Free Minds & Free Markets

Choice, Consent, and Reason: Make a Difference in 2019!

Our annual online giving event ends tonight. Help us fight for "Free Minds and Free Markets" for another 50 years.

Reason's annual webathon ends tonight. We're asking people who like our journalism to support our efforts with tax-deductible donations. Every dollar you give helps us produce more content—more stories, videos, podcastst, media appearances, you name it—in which we make principled libertarian arguments about how society should best be organized.

In early November, Reason celebrated its 50th anniversary, but I'd like to share some footage from a different celebration right now. Here's William "Bill" Niskanen (1933-2011), a widely respected economist who resigned from a position at Ford Motors rather than defend import quotas, served in the Reagan administration, acted as chairman of the Cato Institute, and was for a time a trustee of the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website (he is also the namesake of The Niskanen Center). The occasion was Reason's 15th anniversary in 1983:

A community is defined by its shared convictions. The dominant shared conviction of the Reason community is that the only moral basis for a social order is choice and consent. Choice without consent is meaningless and consent without choice is the consent of the prison. Only a society that is based upon both choice and consent provides the basis for a moral order....

[This] is the difference between a morality of process and a morality of end-states. All of the great tyrants of history have rationalized restricting choice, overriding consent, in the name of some higher end-state.... Reason magazine, Reason Foundation, and the community it represents is one of the most forceful and articulate representatives of the point of view that we should take consent seriously as the basis of organizing the social order. And that is what distinguishes us from the contemporary liberal and the contemporary conservative communities, each of whom has their own agendas about different end-states....

The only way which we can work together as people is to build a society in which choice is available and the basis for choice, whether it is in the economic sphere, or any sphere of our life, is consent.... For those few of us who are not anarchists, it suggests that government should be strongly restrained by an agreed-upon Constitution [and to the greatest extent possible] should be decentralized. To a great deal more than is now the case, government should be the coordinator but not the provider of a variety of goods and services....

You can watch Niskanen's full remarks, put online by, here:

As it happens, we named a 2004 anthology of Reason articles Choice, for reasons that echo Niskanen's insights. "Within the broadest possible parameters," reads the introduction, "we believe you that you should be able to think what you want, live where you want, trade for what you want, eat what you want, smoke what you want, and marry whom you want. You should also be willing to shoulder the responsibilities your actions entail. Those general guidelines don't explain everything...but they go a hell of a long way to creating a world that is tolerant, free, peaceful, prosperous, vibrant, and interesting."

If you agree that choice and consent matter—and that Reason does a good job of making that case via great journalism—then please donate now!

Photo Credit: Robyn Mackenzie |

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    he is also the namesake of The Niskanen Center

    Aren't they the guys who just teamed up with the neo-cons?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Wow! Jennifer Rubin AND David Frum? Throw in Max Boot and you have my top 3 conservative writers!


  • Shirley Knott||

    They disavowed libertarianism so it may be appropriate that this is the last, or one of the last, bleg(s).

  • SIV||

    All foundations, especially "right"-leaning ones, eventually morph into communist institutions. The Niskanen Center is moving swiftly leftward through its current "neo-liberal" phase. Liberty-minded rich people should just leave the money to their heirs or just distribute it randomly like lottery payouts.

  • Eddy||

    Just blow it on monocles and orphans and let their heirs make their own way in the world.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Didn't Niskanen repudiate libertarianism? Fuck that guy.

  • Uncle Adolf’s Gas and Grill||

    Wow. The greatest collection of some of the most punchable faces in American politics, and I won't be able to make it. Remember to take a few swings for me!

  • Uncle Adolf’s Gas and Grill||

    Great. Neocons and cosmotarians join forces. They could call this the All The Broken Toys In One Box Tour.

  • The Last American Hero||

    I wonder what his position would have been on wedding cakes...

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Probably that they're delicious!

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    You're delicious, Crusty.

  • KWlib||

    Offer a way to donate anonymously. Otherwise, NO.

  • ||

    You could mail Gillespie cash. If he won't take it I will.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||


  • Fats of Fury||

    Straighten up and fly right. The Weekly Standard hits the skids. Bill Kristol scanning the want-ads in Soldier of Fortune magazine for his next gig. Hopefully on the front lines either in Syria or Yemen.

  • Fist of Etiquette||


  • Sevo||


  • Sevo||

    "Choice, Consent, and Reason: Make a Difference in 2019!"
    It ain't a page-turner, but I've been working my way through Poole's "A Think Tank for Liberty". It is a history of early optimism, followed by a dose of reality and continuing (and finally) successful efforts to make the Reason Foundation, the magazine, the web site, the real estate, and the employees financially secure. I hope the sarcasm is evident there...
    Along the way, Bob has managed to get folks to 'privatize' several miles of highway, and perhaps influence some de-reg of the airlines. I hope the sarcasm is evident there also.
    When I wandered onto Reason in the late '70s (I think), it was a breath of fresh air; it has become a quasi-apologist of 'well-left-of-that' (with exceptions; take a bow, Bailey and two-chilly, and Robby when he can bring himself to avoid the 'however' phrase).
    IJ delivers the goods; they get my money. Reason claims to 'influence thought', and some of that 'influence' is the opposite of what I desire. They no longer get any.
    Want a contribution? What have you done for me lately?

  • Eddy||

    Earmark a contribution for H&R, Reason's answer to Statler and Waldorf's balcony.

  • Sevo||

    I tried to reply to you and the wonderful reason server sent me into an ad for some So Pacific island.
    My earmark for contributions has to do with results; Reason has none.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    I wish I had the money to donate right now. It's a bad time for me at the moment, hopefully in a few weeks things will be a little better and I can throw Reason some cash.

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