Reason Podcast

How Reason Became a 'Mainstream Intellectual Magazine with an Unusual Point of View'

Podcast with Virginia Postrel about libertarianism, trade, immigration, biotech, and Reason's first 50 years

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Mark Harmel

"When I was in college," explains journalist, author, and speaker Virginia Postrel, "I developed the career aspiration to be the editor of Reason magazine." Just a few years after graduating, she had accomplished that goal (and much, much more), joining Reason's staff in 1986 and then running the magazine from July 1989 until January 2000.

Founded in 1968 by Lanny Friedlander (1947–2011), Reason is celebrating its 50th anniversary by hosting a series of in-depth conversations with past editors about how the magazine has changed since its founding, what we've gotten right and wrong over the years, and what the future holds for believers in "free minds and free markets."

No one has had a more profound intellectual and journalistic influence on Reason than Postrel. During her tenure, Reason.com was launched in the early days of the web revolution; Reason was a four-time finalist for National Magazine Awards, the highest honor in the industry; and Ronald Bailey, Brian Doherty, Jacob Sullum, Jesse Walker, and I all joined our masthead. Postrel became one of the leading public intellectuals of her generation, publishing her first book, The Future and Its Enemies, in 1998. Since leaving Reason, Postrel became a pioneer in blogging; served as a columnist for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal; and published The Substance of Style (2003) and The Power of Glamour (2013). She is, in the words of Vanity Fair, "a master D.J. who sequences the latest riffs from the hard sciences, the social sciences, business, and technology, to name only a few sources."

In this wide-ranging discussion, Postrel lays out how her vision of the magazine differed from her predecessors' and talks about how many of the issues that dominated her tenure—immigration reform, trade and regulatory policy, the biotech revolution—remain front and center in public discourse.

She also speaks to the strengths and limits of libertarian thought. "A lot of libertarians like to imagine that we can start with a clean slate…and have what I call 'libertarianism as algebra,'" she says. "But that's not how society works. We're all embedded in history."

Envisioning Reason as "a mainstream intellectual magazine with an unusual point of view," Postrel explains, "I wanted Reason to be part of a long and deep and broad and complicated classical liberal tradition stretching back through thinkers, not just 20th century thinkers like Friedman and Hayek…that stretches back not only through those kinds of thinkers but also through the Scottish Enlightenment people, Smith and Hume."

She also discusses her next book, "whose working title and I think final title is The Fabric of Civilization. It is about textiles, technology, and trade from prehistory to the near future." She says the book allows her to explore topics ranging from human nature to history to computer code.

Postrel currently writes regularly for Bloomberg View and Reason; all her work, including many talks, lectures, and upcoming appearances, are archived at vpostrel.com.

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

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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100 responses to “How Reason Became a 'Mainstream Intellectual Magazine with an Unusual Point of View'

  1. And the New York Times likes Reason.

    + 1 some kind of moment

    1. Same rag that just ran an article about how Marx was right?

      1. No. It was a column.

        1. Oh, totes cool then. I’m sure they would publish a “Why Hitler was Right” column.

          Actually, that is more probable than a “Why Hayek was Right” column.

    2. yes, the establishment likes Reason because Reason ignores the war waged by the establishment on the white working class …and because Reason ignores the fact that the media is funded by globalist corporations via ad buys…and that the media therefore speaks for the globalist corporations…and so therefore the media’s love of nonwhites and immigration and dislike of whiteness is something that their corporate funders approve of…because mass immigration increases corporate profits…

      all this stuff reason ignores…so..the mainstream media welcomes you!

        1. Because acknowledging mistreatment of white people is the same as the KKK…….

          1. That’s not what he said, But I understand why you’d want to distort it.

            What he said was “the war waged by the establishment on the white working class …”

            And BAT-SHIT psycho conspiracy hysteria.

            “Reason ignores the fact that the media is funded by globalist corporations via ad buys…and that the media therefore speaks for the globalist corporations…and so therefore the media’s love of nonwhites and immigration and dislike of whiteness is something that their corporate funders approve of…because mass immigration increases corporate profits…”

            But … Obama IS a Muslim from Kenya!

