For the last 45 years, no writer has taken a bigger blowtorch to the sacred cows of American life than libertarian humorist P.J. O’Rourke.
As a writer at National Lampoon in the 1970s, he co-authored best-selling parodies of high school yearbooks and Sunday newspapers. For Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and other publications, O’Rourke traveled to war zones and other disaster areas, chronicling the folly of military and economic intervention. In 1991, he came out with Parliament of Whores, which explained why politicians should be the last people to have any power. Subtitled “A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government,” this international bestseller probably minted more libertarians than any book since Free to Choose or Atlas Shrugged. More recently, O’Rourke published a critical history of his own Baby Boomer generation and How The Hell Did This Happen?, a richly reported account of Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 presidential victory.
O’Rourke’s new book, None of My Business, explains “why he’s not rich and neither are you.” It’s partly the result of hanging out with wealthy money managers and businessmen and what they’ve taught him over the years about creating meaning and value in an ever richer and crazier world. It covers everything from social media to learning how to drink in war zones to why the Chinese may be more American than U.S. citizens. He also explains why even though he doesn’t understand or like a lot of things about modern technology, he doesn’t fear Amazon or Google, especially compared to people who are calling for Socialism 2.0. Read the rest of this entry »
As HBO’s blockbuster series Game of Thrones returns for its seventh season, Reason offers its own freedom-filled parody. A libertarian paradise north of the wall? What’s happened to Westeros’ social security trust fund? Should it take low-income Dothraki four years to get a hair-braiding license?
Written and produced by Austin Bragg, Meredith Bragg, and Andrew Heaton. Shot and edited by Bragg and Bragg. Starring Andrew Heaton, Austin Bragg, and Remy.
Lauren Krisai, John Pfaff, and Ken White discuss the power of prosecutors in the criminal justice system, how prosecutors have served as barriers to meaningful criminal justice reform, and whether an influx of forward-looking district attorneys could change the status quo.
“There is no evidence that an individual DA in his office is any more punitive today than he was in 1974,” explains John Pfaff, author of Locked in: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform. “We just have 30,000 of them instead of 17,000 even though the crime rate is roughly the same as it was in 1974. They’ve got to do something. They can’t just play minesweeper all day and keep their jobs.”
On May 25th, 2017, at Reason’s Washington, D.C. office, Reason hosted a panel discussion with Pfaff and Ken White, former assistant United States attorney and co-founder of the blog Popehat. Moderated by Lauren Krisai, director of Criminal Justice Reform at the Reason Foundation, the discussion touched on the power of prosecutors in the criminal justice system, how prosecutors have served as barriers to meaningful criminal justice reform, and whether an influx of forward-looking district attorneys could change the status quo. Read the rest of this entry »
In the twilight hours of a special election to replace Montana’s lone congressman, Republican hopeful Greg Gianforte reportedly “body slammed” and punched a Guardian reporter after the journalist tried to ferret out an answer about GOP health care plans. In this video Reason TV imagines a world in which other, high profile politicians give into violent impulses when confronted by the press.
Polls opened in Montana less than twenty-four hours after Gianforte’s confrontation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, and his subsequent assault charge. In the event that Mr. Gianforte is elected to Congress there is a reasonable chance he will interact with more journalists in the future, and possibly even have to formulate responses to Republican legislation at some point.
Democrats and Republicans are pivoting on issues faster than a bipolar swing dancer on a merry-go-round. Republicans are now big government protectionists. Democrats support free trade and states’ rights. It’s like the two parties switched bodies! It’s almost as if… they were FREAKY-FRIDAYED!
Remy explores some of the great April Fools’ Day gags in United States history.
Written and Performed by Remy. Camera by Meredith Bragg. Edited by Austin Bragg. Music tracks and mastering by Ben Karlstrom.
Give me liberty or give me death!
Let us fight for independence up until our final breath!
The one regret that we should all have in our minds
We only have one life to give up for the future of mankind!
April Fools! A jestful jab!
How about we give ourselves free health care
and stick our grandkids with the tab?
I’m talking penis pills for you and you and you!
April Fools! April Fools! April Fools!
Four score and seven years has been the span
Fair weather brought a crowd I see
you all must be Penguins fans
Thousands sacrificed their lives upon this turf
To ensure that a free nation shall not perish from the earth!
April Fools! A playful plea!
