine Strossen, give their answers. You'll also find Postrel looking back on predictions from Reason's 25th birthday to see how they panned out, Mangu-Ward on "zombie statistics"—those bad bits of baseless received wisdom that, with any luck, Reason will still be debunking decades from now—and Damon Root on the five worst legal decisions of the past five decades. (See the whole December issue's lineup here.)


But Reason's core passions since 1968—free speech, free trade, less militarism, more personal freedom—have been steady, and often quite ahead of the time. As Jonathan Rauch points out, Reason supported things like the decriminalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage decades before most Republicans or Democrats did.

Reason carried an editorial in 1975 supporting gay marriage. Even more impressively, the following year the Libertarian Party endorsed the idea. As for marijuana legalization, Reason has been on that case since at least 1969.

In the past few years, "dramatic reversals of long-established public opinion" on both issues "broke through at the same moment"—a good reminder that while being libertarian can seem like a Sisyphean battle against authoritarians on the left and right, a lot of significant and positive changes have happened. And while it can seem like major public opinion and policy changes like these swelled up almost overnight, the reality is that pioneers of liberty have been patiently pushing their fellow Americans along for decades.

Here's to 50 more years of placing liberty for all above all else.


Good news on Title IX trials. New guidelines from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are slated to change the way schools handle sexual assault and misconduct cases under Title IX. "Under the revised Title IX guidelines, universities must afford accused students the right to question their accuser," reports National Review, "though the questions can be communicated through a neutral third party and the two parties never have to face each other in the same room."


On the fiscal impact of ballot initiatives:


Correction: This post previously stated that David Boaz is president of the Cato Institute, when in fact he is executive vice president.

Correction: This post incorrectly credited Jacob Sullum, rather than Jonathan Rauch, with writing an article about legalization of marijuana and gay marriage.