  2. “A lot of libertarians like to imagine that we can start with a clean slate…and have what I call ‘libertarianism as algebra,'”

    Michael Hihn, thou art exposed!

    1. “Left – Right = 0”

      His math checks out

      1. Really it does. The Frumious LeftandRight fits entirely inside the Socialist bubble on a Venn Diagram. It wouldn’t do for teevee-watching vidiots to discover there is a whole nother dimension off of the single straight line running from Molotov to Ribbentrop. The Dilbert guy who concludes men should have no power whatsoever to order women at gunpoint concerning abortion–and doesn’t even hate The Don–is pilloried in the looter press as “right-wing.” The pitiful wretches are programmed to believe that contemplating the libertarian platform is Thoughtcrime. Their loss…

        1. Right-wing goober don’t know that “Left – Right = Zero” has been a libertarian slogan for a half-century.
          Because Authoritarian Right,

          1. Fucking ignoramus is fucking ignoramus.

  3. Links to Reason articles are showing up increasingly more often in Google News.

    1. Yes, but mostly as “Even crazy Alt-Right tentacles of the KKKochtopus hate Trump.”

      1. “Even crazy Alt-Right tentacles of the KKKochtopus hate Trump.”

        To be sure, even libertarians support what the #MeToo movement stands for.

        1. What, abolishing the presumption of innocence and statute of limitations whenever women accuse men?

        2. It absolutely does not stand for the abolition of due process and due process rights for those accused of sex crimes (even though they are “especially heinous”) but it does stand for agency and non-aggression.

          Yes?

    2. Yea but only when I google ‘cocktail parties.’

    3. I won’t tell you which of my search terms turn up Reason articles, but it’s disturbing.

  4. “A lot of libertarians like to imagine that we can start with a clean slate…and have what I call ‘libertarianism as algebra'”

    Liberty as computer science: A global binary set to False.

    1. She’s probably giving a shout-out to Burke and his criticism of “political geometricians.”

  5. Fuck the NYT. Bunch of commie sympathizers who would justify people being lined up against the wall. They would turn on the people on a dime.

    ” Intellectual Magazine with an Unusual Point of View’

    Is that how Dalmia is described now? Unusual eh?

    1. Leftists exalt the biggest dummies.

      1. Leftists exalt TRUMP?
        HUCKABEE?
        SANTORUM?
        PENCE?

        Who knew?

        1. Grandpa got no Kek

          1. It’s crackers to slip a rozzer, the dropsy in snide.

  6. What, no mention in her list of accomplishments that she single handedly forged into history the moment at which all subscriptions were cancelled?

  7. What does she think of Tony? For that matter what does she think of Gillespie?

    1. She’s never seen Tony and Gillespie in the same place…

      1. No, you. The posts are different, thus you retyped it and clicked a second time.

        1. Yes, I did it the second time because the page refreshed but no comment posted. I refreshed the page several more times and still no comment. I thought maybe the bare link was the problem and set some of the text outside the link and reposted. On the page refresh, the first post appeared. 🙁

  8. I dare Postrel to come into this comment thread. I double DOG dare her!

    1. Maybe she’s already here……..

    2. I would like to than everyone for being civil and keeping the debauchery down to a minimum. We know how much beloved ex-editor Postrel hates that kind of stuff.

  9. Happy Anniversary, Reason!

    What is the gemstone for the 40th Anniversary?

    1. For a libertarian? The answer is always gold.

      1. That’s ridiculous. You can’t give cash for an anniversary.

        1. Gold is cash?
          And HE’s ridiculous?

  10. Envisioning Reason as “a mainstream intellectual magazine

    Mainstream

    Intellectual

    Virginia, where can I get the weed you use?

