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InsiderOnline Blog: December 2008

Reason Turns 40

A significant outlet for free market thinking marks a milestone this month. Reason magazine turns 40 years old. For some fun history of how it all got started, read Brian Doherty’s oral history of the magazine. In interviews with Bob Poole, Tibor Machan, Manny Klausner, and others, Doherty teases out the story of how the magazine survived for the first ten years with virtually no resources. The first issues were a one-man show produced with a mimeograph machine. Then it became a part-time project of Poole, Machan, and Klausner, produced out of Poole’s home.

The magazine never had more than one paid staff member until 1978. Poole notes: “The most we ever paid for an article was $25 in the days before the Reason Foundation, and a lot of times not anything. So lots [of what we published] was whatever came over the transom that was less bad than other things would be.”

Doherty’s piece also reveals how many different visions there were and still are of what Reason magazine should be—a serious forum for addressing policy issues, a vehicle of the libertarian movement, a countercultural voice, an outlet for investigative journalism. Reason’s success, perhaps, offers the lesson that there are many ways of influencing politics and the broader culture, and that those different models can live comfortably under the same roof.

The piece fittingly concludes with some helpful thoughts from Bob Poole on the task of changing minds:

I learned you don’t have to convert everyone to being libertarians to get important free market changes implemented. I think our ideas are better than centralized, collectivist ideas, and to the extent that’s true and we can demonstrate it, people don’t have to buy the whole package. We’ve seen successes in selling things like road pricing, privatization, on the terms that they offer real benefits and people can adopt them without sharing our views on other things. But it takes a combination; it’s still important to do that sort of mind changing, but you don’t have to change the whole culture to make a positive difference.

I’m surprised how many people quietly tell me, “I’m really libertarian; I love that magazine of yours.” It’s also definitely true I encounter lots of people in the policy world who know the magazine and read it but don’t think of themselves as libertarians. Part of the measure of our success is we can reach people even if they don’t buy the whole package.

Posted on 12/01/08 07:48 PM by Alex Adrianson

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