They died so we could monitor your browser history
and use your phone to watch you number two
Must we give thought to the price paid by these tools?! (No!)
April Fools! April Fools! April Fools!
Ask not about yourself
Ask what you can do for your country
leave selfishness on the shelf
May the communists abroad hear this reprise
We shall pay any cost to ensure that liberty survives!
April Fools! Just cheeky chants!
There’s a missile crisis! Yes and it is happening in your pants
So take these free pills, we’ll send China IOUs
April Fools! April Fools! April Fools! Read the rest of this entry »
Rob Pyers was a laid-off grocery bagger who learned to code on YouTube. Now the website he runs, the California Target Book, is shining a light on spending by politicians, their campaigns, and outside groups.
Rob Pyers didn’t set out to bring transparency to establishment politics. In fact, he didn’t even have any programming experience before he built the electronic systems for the California Target Book, a go-to resource for political transparency in the state. He initially came to Los Angeles with aspirations of becoming a screenwriter, but ended up stuck in his day job, bagging groceries. Then Walgreen’s laid him off, and he needed something else to do.
After joining the Target Book, Pyers taught himself how to code, mostly by watching YouTube videos. Two years later, the 41-year-old has built its systems from the ground up, and now runs the website from his cramped West Hollywood one-bedroom. He is often the first to publicize major donations and new candidates, making his Twitter feed invaluable to campaign consultants and journalists alike.
Pyers, who describes himself as “95 lbs of concentrated tech geek,” has become an expert on pulling data from hundreds of voter databases, election filings, and campaign finance disclosures. He’s done all this despite the fact that the state’s main resource for campaign information is an inaccessible hodgepodge of ZIP archives and tables that even the current Secretary of State has called a “Frankenstein monster of outdated code.”
“California’s Cal-Access website is notorious for being just sort of an ungodly, byzantine mess,” says Pyers. “If you have no idea what you’re doing, it’s almost impossible to get any useful information out of.”
The state is currently working on a multi-million dollar upgrade to the site, with an expected rollout in 2019. But while the government builds its new system, the Target Book has already proven its worth. During one 2016 Congressional race, the L.A. Times used Pyers’ data to reveal that candidate Isadore Hall may have misused hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign cash. Read the rest of this entry »
Dissidents are using USB drives to smuggle information into authoritarian regimes.
“The struggle for freedom is one that used to be about who has more guns. Now information is a key component in making sure the government doesn’t get away with winning the day with its narrative and pushing what governments tend to do, which is the use of fear to control the population.”
But if you were looking for something truly disruptive at SXSW, look no further than a group of activists using tech to spread information to citizens oppressed by authoritarian regimes.
“The people out there they don’t have satellites, they don’t have internet, they have nothing,” says Abdalaziz Alhamza who escaped Syria and co-founded Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. “To be stuck with only ISIS propaganda, it will affect them.”
Alhamza and dissidents from Eritrea, Afghanistan and Cuba were brought together by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) for a panel discussion called “The Real Information Revolution.” Reason caught up with the group at the HRF booth on the convention floor, centered around a large wall of Kim Jong Un faces with USB ports for mouths. Attendees were invited to donate USB drives into the display. The drives will later be smuggled into North Korea after being wiped and filled with films and information from the outside world. Read the rest of this entry »
“I consider myself primarily to be a libertarian,” says P.J. O’Rourke, the author of the new book ‘How the Hell Did This Happen?: The Election of 2016.’ “I am personally conservative [but] I always think of libertarianism as basically being an analytical tool, not an ideology per se…. When you look at something that happens, especially in politics, you look at something that happens, you say, ‘Does this increase the dignity of the individual? Does this increase the liberty of the individual? Does this increase the responsibility of the individual?’ If it meets those three criteria, then it’s probably an acceptable libertarian political policy, or lack thereof, because we like to subtract some things from politics too.”
In the latest Reason Podcast, O’Rourke tells Nick Gillespie what he learned about Donald Trump’s appeal from his time spent covering the 2016 election, why populism is a “tragedy” for libertarians, and why he wants his kids to study English and the liberal arts at college. “Be immersed in the history of civilization, you know, in literature, in the arts,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has stopped accepting Freedom of Information Act requests by email. The agency wants requesters to use fax, standard mail, or the agency’s online portal to make things on their end more efficient. But, FOIA advocates say this puts a lot of burden on the requester.
