A Think Tank for Liberty

A Personal History of Reason Foundation

[Amazon Link]

I got this as a freebie for being a contributor to Reason magazine. So I felt obligated to read it.

Make no mistake, the author, Robert B. Poole, should be one of the heroes of the libertarian movement. He transformed Reason from a cranky mimeographed rag into a high-quality professional magazine with national import. He was also the driver of the Reason Foundation (the "think tank" of the title), which performs solid scholarship on the various misfeatures of the "mixed economy."

So, good news: there are parts of this book that are very interesting, notably Poole's own story, his relationships with co-Reasoners, his insights into various controversies he's been part of.

But there's also bad news: at times, the book reads like one of those annual evaluation reports put together for The Boss. Details about what meetings were taken, with whom, what happened as a result. Phone calls. Trips to different places. We got money from this guy. But this guy got a little pissed off by something in the magazine! Bob, don't worry! You can have your raise! It's richly deserved!

Instead of reading "then we did this study" over and over again, I think would have been significantly more interesting to read the studies themselves. Poole has long been a champion of privatizing infrastructure and some state-provided services. That's an ongoing battle, with Poole and his Reason friends providing ammo for the side of the angels. (You can check out the current foundation work at their website.)

But I shouldn't complain overmuch about the book Poole chose not to write. Especially a freebie.