The nation’s most prominent libertarian magazine officially is turning 50.
Reason magazine, the print and online publication of Reason Foundation, will celebrate its 50th anniversary Saturday with well-known figures in the libertarian movement at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Los Angeles.
Reason bills itself as “the planet’s largest source of news, culture, policy, and ideas from a principled libertarian perspective.”
Larry Friedlander, a Boston University student, founded Reason magazine in the summer of 1968. The magazine was considered unlike many magazines of the time because of its clean graphic design and clear ethos.
Freidlander, who died in 2011 at age 63, painstakingly designed the magazine’s aesthetics and content from scratch at his mother’s house, Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor in chief, told The Daily Signal in an email.
Freidlander’s editor’s note in the first issue announced:
When REASON speaks of poverty, racism, the draft, the war, student power, politics, and other vital issues, it shall be reasons, not slogans, it gives for conclusions. … Proof, not belligerent assertion. Logic, not legends. Coherence, not contradictions. This is our promise: This is the reason for REASON.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy that emphasizes individual freedom and limits on the coercive behavior of the state. Libertarians typically favor strong property rights, civil liberties, and drug decriminalization.
According to Mike Alissi, the publisher of Reason, the website receives 4 million web visitors a month and 3.5 million monthly video views of at least 30 seconds in length. Monthly circulation is 47,000.
The magazine has stayed true to its roots over the decades, said Mangu-Ward, who worked as a Reason intern in 2000 and went on to serve as a Robert Novak journalism fellow with The Fund for American Studies.
“Reason has always sought to keep our readers abreast of new threats to liberty,” she told The Daily Signal, “but since the very beginning Reason has also told the stories of people who are working to make the world more free, more fair, and more fun, both inside and outside of the libertarian movement.”
A luncheon followed by a gala Saturday night will feature conversations on and remembrances of Reason’s 50-year history of “fighting for ‘Free Minds and Free Markets’ via award-winning journalism and cutting-edge policy work powered by principled, pragmatic, and visionary libertarian ideals,” and what plans the magazine and foundation have in store for the next five decades, according to the webpage.
Fox Business Network host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery—professionally known as Kennedy—will host the evening program, which will feature remarks from Vernon Smith, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics, and Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, a two-term governor of Indiana.
The celebration will include two panels before lunch headed by the magazine’s two editors at large, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch. The panels, titled “Free Minds” and “Free Markets,” will address topics from the First Amendment and drug policy to entitlement reform and the human genome.
Panelists include former American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen; Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R.-Calif.; former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union C. Boyden Gray; and best-selling science writer and Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer.
Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason magazine along with public policy research, will give its Savas Award for Privatization to Frank Baxter, former U.S. ambassador to Uruguay. Fox Business Network host John Stossel will present the award at the lunch.
Baxter was chosen “for his role in co-founding Los Angeles’ largest and most successful charter school network, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools,” Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform at Reason Foundation, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal.
“Baxter and Alliance schools have made a significant, positive difference in the lives of thousands of students,” Gilroy said. “They’re helping low-income students grow, thrive, and perform at high academic levels and demonstrating how school choice and charter schools can give all students, regardless of income status or ZIP code, the opportunity to attend schools focused on academic growth, college prep, innovation, and accountability.”
The award, the fourth of its kind, is named for City University of New York presidential professor and privatization research pioneer E. S. “Steve” Savas.
Gilroy said the award “recognizes an individual or organization whose actions improved the cost-effective provision of public services through partnerships with private organizations.”
In a 2011 article on Friedlander’s death, Gillespie wrote that after the magazine’s founder sold it to three early contributors, he ceased participating in the publication. Gillespie said that none of the magazine’s current employees as of then had made contact with the reclusive Friedlander before his death, and that he never attended the magazine’s anniversary celebrations.
Despite the passage of 50 years, Mangu-Ward said, “the early issues of Reason feel astonishingly relevant today.”
“Founder Lanny Friedlander’s very first issue of Reason was brief and quirky, but still managed to address conflict on campus, bad policing practices (and their disproportionate impact on black Americans), and the future of journalism—all topics you could find in our 2018 incarnation as well,” she said.
The magazine is relevant because conservatives and libertarians have the opportunity to unite against a common enemy, Mangu-Ward said, just as they did during the magazine’s founding during the Cold War. “In the early days of Reason, libertarians and conservatives made common cause against the rising tide of socialism and communism,” she told The Daily Signal. “Unfortunately, that alliance may once again be relevant.”