Hey millennial FOIA nuts: Time to familiarize yourselves with the concept of a paper jam.
“The goal seems to be ‘creating a lot of extra burden. Everyone is used to emails. It creates a permanent record. It has a time-stamp on it. Everyone knows how to use it’.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has stopped accepting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by email. The agency wants requesters to use fax, standard mail, or the agency’s online portal, FBI eFOIPA.
The goal seems to be “creating a lot of extra burden,” says Adam Marshall, an attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Everyone is used to emails. It creates a permanent record. It has a time-stamp on it. Everyone knows how to use it.”
The FBI says the move will help the agency expedite its backlog, which was estimated at 2,614 requests in 2015. Agency spokesperson Jillian Stickels told the Daily Caller that using an online portal will automate the processing of requests and “increase efficiency.”
But does the FBI really want to make the process more efficient? And its decision to continue accepting faxes and standard mail seems to only create headaches for requesters, who might run out of toner or have their transmission signal interrupted when someone picks up the line.
“Most mail that goes to a federal agency has to go through a screening process,” says Marshall. “Sometimes they irradiate it to make sure that there isn’t anthrax or other things in it […] So, it can take a long time for your mail to get from you to the FOIA officer who’s going to open it up and read it.” Yet the law says that the agency is required to provide a response to a FOIA request within 20 business days.
A beta version of the online portal required users to provide personal information about themselves and limited requests to one per day. The FBI backed away from these rules in response to public pressure from Muckrock and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), but the system still imposes a 3,000-character restriction. Also, the FBI says that not all types of requests can be fulfilled through the portal, though which types the agency won’t say.
There are other bureaucratic hurdles: The FBI has multiple computerized filing systems for documents. Typically, if a requester doesn’t specify which records system to search, the Bureau only queries its Central Records System (CRS) and then might fail to locate a document that it actually has on file. Marshall finds these multiple record systems “incredibly confusing” even though understanding them, he says, is part of his job. Read the rest of this entry »
If the federal government were to cut off funding for public broadcasting, the programs that so many of us cherish not only wouldn’t disappear, they would have a better chance of surviving long into the future.
In 1967, President Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, establishing a system of government subsidies that hasn’t changed that much in fifty years. The lion-share of federal money was allocated—not to pay directly for programming—but to go to independent public television and radio stations that were established in every corner of a vast nation. Their main purpose has always been to distribute national content to their local communities. About 70 percent of government funding went directly the local stations in 1967. Fifty years later, that formula hasn’t changed much.
When the Public Broadcasting Act became law, maintaining a network of regional stations was the only way to insure that every American household had access to public television and radio content. Today, this decentralized system isn’t necessary because it’s possible to stream or download NPR or PBS content from anywhere in the world. As audiences moves online, the regional stations supported by the federal government are becoming unnecessary.
It’s not just that these stations have become a waste of taxpayer money—they also present an obstacle to online distribution. The advent of podcasting, for example, was a singular opportunity for NPR to capitalize big on a new way of distributing its rich content. Today, NPR publishes several of the top podcasts, but in a concession to the stations, it forbids show hosts from promoting podcasts on the radio or from even mentioning NPR’s popular smartphone app. Station opposition is also the reason that podcast listeners can’t download episodes of NPR’s two top programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Recently, some of public radio’s most talented show hosts and producers have gone to work for private podcasting ventures. One reason to leave, says former-NPR reporter Adam Davidson, is that podcasters “have a creative freedom that NPR’s institutional frictions simply can’t allow.”
The fact is that without federal subsidies, the programs themselves could thrive. About 40 percent of funding for public television comes from private contributions (individuals, foundations, and businesses). For public radio, it’s about 60 percent. Read the rest of this entry »
The popular “homesharing” service made it affordable to book a beachfront property in Santa Monica. Then the city intervened.
The Trump administration is working hard to make America great again, by bringing jobs and opportunity back to our shores. Written and Produced by Austin Bragg.
Ever since the election, many Democrats have been desperately wondering how to slam the brakes on the Trump train. Well, one good way to start is by getting to know the conservatives who will be allies in that fight.
Here’s a list of five longtime Republicans liberals may grow to love in the Trump Era.
Avik Roy, the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity co-founder, discusses how Texas has not only become an economic powerhouse, but has maintained a sense of inclusion that doesn’t exist in many other states.
