Reason Podcast



Founded in 1968, Reason is the planet's leading source of news, politics, and culture from a libertarian perspective. Hosted by Nick Gillespie, Matt Welch, and other Reason journalists, our podcast explores "free minds and free markets." It features provocative, in-depth interviews with authors, comedians, filmmakers, musicians, economists, scientists, business leaders, and elected officials. Keep up to date on the latest happenings in our increasingly libertarian world from a point of view you won't get from legacy media and boring old left-right, liberal-conservative publications. You can also find video versions at


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Sex-Trafficking Hysteria Is Eroding Privacy in Hotels, Airplanes, and More

In her blockbuster exposé "Are You a Woman Traveling Alone?," Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown does a deep dive on the Department of Homeland Security "Blue Campaign." This campaign pushes the hospitality industry, air travel companies, and other businesses to call the feds if they suspect customers are involved in "trafficking"—an increasingly loose term that covers everything from slavery to traditional prostitution. The Marriott hotel chain, for instance, recently tweeted that all of its 750,000 employees worldwide are "being trained to help spot sex trafficking in our hotels." For today's Reason Podcast, Nick Gillespie talks with Brown about her story. More often than not, she writes, crackdowns on trafficking translate into rousting women sitting alone in bars and other common areas, snooping on fathers traveling with teenage daughters, or calling federally funded tip lines on guests who have "too many" condoms. In several recent high-profile cases involving airlines, "staff trained to 'spot traffickers' have harassed interracial couples and families. When people are asked to use gut instinct to stop real but rare horrors, relying on racial stereotypes and other biases tends to rule." Brown also documents the role of Polaris Project and ECPAT-USA, nonprofits that operate tip lines and provide training on spotting trafficking, in promoting these fears. Whatever the intentions behind the Blue Campaign, and despite Donald Trump's promise in his State of the Union address to crack down on traffickers smuggling women across "wide-open areas" on the U.S.-Mexico border, there is no evidence that sexual slavery is on the rise in the United States. The result, Brown argues, is that consensual sex work is being redefined as trafficking and the privacy of all Americans is taking another hit.


Government Caused Housing Segregation. Do We Need More Government to Fix the Problem?

"Racial segregation in America was, to a large degree, engineered by policy makers in Washington," writes the Economic Policy Institute's Richard Rothstein in the February 2019 issue of Reason, in an article adapted from his book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America (2017). The Manhattan Institute's Howard Husock agrees, calling Rothstein's book an "admirable work" in a 2017 review. But the two part company over Rothstein's confidence "that government today is the appropriate instrument to effect housing integration" and his dismissal of the idea that "the private housing market, guided by rigorously enforced antidiscrimination laws, offers African-American buyers the surest route to wealth accumulation and upward mobility." On January 14, 2019, the Soho Forum hosted a debate between Rothstein and Husock. The resolution read: "Since the federal government fostered housing segregation in the 20th century, the government should foster housing integration in the 21st." The Soho Forum, which is partnered with the Reason Foundation, is a monthly series held at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village. It hosts Oxford-style debates, in which the audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event, and the side that gains the most ground is victorious. Comedian Dave Smith, host of the podcast Part of the Problem, was the opening act. Edited by Todd Krainin.


Meet Two Feminist Journalists Who Are Saying #MeNeither

Journalists Nancy Rommelmann and Leah McSweeney make no apologies for critiquing what they call the "toxic femininity" of Asia Argento and the anti-Semitism of some of the leaders of this weekend's Women's March in Washington, D.C. Argento, they tell Nick Gillespie in a new Reason podcast, acted like Harvey Weinstein when it came out that she had slept with a 17-year-old boy she had known for a decade. She denied it, attacked the credibility of her accuser, and paid him hush money. In a blockbuster December story for Tablet co-authored with Jacob Siegel, McSweeney documented that top organizers of this Saturday's Women's March, which began as a protest against sexism and Donald Trump, "claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade" and pushed Jewish women out of leadership roles. The story was picked up by The New York Times and other outlets and has led to a number of high-profile supporters and organizations pulling their support for the March, especially after the organizers refused to denounce Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the source for much crackpot history regarding Jews and the slave trade. After the two created a YouTube channel called #MeNeither, where they critique aspects of contemporary feminism and talk about contemporary call-out culture, an outraged viewer started a campaign against Ristretto Roasters, the Portland-based coffee-shop chain owned by Rommelmann's husband. McSweeney, who is the founder of the punk-influenced clothing line Married To the Mob (sample t-shirt: "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Bleeding"), and Rommelmann, author of 2018's To The Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder and a Reason contributor, tell me they are feminists who believe in equal opportunity and legal treatment for women but recoil from the excesses of current identity politics. It's a wide-ranging, foul-mouthed, and frank conversation about contemporary sexual mores. Photo Credit: R Barnswell.