    1. Well…that didn’t work.

      Google (“reason foundation” OR “reason magazine” OR “reason tv” OR “reason.com” OR “reason.org” OR “reason.tv”) -site:reason.com -site:reason.org

  11. “The Future and it’s Enemies” is why I’m here. Read it a long time ago and really liked it.

  12. Virginia was indeed the penultimate editor.

    Reason was still libertarian, both politically and culturally, and had not become a suckup to the Authoritarian Right and the Paulusta Cult — rejecting the 60% of Americans who now self-define as fiscally conservative and socially liberal … but 91% of them now rejecting the libertarian label.

    91% rejection by one’s own kind is … kinda clear, eh?

    1. Virginia was also a member of the Libertarian Defense Caucus back when all the cowards wanted to surrender to armed Socialism like so many Frenchmen.

      1. The LDC was (and is) far too crazy for Virginia.
        And Kevin Bjornson, who I knew personally, is one of the craziest “libertarians” EVAH.

    2. Michael, you are nuttier than a pecan farmer with polyorchidism.

      1. In Cato’s own words: They commissioned a Brand survey from Zogby Polling,a top independent pollster. Does a brand enhance or detract from the product or service?

        “In our Zogby survey we found that only 9 percent of voters with libertarian views identify themselves that way.” -David Boaz and David Kirby (page search for the words)

        So the libertarian label is rejected by 91% of libertarians.
        In marketing terms, the libertarian label is “toxic” to the product (individual liberty).
        In political terms, libertarian ideology is rejected 91% of those with libertarian values.

        Now we have — the same as everyone else — the doers and the talkers. Also like everyone else, the talkers can’t DO anything. So they attack those do, or who even try.

        They are authoritarians of a different stripe.They eschew force. So their ideal society will be achieved by talk .. and insults … and self-righteous arrogance. The self-righteousness causes me to label them as Libertarian Fundamentalists. Precisely like Christian and Islamic Fubfamentalists, as the worst threat to their movements.

        Anything I can educate you on?

        1. I doubt it.

          1. ! doubt it.Typical goober doubts absolute proof … of an un-con-veeeen-yent truth

        2. Is it bad that I come here mainly for the Hihn posts?
          It’s like listening to a Coast to Coast AM call-in, or your paranoid Uncle who forgot to take his meds.

          1. Blowhards HATE anyone who DOCUMENTS FACTS.
            Blowhards LOVE personal attacks and aggression, which says … what? ….; about their intelligence and integrity?

    3. Sez who? Izzis the same innumerate clique that claims 97% of people with science degrees want goons with guns to ban electricity because CO2 and water vapor?

      1. Sez who? Izzis the same innumerate clique that claims 97% of people with science degrees want goons with guns to ban electricity because CO2 and water vapor?

        The poll was commissioned by the Cato Institute, and conducted by Zogby, a top independent pollster

        In Cato’s own words:

        “In our Zogby survey we found that only 9 percent of voters with libertarian views identify themselves that way.” -David Boaz and David Kirby (page search for the words)

        So the libertarian label is rejected by 91% of libertarians.
        In marketing terms, the libertarian label is “toxic” to the product (liberty).
        In political terms, libertarian ideology is rejected 91% of those with libertarian values.

    4. When that poll was commissioned by the Koch bros you still had control of your bowels.

      1. Your Authoritarian Right goes ape-shit on inconvenient facts.
        And display your authoritarian mentalities

      2. hello.|5.4.18 @ 10:54PM|#
        When that poll was commissioned by the Koch bros you still had control of your bowels.

        That’s FUNNY!
        And probably true.
        Hihn long ago lost control of his bowel and his brain.
        Fuck off, Mike.

        1. Who posts AND DOCUMENTS facts?
          Who tries to shout down inconvenient viewpoints — other than the campus snowflakes?

          In 6th grade, I pitied the boys who’d tell “shit,” then giggle. Some of them never grow up.