“In Texas, the Mexicans have always been there…. There’s not this sense that Mexicans are foreigners,” says Avik Roy, Forbes opinion editor and the co-founder and president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP).
Roy believes Texas, a majority-minority state, offers a good counter-example for libertarians and conservatives anxious about immigrants and non-Europeans changing American political culture. The Lone Star State is not only doing very well economically, says Roy, there’s a sense of inclusion that doesn’t exist in many other states.
“It’s not just a free state in the sense of policy, but there really is a sense that everyone feels, whether Anglo or Latino, that freedom has made their lives better,” Roy tells Reason’s Nick Gillespie. “This indigenous thing called Tex-Mex has been around for a very long time. It’s simply not treating the others as if they were others…that attitude makes a huge difference.”
According to Roy, who has advised politicians such as Rick Perry and Marco Rubio, one of the goals of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity is to challenge the conservative view that holds racial and ethnic minority groups can only be appeased through more statism and redistribution and should thus be written off when it comes to building political and economic coalitions. Read the rest of this entry »
Thirty years ago, Gurgaon barely existed. There were no high-rises. No kitschy shopping malls. No 27-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf courses. Until six years ago, the metropolis of two million people didn’t even have a municipal government.
So how did Gurgaon become one of the world’s fastest growing cities – India’s third wealthiest – in three decades?
The last time I was in India, it was a familiar scene. The rickshaws rumbling through busy bazaars. Shoppers haggling over everything from gemstones to silk sarees. Pilgrims prostrating their way to salvation. Authentic street food, enhanced by locally-sourced infectious pathogens.
This time around, I knew the country had changed. I wanted to see the effects of thirteen years of market reform and hypergrowth since my last visit. So I summoned an Uber (already something new) and headed 15 miles south of my Delhi hotel.
As the crumbling roads of the capital city opened up into a 32-lane expressway, the old India I thought I knew, gave way to the future. I’d arrived in the city of Gurgaon.
It’s hard to imagine, but twenty-five years ago, there was nothing here. No high-rises. No kitschy shopping malls with Vegas-like trompe l’oeil ceilings. No 27-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf courses. Stretching back to medieval times, Gurgaon was nothing more than a plot of rocky soil with a small marketplace. Until six years ago, it didn’t even have a municipal government. So what happened?
When Delhi banned private real estate development in the 1950s, Kushal Pal Singh began buying land south of the city limits. His company, Delhi Land and Finance, offered cash and equity stakes to farmers in Gurgaon. Many of these cowherds became instant crorepatis – millionaires, in the local lingo – while KP Singh would become the fifth richest man in India by the turn of the century.
The state of Haryana eased land use restrictions, making it easy for developers to use their land as they saw fit. But once land was converted from farmland to commercial use, it was still classified as rural. That’s how Gurgaon ended up as a city without a city government. Read the rest of this entry »
Reason‘s new editor in chief Katherine Mangu-Ward sat down with former Reason editor and author Virginia Postrel (now a columnist at Bloomberg View) at Reason’s Los Angeles headquarters to talk about the future of the magazine as it nears its 50th anniversary.
“Nick Gillespie—and to some extent Matt Welch—their version of Reason was sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Mine is more like sex, drugs, and robots,” says Mangu-Ward.
You may know Mangu-Ward’s work already as Reason’s managing editor or from her insightful cover stories covering everything from defending plastic bags to why your vote doesn’t count.
Approximately 48 minutes.
“The war on alcohol and the war on drugs were symbiotic campaigns,” says Harvard historian Lisa McGirr, author of The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State. “Those two campaigns emerged together, [and] they had the same shared…logic. Many of the same individuals were involved in both campaigns.”
Did alcohol prohibition of the 1920s ever really come to an end, or did it just metastasize into something far more destructive and difficult to abolish—what we casually refer to as “the war on drugs?” McGirr argues that our national ban on booze routed around its own repeal via the 21st Amendment. Ultimately, Prohibition transformed into a worldwide campaign against the drug trade
The ties between drug and alcohol prohibition run deep. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was established in 1930, only three years prior to Prohibition’s repeal. The FBN employed many of the same officials as the Federal Bureau of Prohibition. And both shared institutional spaces as independent entities within the U.S. Treasury Department. “In some ways,” observes McGirr, “the war never ended.”