'America Really Was the First Country Founded on Individualism'

In 1946, the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand started writing Textbook of Americanism, a series of brief and accessible essays that she felt would define the essential ideas and character of her adopted homeland. Publishing them in a small magazine called The Vigil in the form of answers to basic questions, Rand only completed nine sections, which ranged from "What is the basic issue in the world today?" to "What is the basic principle of America?" to "What is the proper function of government?" Over 70 years later, Rand's dream sees its completion in A New Textbook of Americanism, a collection edited by Jonathan Hoenig, a Rand devotee who founded the investment fund Capitalist Pig and appears regularly on Fox News, where he's one of the few guests to call out Donald Trump for his protectionism, cronyism, and anti-immigrant stances. The new volume reprints Rand's original contributions while adding fresh new material from a host of contemporary writers associated with the Ayn Rand Institute, including Leonard Peikoff, Yaron Brook, Amy Peikoff, Andrew Bernstein, and others. The new essays are wide-ranging and provocative, answering such questions as "How to Recognize a Nazi," "How Are Fortunes Made in a Capitalist System?," and "What Should a Distinctively American Foreign Policy Do?" For today's podcast, Nick Gillespie spoke with Hoenig about what Rand meant by Americanism, why that's important, and whether he's optimistic about a country that he himself says is growing more collectivist on both the right and the left. We also talked about the fault lines between Rand's Objectivism and the modern libertarian movement, Rand's argument for complete abortion rights and her thoroughgoing secularism, and what it will take to revive the sort of individualism that Hoenig, like Rand, says is the essential foundation of America. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Hoenig.


A Crackdown on Cash and Bitcoin? Curbing Crime vs. Empowering the Surveillance State

"Governments of the advanced industrial economies should phase out the use of paper money in the form of large-denomination notes and sharply restrict the use of cryptocurrencies." That was the resolution at a public debate hosted by the Soho Forum on December 3, 2018. Arguing the affirmative was the Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. Lawrence H. White, a professor of economics at George Mason University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, argued against the resolution. Soho Forum Director Gene Epstein moderated the debate. The Soho Forum, which is sponsored by the Reason Foundation, hosts Oxford-style debates in which the audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event—yes, no, or undecided—and the side that gains the most ground is victorious. In a close finish, White prevailed by convincing five percent of audience members to come over to his side. Rogoff picked up two percent. Rogoff's book 2016 book The Curse of Cash (2016) argues that the U.S. government should phase out most paper currency. His monthly syndicated column on global economic issues is published in over 50 countries. White, a leading theorist on free banking, is the author most recently of The Clash of Economic Ideas (2012). Comedian Dave Smith, host of the podcast Part of the Problem, opened the program. Edited by Todd Krainin Photo Credit: Brett Raney "Divider" by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Attribution License.


How Psychedelics Changed the Life of One of America's Leading Novelists

Psychedelic and hallucinogenic drugs are enjoying a revival—as agents of personal pleasure, mind expansion, and conventional medicine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently designated psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, as a "breakthrough therapy" for treatment of depression. MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, has been similarly designated as a breakthrough therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. Earlier this year, two major books about psychedelics came out. Michael Pollan's How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence is a relatively conventional history and memoir that drew praise from Reason's Jacob Sullum for recovering the history of "psychedelics' potential for facilitating psychotherapy, promoting the rehabilitation of addicts, and relieving end-of-life anxiety" before Timothy Leary and others promoted such drugs as the stuff of total political and cultural revolution. "Psychedelics have been politicized, medicalized, and spiritualized," asks Sullum in his review. "Will they ever be personalized?" Which brings us to that second book, Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change, written by acclaimed novelist Tao Lin. Born in 1983 to immigrants from Taiwan and raised in Florida, Lin is a critical darling of the contemporary literary scene (Bret Easton Ellis has declared him to be "the most interesting prose stylist of his generation"). His books Taipei, Richard Yates, Shoplifting from American Apparel, and others are populated by disaffected young people who take copious amounts of drugs, especially downers such as Xanax and prescription opioids. Trip is an excruciatingly personal non-fiction account of the author's use of psychedelics as part of a "sustained, conscious not drift toward meaninglessness, depression, disempowering forms of resignation, and bleak ideologies like existentialism." "Weird is the compass setting," writes Lin at one point, quoting Terence McKenna (1946-2000), who helped popularize magic mushrooms and inspire rave culture. Trip is certainly weird, but like the most-potent drugs, also wonderful. Interview by Nick Gillespie.


Adam Conover of <em>Adam Ruins Everything</em> on Seeking Truth in the Post-Truth Era

Since 2015, when Reason first sat down with Adam Conover, host of TruTV's hit show Adam Ruins Everything, a new president has taken office, a new media landscape has emerged, and some would say we're inhabiting a new reality. What's it like to make a show that seeks to uncover hidden truths in the "post-truth era"? "I guess what's happened is that I've a little bit let go of the idea that we can reach everybody," says Conover, who's about to go on a live tour and is gearing up for the premiere of his show's third season. "Certain people...the informational world they live in, it's so distorted that it's hard to get through." But most people still have a "deep down desire to learn, to know the truth," he says. In a wide-ranging interview with Reason's Zach Weissmueller (full disclosure: Weissmueller is married to the show's casting director), Conover shares his thoughts on the "response videos" to his work proliferating on YouTube, how he contends with the psychological defense mechanisms that prevent viewers from changing their opinions, the "de-platforming" of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and how big tech companies are changing our perceptions of reality. The new season of Adam Ruins Everything premieres on November 27, 2018, and his live tour starts on November 28. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Paul Detrick, Justin Monticello, and Alexis Garcia. "Happy Whistle" by Scott Holmes is licensed under an Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license "Symphony No. 5" by Gustav Mahler and performed by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony is licensend under a Creative Commons Unported Attribution License