          1. You constantly shout down everyone. Whoever you really are.

            1. Whoever you really are.

              I’m “really:” Michael Hihn. How many times must I JAM the proof up your pathetic ass, chump

            2. It’s called self-defense …. from aggression, slaver. But you feel some RIGHT to attack and insult, for The Cause. Here are the in-con-veeeeen-yent facts which SO enrage the Authoritarian Right.
              The self-righteous warriors for for subjugation and thought control..

              Non-Aggression Principle (NAP)

              Right-Wing Snowflakes = Left-Wing snowflakes.

  13. “Three cheers to the woman who got us invited to all the good cocktail parties! And all we had to do was become cultural Marxists.”

  14. Libertarians have been fiscally conservative and socially liberal for half a century. Now over 60% of Americans.

    This drives extreme socon fascists INSANE. But who gives a shit, since all liberals and conservatives combined are less that 40% of Americans.

    They do bellow and rage a lot.

    Left – Right =Zero
    A libertarian mantra for over four decades.
    Means left and right support different dictatorships, but their VALUES are identical, both severely hostile to individual liberty. Both with Authoritarian mentalities

    1. A libertarian mantra for over four decades.
      Means left and right support different dictatorships, but their VALUES are identical, both severely hostile to individual liberty. Both with Authoritarian mentalities

      And you think Libertarians would not be authoritarian if they got the chance to govern?

      1. And you think Libertarians would not be authoritarian if they got the chance to govern?

        Of course. And I’ve done it.

        I mean libertarians, not blatant fascists like Ron/Rand Paul.

        1. You claim to be libertarian and hate left and right. Yet you spend 109% of your time attacking conservatives.

          You’re a progressive, whoever you are.

        2. Blatant fascists like Ron and Rand Paul? Care to elaborate?

          1. How stupid is STOOOPID? (smirk)

            You claim to be libertarian and hate left and right. Yet you spend 109% of your time attacking conservatives

            (sneer) There are very few progressives here ,… except to psychos like you..

            You’re a progressive, whoever you are.

            How many times must I JAM the proof up Fakabrain’s ass?

          2. Blatant fascists like Ron and Rand Paul? Care to elaborate?

            Are you ready to be humiliated? Are you sure?

            Ron, the MORAL SLIME brags of sponsoring bill to FORBID SCOTUS from hearing appeals to DOMA — fucking fags would have been the first group denied constitutional protection since fucking ni**ers.

            When Ron says “rogue judges” overturned DOMA. he claims — like the Klan — that we have NO defense from state government. He DEFIES separation of powers, checks and balances, THREE co-equal branches … LIES about the 10th amendment and REJECTS the 9th amendment. The IDENTICAL “principle” stated by Orval Faubus to mobilizing his state militia against 9 black kids ij 1957 — when Eisenhower had to send federal troops to defend the rights of 9 school kids/
            .
            Rand has the same KKK-style contempt for the Bill of Rights, and is REALLY dumb. The craziest thing I have EVER seen is when h got a standing ovation at Berkeley, speaking on civil liberties and non-intervention … then …. HYSTERICALLY … less than a week later … he called for nationwide tent revivals to deal with the grave moral threat of ,…. marriage EQUALITY!

            You seem to have almost no knowledge on individual liberty — perhaps a follower of the Paulista Cult,

            Anything else?

  15. Michael Hihn|5.4.18 @ 11:44PM|#
    “Libertarians have been fiscally conservative and socially liberal for half a century. Now over 60% of Americans.
    This drives extreme socon fascists INSANE.”

    What did it to you, Mike? Was it the booze? Were you always bat-shit crazy? Did you get some really bad dope?
    What was it Mike? What makes you such a fucking ignoramus?
    The world wants to know.
    I don’t.
    Fuck off.

    1. You’re in denial, refusing to accept reality. Here’s again in the proof

      In Cato’s own words:

      “In our Zogby survey we found that only 9 percent of voters with libertarian views identify themselves that way.” -David Boaz and David Kirby (page search for the words)

      So the libertarian label is rejected by 91% of libertarians.
      In marketing terms, the libertarian label is “toxic” to the product (liberty).
      In political terms, libertarian ideology is rejected 91% of those with libertarian values.

