Reason Podcast

'It Became Normal, It Became Hot, to Be Alternative' — Reason 50th Anniversary: Podcast

Nick Gillespie talks about the end of the cultural mainstream, the rise of DIY everything, and the quaint, unacknowledged power of $6 DVD players.


Reason magazine was founded 50 years ago, in 1968, by Lanny Friedlander (1947-2011), who was then a student at Boston University. As part of Reason's ongoing 50th anniversary celebration, I've been interviewing past editors of the print magazine for the Reason Podcast. Previous episodes include conversations with Robert W. Poole, Marty Zupan, Virginia Postrel, Matt Welch, and Katherine Mangu-Ward.

A few weeks ago, it was my turn to be interviewed about my time at the top of the mast. I joined the staff in 1993 as an assistant editor and served as editor in chief of the magazine and website from 2000 to 2008. Then I became editor in chief of and Reason TV, a dual position I held until earlier this year, when I became an editor at large.

Katherine Mangu-Ward conducted the wide-ranging interview at the center of today's episode. She zeroed in on a 1999 cover story of mine, "All Culture, All the Time," as illuminating many of the themes that Reason would explore under my stewardship. The story celebrated what I called "cultural proliferation" and the breakdown of single standards of greatness, quality, seriousness, legitimacy, you name it. Just as the economic sector had been deregulated and liberalized in key ways during the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, the cultural sphere of our lives was finally deregulated. Let a 1,000 websites bloom! I likened what was happening at the turn of the century to the breakdown of state religion in 17th-century England.

From today's podcast:

Religious freedom didn't mean that people gave up on standards or religion didn't matter anymore or anything like that. It meant that people could finally express themselves and create the worlds that they wanted to live in. They could debate and argue and mongrelize and hybridize things. I think that's a really powerful way to look at the world that we're in now. The other [main point in the story comes from] James Buchanan, the recently vilified libertarian economist who helped to create "public choice" economics and won a Nobel Prize for doing so. He talked about Albert Hirschman's ideas of "exit, voice, and loyalty." He used to stress in a lot of his work that when people can exit systems, it's a good thing. That's basically what I think cultural proliferation [does]. It allows people cultural exit. It didn't mean they didn't want culture. It just meant they got to embrace their own culture and their own morality and things like that. It's an incredibly liberating and better world because of that.

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Photo credit: Reason.

Don't miss a single Reason Podcast!

Subscribe at iTunes

Follow us at SoundCloud

Subscribe at YouTube

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter