Letter to Reason Magazine Subscribers

June 16, 1999

Dear Reason Reader:

You know that Reason is more than a magazine.

You know that Reason is a way of thinking about the world, a way of seeing through the nonsense and getting to the truth. You know that it's a voice on behalf of the best in human beings, challenging those who would treat us like children.

You know that Reason's appreciation for the textures of everyday life helps it avoid the alienation of magazines stuck inside the Beltway and remain engaged in the issues that are important to most Americans.

You know that Reason's thoughtful editorials help to clarify the issues and expand upon the ideas of liberty in the context of today's political debate.

You know that Reason is a tool for learning about the world. But do you understand that it's also a tool for changing the world?

I'm sure you know how important it is to have a voice in the debate taking place every day on the op-ed pages of newspapers, the airwaves of talk radio, and the broadcasts of television news and public affairs programming.

It's important because these venues are where Americans develop their assumptions about government's authority to tell you how to live your life. They are where people decide they can tell you where and how to live, how to raise and educate your children, and what you can do with your body.

Every day, a national discussion of politics and public policy, business and culture rages. And to change minds, we have to be there.

And we are there. Through an aggressive outreach program, and with your generous support, we have put dynamic libertarian ideas on the map and made them a necessary part of the discussion.

By reaching the opinion leaders that shape public perceptions, we make sure classical liberal ideas are represented in the public debate. We make sure there's a voice on behalf of freedom, competition, and rationality represented in our national discussion.

To do so, we reach out to people through a variety of activities that take our ideas beyond the pages of Reason. Through our popular Web site, Reason Online (www.reason.com), and our weekly email newsletter, Reason Express, we maintain a high profile stance in cyberspace.

With books like my The Future and Its Enemies and Jacob Sullum's For Your Own Good, Reason provides in-depth research and development of the key concepts you and I believe in. We provide a bridge between the popular media and academic scholarship, and add to the world's knowledge.

With regular columns by Reason editors in Forbes, Forbes ASAP, Suck.com, IntellectualCapital.com, and the Washington Times, and op-eds by Reason editors on the pages of the New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, Reason reaches a regular audience of readers that might not otherwise hear a dynamic perspective.

As the Columbia Journalism Review recently noted, "Reason has elbowed its way into The Discussion...on some topics, like the privatization of social security, Reason and its readers are clearly helping shape the national debate."

In other words, your support allows Reason to take the ideas of dynamism and liberty from its pages out into the world, helping to shape opinion and change the terms of the political debate.

In other words, Reason makes your ideas heard.

It might be hard to see Reason's influence from the conventional wisdom on so many television shows and in typical newspapers. And it can get pretty frustrating sometimes. It becomes tempting to believe that the tension between freedom and central control is one that has always, and will always, exist. It's tempting to believe that things never change.

But they have changed. Fifty years ago, the value and viability of central planning was the dominant and unquestioned assumption in policy circles. Today, the idea is thoroughly discredited.

Fifty years ago, the Soviet Union loomed as a powerful threat to liberty around the world. Today, it is bankrupt and lurching toward a free market economy.

Things do change (and progress is made) because of economic realities and because of ideas. Ideas matter. They shape our perception of the possibilities, the terms we use to debate, and the foundation of our society.

But ideas only matter if people who support them make sure they are heard. To be heard, ideas must be part of an intellectual movement, and intellectual movements are often centered around a magazine. Ms. Magazine helped make feminism a force to be reckoned with. The New Republic helped make Progressive ideology powerful. Neither of these magazines, nor others like them from the 19th-Century abolitionists to today, made money through commercial revenue alone. All magazines of ideas depend on the people who believe in them for support.

With your help, we've built an intellectual movement around Reason and the ideas of liberty and dynamism. We're continuously trying to build relationships with thinkers who share our appreciation for market forces, the joy we find in competition and innovation, and our understanding of the trial and error process that makes progress possible.

They may not all agree with us on every issue, but they share our essential love of choice and competition. And they unite with us to speak out against those who would stifle market processes and impose a "one best way" on us all.

Our dynamic coalition is central to the future of freedom, and it's gaining momentum every day.

With your help, the supporters of a dynamic society challenge those who would impose their ideas on the rest of us and take away our right to live our lives as we see fit:

  • When Al Gore and his friends want to save you from "sprawl" we question his definition and solution. After all, sprawl is just elbow room and personal transportation are the things that make the suburbs so popular. Who is he trying to save?

  • When conservative pundits complain about the United States' lack of national greatness and purpose, we challenge their belief that the government can provide such a thing, and point out their alienation from the vitality of everyday American life.

  • When people suffer needless pain because doctors can't prescribe sufficient pain killers, Reason documents their stories and calls attention to the futility and inhumanity of the drug war.

  • When cultural critics decry the market's role in artistic creation or seek to tell you what you can read or hear, Reason's cultural commentary celebrates capitalism and argues that culture is an evolutionary process that shouldn't be controlled.

The dynamic coalition centered around Reason is growing. Thousands of people like you share our vision and become involved in our work by reading Reason and Reason Express, by attending events like our annual "Dynamic Visions" conference, and by helping to develop these ideas into compelling stories that can help people see the light.

And thousands of people choose to support what they believe and help further their cause another way: by financially supporting our work.

As I'm sure you know, the magazine business is a tough one. Magazines of ideas simply don't make money -- none of them do. Even The New Yorker loses a reported $25 million per year.

Magazines like Reason simply don't have the targeted audiences that advertisers look for. And if Reason exists to further an intellectual movement, we need to reach as many people as possible, a fact that prevents us from raising our subscription rates too high.

Magazines like Reason depend on their fans and supporters to keep them afloat. Some magazines, like The New Republic and The Atlantic, have millionaire publishers who pour money into them.

Reason, however, is different. Reason depends on a coalition of thousands of men and women who believe in the power of trial-and-error innovation and competition to bring us a better world.

We depend on you, standing behind what you believe in. Your renewed tax-deductible contribution will further the cause of dynamic libertarianism and continue your involvement with Reason magazine and the Reason Foundation, giving you the intellectual ammunition to further the values of choice and competition on your own.

Your renewed contribution will allow you to continue receiving updates on our activities and invitations to events with your fellow dynamists. As an essential part of our work, your continued friendship and support adds momentum and resources to the dynamic libertarian intellectual movement.

Please continue your support with a renewed tax-deductible contribution in support of Reason magazine and the Reason Foundation. Continued success on behalf of our shared vision of "free minds and free markets" depends on you.


Virginia Postrel

P.S. Don't forget to participate in your employer's matching gift program if you can -- you could double your contribution.