in the age of Reason
Editor of libertarian magazine: Our time is here
By Jeff Bercovici
Itís not often that those on opposite sides of the political divide find themselves seeing eye to eye, but one thing they're usually able to agree about is Reason magazine.
They don't much like it.
A 33-year-old monthly published by the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, Reason is the leading magazine of libertarian thought.
Right-wingers blast it for its stance on gay rights and drug legalization. Lefties abhor its advocacy of gun rights and distaste for corporate regulation.
Too bad for them, says editor in chief Nick Gillespie, because Reason isn't going anywhere.
"We live in a pretty libertarian society already in the sense that most people think they should be in charge of their own lives," says Gillespie.
"The old command-and-control thing where big government or religion tells you what to do--that's on the ash heaps of history."
The magazine is growing, with circulation rising from 40,000 to 60,000 over the last decade, and itís been receiving more attention than ever in recent weeks in the debate over whether new anti-terrorism legislation will threaten some civil liberties.
Gillespie cites the increase in circulation as evidence that libertarianism may be gaining adherents, something he regards as inevitable.
"It's a philosophy or ideology of the future precisely because it's most in accord with where society is, where technology is, where innovations lie," he says.
"We're in a world where it's easier and easier to escape people trying to control your life."
Gillespie joined Reason in 1993 and became editor in chief last year. A former editor of music and entertainment magazines, his ambition from the start was to bring more cultural perspective to the magazine. The cover story of this year's June issue was on the Beatles, and the November issue contains a lengthy essay on the career of Bob Dylan.
"It celebrated the fact that heís the most inauthentic singer/songwriter around," says Gillespie. "He changes his persona with virtually every record. It's part of the American genius."
Libertarianism has just as much to say about art and culture as it does about political or financial policy, he says.
"Our attitude towards culture is very different from that of a right-wing magazine or left-wing magazine," he says. "They tend to view culture as didactic--they want culture to teach the masses.
"A right-winger wants to tell people how to live a good and proper life in conservative terms, while on the left they look at culture somewhat suspiciously. They think it's big corporations forcing people to buy stuff they don't want to buy."
Gillespie says the drift of American social convention and popular culture over the last several decades reflects the influence of libertarian thought.
"America is so much less uptight. Thereís so much more freedom to be freakish," he says.
"There is no Top 40 anymore. There's no mainstream music at all anymore.
"Gay people can live their own lives without having to be closeted. Men and women who aren't married can live together. You can work in an office without having to wear a fucking suit to work every day."
Or you can ditch the office altogether, like Gillespie, who works from his home in Oxford, Ohio. Reasonís staff of 13 is distributed all across the country, with people living in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Connecticut and Arizona.
"It's a very dispersed, decentralized workforce, which accords very well with our general ideology and philosophy," says Gillespie.
"What I've been saying lately is that it would take at least $2 in postage to infect us all with anthrax."
November 20, 2001 © 2001 Media Life
-Jeff Bercovici is a staff writer for Media Life.