      Now we have — the same as everyone else — the doers and the talkers. Also like everyone else, the talkers can’t DO anything. So they attack those do, or who even try.

      They are authoritarians of a different stripe. They eschew force. So their ideal society will be achieved by talk .. and insults … and self-righteous arrogance. The self-righteousness causes me to label them as Libertarian Fundamentalists. Precisely like Christian and Islamic Fundamentalists, as the worst threat to their movements.

      The world wants to know.
      I don’t.

      (yawn)
      I’ve been defying authoritarians for over 50 years. You’re the weakest.

      1. Quit pretending to be Hihn. You couldn’t possibly fill his diapers.

        1. Quit pretending to be Hihn. You couldn’t possibly fill his diapers.

          Absolute proof that Last of the Shitlords is totally pycho.

          I AM HIHN, fucking loser

      2. You’ve been copying and pasting for 50 years?

      3. You’ve been copying and pasting for 50 years?

        1. (yawn)
          I’ve been defying authoritarians for over 50 years. You’re the weakest.

          You’ve been copying and pasting for 50 years?

          He’s the weakest, you’re just an infantile illiterate …. bully.

          Left – Right = Zero

  16. This probably took Nick forever to type seeing as it is obvious he was only using one hand.

    1. You’re too adult for this site.
      (snort)

  17. I really only started reading in the 2000s… Soooo does this mean she was the one that Ruined Reason magazine and sent it down the path to being Progressives Who Understand Some Economics Magazine? Or was she the last one who was actually running the thing decently? It’s definitely got worse in recent years, but if she hired all those people it does make me question things…

    1. You right-wingers have always been confused that libertarians are fiscally conservative ans socially liberal.
      But you’ve got the rest totally backwards. It’s the socially tolerant half which has virtually disappeared, presumably pandering to the alt-right and its spiritual leader, Ron Paul and his cult of extreme socons.

      So … tell us how you fantasize left-wing economics here Please be specific so that I (or any other fiscal conservative) can explain it to you.

      Anything else?

      1. You keep bringing up things no one is talking about. Except maybe the voices in your head. Whoever you are.

        1. You keep bringing up things no one is talking about

          Actually, Sparky, he fucked up what libertarianism has been for fifty years.

          Except maybe the voices in your head.

          FIFTY YEARS. Lemme ‘splain it to you Lucy.

          Liberals want government out of your bedroom and into your wallet.
          Conservatives any government out of your wallet and into your bedroom.

          Fiscally conservative means defending economic liberty from government intrusion.
          Socially liberal means defending personal liberty from government intrusion.
          Both involve TOLERANCE of all views … which s why Shitlords and aggressors, like you, SHOUT DOWN liberty and tolerance.

          Whoever you are.

          (snort) Here’s PROOF that you’re a raging psycho, drive-by assassin..

          You need to bully somebody else. we’ve been SNEERING at authoritarians like you for 50 years..
          You cannot shut us down, snowflake ,… even with all your bellowing and bluster.

      2. LOL After all my posts on here you STILL think I’m some line towing Republican!?!?!?

        I am fiscally conservative. I am pretty socially liberal. I don’t think it’s THE GOVERNMENTS PLACE to regulate what people do in their bedrooms, or what they smoke into their lungs. I have some personal beliefs on some things, like that marriage is a good thing and fucking 100 people is probably going to fuck up your life… Mainly because statistics show exactly that to be the case. But I don’t want any laws about that stuff.

        It is true that I am not in favor of open borders. I don’t think we need to flood a country that already has an excess of low/no skill labor with more half illiterate people from around the world. But does that make me an insane Nazi? Kinda just sounds like someone who knows how to read stats and realize you don’t flood an already flooded labor market even more.

        I could go on, but it’s pointless. You’re just an idiot who thinks anybody who isn’t a total bleeding heart pussy is MECHA HITLER. Which we’re not. In some cases we just have a little more logic and reasoning ability than you.