That Time Ayn Rand Threatened <em>Reason</em> with Legal Action

Can you imagine a lawsuit called Rand v. Reason, pitting the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged against the nation's only magazine of "Free Minds and Free Markets"? Well, it almost happened in the 1970s. In the latest Reason Podcast, one of our founding editors, Manny Klausner, tells Nick Gillespie that tale, along with many stories of the early days of Reason and the libertarian movement. Attending New York University law school in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Klausner studied with Ludwig von Mises, represented the libertarian wing of the fledgling Conservative Party, and came under the influence of firebrand economist Murray Rothbard as well. While working at Reason, Klausner (archive here) produced memorable interviews with the likes of Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, economist Thomas Sowell, '70s self-help guru Robert Ringer, and future President Ronald Reagan. Founded in 1968 by Lanny Friedlander (1947–2011), Reason is celebrating its 50th anniversary by hosting a series of in-depth conversations with past editors about how the magazine has changed since its founding, what we've gotten right and wrong over the years, and what the future holds for believers in "free minds and free markets." Along with Poole and Tibor Machan (1939-2016), Klausner was one of the principals of Reason Enterprises, which bought the magazine from the Friedlander in 1971. He was also a co-founder of the nonprofit Reason Foundation, established in 1978, which continues to publish this website and podcast. As an attorney, Klausner participated in Bush v. Gore, the case that settled the 2000 election, and successfully defended Matt Drudge in a defamation suit brought by Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal. Audio production by Ian Keyser. Photo credit: Jim Epstein.


Libertarian Filmmaker, Podcaster Kmele Foster Wants To Change the World

In 2004, Michael Bell's 21-year-old son was killed by police during a routine traffic stop in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Within three days, local law enforcement declared it had fully investigated the matter and announced that police had acted properly throughout. Pushing through his grief, Bell also pushed for change, beginning a decade-long campaign to legally mandate truly independent investigations into deadly use of force by police. He succeeded in Wisconsin and, to date, seven other states to pass such legislation. Bell's crusade is the subject of a recent video by today's podcast subject, Kmele Foster of Freethink Media, an online video platform founded in 2011 to tell stories about human perseverance, inspiration, and progress. Foster is also the former co-host, with Kennedy and Reason's own Matt Welch, of the Fox Business show The Independents, and a current co-host of the popular podcast The Fifth Column, a free-wheeling, boozy deep-read of news and popular culture. Foster was born in 1980 and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. Nick Gillespie talks with him about how the Michael Bell story exemplifies what Freethink Media is trying to accomplish, what it was like growing up in an immigrant household (his mother is Jamaican), why libertarianism is underrepresented among racial and ethnic minorities, how he came to his anarcho-capitalist beliefs, and what his hopes are for his 1-year-old daughter. Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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Tyler Cowen's <em>Stubborn Attachments</em> To Freedom and Prosperity

Over the past 20 years, arguably no libertarian thinker has cut a broader or deeper swath than Tyler Cowen, who holds the Holbert L. Harris Chair in economics at George Mason University and acts as chairman and general director of the Mercatus Center. Co-founder of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution, the 56-year-old New Jersey native is a regular contributor at Bloomberg and for years wrote an "economic scene" column for The New York Times. He is the host of Conversations with Tyler, a podcast series that includes interviews with people as diverse as Martina Navratilova, Paul Krugman, and Dave Barry, and the author of a shelf full of books, including 2000’s In Praise of Commercial Culture, 2007’s Discover Your Inner Economist and last year’s The Complacent Class. His work is at once intellectually serious, concise, and engaging, and his unique perspective yields fascinating analyses of activities and subjects that most economists ignore—everything from the literal and figurative prices of fame to how globalization empowers Mexican folk artists to whether public funding for the arts has been more successful than most free-marketers would grant. A recurring theme over the past decade is a fear that America and much of the West may have entered a period he calls "the great stagnation," in which technological innovation and economic growth have slowed even as risk-taking and moonshot-type ventures are demonized or ignored altogether. Nick Gillespie sat down to talk with Cowen about his newest book, Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals. It’s an unapologetically libertarian argument for what he calls long-term sustainable economic growth and, more importantly, intellectual and cultural attitudes that are unabashedly devoted to freedom and prosperity. It’s a provocative, powerful argument for an America in which government does less, individuals do more, and the future becomes the object of our dreams rather than a repository of our fears. Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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Report from 'Alienated Amer...


"The American Dream is dead," declared Donald Trump in 2015 when he announced he was running for president. "If I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better than ever before." One of the most interesting outcomes ...