Lanny Friedlander: The Eccentric Genius Who Created Reason Magazine

Reason was the anti-establishment brainchild of a brilliant but erratic 20-year-old student who lived with his mother and drove a delivery van for a living.


HD Download

Prestigious journals of opinion often emanate from prestige. Reason, on the other hand, was dreamed into existence by a 20-year-old Boston University student named Lanny Friedlander, who designed, wrote, mimeographed, and stapled together the magazine's first issues from his mother's house in Brighton, Massachusetts.

But don't let those humble beginnings fool you. Friedlander was a sharp writer, deep thinker, and remarkably avant-garde designer, influencing not only the nascent libertarian movement fermenting in Boston and New York, but also such future cutting-edge publications as Wired magazine.

Yet after exploding onto the world stage at such a tender age, Friedlander was gone from the pages of his own creation by the age of 25, drifting out of sight, then in and out of mental institutions. Only decades later did his own magazine track him down and reconnect; by then he had just months to live.

Reason's origin story is like no other comparative journal of opinion. It's time for Lanny Friedlander to get his proper due.

This video is based on the essay "Mad Genius," from our December 2018 issue.

Written and narrated by Matt Welch; Motion graphics by Lex Villena and Isaac Reese; Additional b-roll by Regan Taylor

Music credits: Freeway by Wonderlust; NOTHING by wurlishmouk; Mood Swings by ZURI; Feel It by Stoic; Ascend by Arcane

Image credits: Photo 186688170 © Ulianna19970,, Photo 163720059 © Monkey Business Images,, ID 180173350© Gary Hider;  ID 113267864© Burakaykan2;  ID 110975921© Alexey Dmitruk;  ID 118793808© Katarzyna Bialasiewicz ID 26979368© Peshkova; ID 52006629© Everett Collection Inc. Photo 28955443 © Viorel Sima Photo 196746708 © Lacheev;, Photo 108403426 © Ruslan Shramko,, Photo 53932273 © Naughtynut, Photo 32981490 © Szefei,, Illustration 150060232 © Irina Gorbunova, ID 108521501 © Ruslan Shramko, Illustration 158321559 © Tozzimarta,, Keystone Pictures USA, ID 92028300© Olena Melnyk, ID 138525781© Irina Gorbunova, Photo 90866637 © Oskanov;, ID 48501044© Kolotype, Photo 61382055 © Atomazul;, ID 1468170© Rushour; ID 8549823© Wrangel; ID 210680178© Arnon Meejumnong; ID 18994382© Sean Pavone, ID 13797942© Anton Shynkarou;, ID 209896624© Milkos;, ID 161598620© Aliia Chazova;, ID 111584656© Natthawut Punyosaeng;, ID 172641458© Yaroslaf;, ID 20165690© Eti Swinford;, ID 35677475© Aleksandar Grozdanovski;, ID 38736719© Elena Elisseeva;, ID 112959037© Stokkete;, Photo 162562908 © Stokkete;, Imagine ChinaNewscom, The Ludwig von Mises Institute, Photo 11016427 © Radu Razvan Gheorghe;, Photo 129673246 © Bumbleedee;, ID 60352854© Picturemakersllc;, Photo 147766610 © Erhan Inga;, Faisal Animations; Bennymarty/