        1. (boldface in defense of aggression, cowardly evasion and MORE bullshit)

          Gooberism
          Soo does this mean she was the one that Ruined Reason magazine and sent it down the path to being Progressives Who Understand Some Economics Magazine?

          Called out
          So … tell us how you fantasize left-wing economics here Please be specific so that I (or any other fiscal conservative) can explain it to you

          EVASION + BABBLE
          not in favor of open borders … . I don’t think we need to flood a country … with more half illiterate people from around the world. But does that make me an insane Nazi? Kinda just sounds like someone who knows how to read stat …

          ****YOU WERE ASKED ABOUT YOUR BULLSHIT ON ECONOMICS, STATISTICS WIZARD (lol)

          You’re just an idiot who thinks anybody who isn’t a total bleeding heart pussy is MECHA HITLER.

          ECONOMICS

          Which we’re not. In some cases we just have a little more logic and reasoning ability than you.

          YOU’RE “REASONING ABILITY” IS NOW PROVEN BULLSHIT.
          AND YOUR READING LEVEL IS KINDERGARTEN … OR YOU’RE A FUCKING COWARD

          AN AUTHORITARIAN HITLER MENTALITY WOULD BULLY ME FOR CHALLENGING YOU!
          Game Set Match

          Anything else?
          (He’ll snarl more snarky insults … and more evasions).

          1. LOL

            You’re

            “So … tell us how you fantasize left-wing economics here Please be specific so that I (or any other fiscal conservative) can explain it to you”

            Hardly even makes sense as a sentence! Are you saying I fantasize about left wing economics? Because I don’t. If you mean to imply I am saying Reason pushes left wing econ, that’s not what I said or meant by “Progressives Who Understand Some Economics Magazine.”

            I meant that they’ve gone full on progressive on most things THAT AREN’T economics. In other words they’re bleeding heart pussies who understand free market economics work better than socialism. That’s a plus compared to normal progs mind you.

            A lot of it is just attitude honestly. I am in favor of gay marriage, think abortion should be legal, etc. But if you swoon and fawn all about stupid crap like that like it’s the best stuff on earth, and not some unimportant side issue used to wedge people one way or another… Then you’re an idiot. Open borders are outright bad. Anyone who understands markets should know that flooding a 1st world country with 10s of millions of illiterates is going to destroy the standard of living there. THAT may be 110% freedom, but in that case it’s a freedom I could live without!

  18. Postrelism made Reason a technophile journal offering diluted libertarianism.

        1. Nah. I think Gillespie hired the squirrels.

  19. “How Reason became a mainstream intellectual magazine with an unusual point of view”

    And like all mainstream magazines, during that time Reason slowly morphed from espousing radical alternate viewpoints to becoming purveyors of Conventional Wisdom. Even if their views are a little unorthodox for the Respectable Washington Crowd, deep down inside they are just a part of the Media establishment as any other DC-NY publication. A Weekly Standard that supports pot legalization and gay marriage, so to speak.

  20. The speed at which the Reason editorial staff accepted the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” narrative, and celebrated rioting and looting at Ferguson like a bunch of star-struck groupies, was I think the first sign that the magazine had become essentially indistinguishable from Time or Newsweek.

    They got almost everything wrong about the shooting, and still haven’t fully admitted their error, but their dislike of cops was so strong they couldn’t resist going along with the Media mob.

    Rioting and looting are not “libertarian values”.

  21. You know, I love me some Virginia Postrel, but honestly, who the hell has time to listen to an 85-minute podcast? And that’s one of their shorter ones.

  22. No one has had a more profound intellectual and journalistic influence on Reason than Postrel. bandar piala dunia 2018

  23. Is that what we’re calling going Progressitarianism these days?
    Going “mainstream”?

    I suppose it’s accurate enough. Reason goes MSM.
    Yay?

    1. It’s all a conspiracy financed by George Soros, the Jewish Banking Conspiracy and the Illuminati.
      All managed on Hillary’s NEW email server.
      In Kenya, (wink, wink)

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