Reason Foundation

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Reason Foundation
Founder(s) Robert W. Poole, Jr., Manuel S. Klausner, Tibor R. Machan
Established 1978[1]
Mission Advancing a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law
Focus Public policy
President David Nott[1]
Chairman Thomas E. Beach
Key people Drew Carey, Nick Gillespie, Matt Welch
Budget Revenue: $9,066,823
Expenses: $8,952,656
(FYE September 2013)[2]
reason TV
Slogan "free minds and free markets"

Los Angeles, California

Washington, D.C.

5737 Mesmer Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90230

1747 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009

The Reason Foundation is an American libertarian research organization[3] founded in 1978[1] that also publishes the magazine Reason. Based in Los Angeles, it is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. According to its web site, the Reason Foundation is committed to advancing "the values of individual freedom and choice, limited government, and market-friendly policies." According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), the Foundation is number 41 (of 60) in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States".[4]

Reason Foundation's policy research areas include: air traffic control, American domestic monetary policy, school choice, eminent domain, government reform, housing, land use, immigration, privatization, public-private partnerships, urban traffic and congestion, transportation, industrial hemp, medical marijuana, police raids and militarization, free trade, globalization and telecommunications.[5] Affiliated projects include Drew Carey's Reason TV video website. Reason Foundation staff also regularly contribute to the Out of Control Policy Blog.

Reason Foundation co-founder Robert Poole is an MIT-trained engineer and the author of Cutting Back City Hall.[6] Cutting Back City Hall provided the intellectual support for Margaret Thatcher's privatization efforts in the United Kingdom.[7] Poole remains at Reason serving as an officer on the organization's board of trustees and Director of Transportation Policy.[8] Poole founded Reason with Manny Klausner and Tibor Machan.[9]


Robert Poole founded Reason Foundation and served as its president from 1978[1] to 2001. Patricia Lynn Scarlett took over as president in 2001, but shortly thereafter resigned to join the Bush administration as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the Department of the Interior. David Nott, a Stanford University graduate, has served as Reason Foundation's president since 2001.[1]

The Reason Foundation is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a U.S. national network of free-market oriented think tanks.[10]


Reason Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization[1] completely supported by voluntary contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations, and the sale of its publications.

In 2013, the independent rating group Charity Navigator rated the foundation four out of four stars.[11]


Annual Privatization Report, Privatization Watch and Innovators in Action[edit]

Reason Foundation publishes the Annual Privatization Report, which reports on news and trends in U.S. outsourcing, privatization and public-private partnerships. Privatization Watch is another of the Foundation's privatization publications that is published three to four times per year. Innovators in Action is an annual publication that advocates shrinking the size and scope of government, usually through privatization. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens wrote columns for this publication in 2007.

Annual Highway Report[edit]

Reason Foundation's Annual Highway Report ranks each state's transportation system on cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Reason has also published a number of studies opposing rail systems in favor of road construction. The 21st Annual Highway Report was published in September 2014.[12]

Reason magazine[edit]

Reason Foundation's primary publication is the magazine Reason, which began publishing in 1968[1] by Lanny Friedlander, and was originally an infrequently published mimeographed magazine. In 1970, Robert Poole purchased Reason with Manuel S. Klausner and Tibor R. Machan, who set the magazine on a more regular publication schedule.[13] It covers politics, culture, and ideas through a mix of news, analysis, commentary, and reviews.

Reason and Reason Online are editorially independent publications of Reason Foundation.[14] Reason magazine won three Los Angeles Press Club awards in 2008.[15]

Policy areas[edit]


Reason Foundation co-founder Robert Poole "is credited as the first person to use the term "privatization" to refer to the contracting-out of public services and is the author of the first-ever book on municipal privatization, Cutting Back City Hall, published by Universe Books in 1980."[16] Cutting Back City Hall was massively influential, notably by providing the intellectual support for Margaret Thatcher's privatization efforts in the United Kingdom.[7] Thatcher wrote in Reason Foundation's Annual Privatization Report 2006, "State control is fundamentally bad because it denies people the power to choose and the opportunity to bear responsibility for their own actions. Conversely, privatisation shrinks the power of the state and free enterprise enlarges the power of the people."[17]

The Reason Foundation supports the privatization of (or public-private partnerships for) almost all government functions. Leonard Gilroy, Reason Foundation's Director of Government Reform, describes privatization as "a strategy to lower the costs of government and achieve higher performance and better outcomes for tax dollars spent."[18] Gilroy also notes that "If badly executed, privatization like any other policy can fail. Taxpayers are no better off, and may be worse off, if a service is moved from a government agency to an incompetent or inefficient private business."[18]


Reason is engaged in a number of transportation policy endeavors.

Reason Foundation co-founder Robert Poole serves as the Director of Transportation Policy. According to the New York Times, "For 17 years, Mr. Poole has been the chief theorist for private solutions to gridlock. His ideas are now embraced by officials from Sacramento to Washington."[19]

The Annual Highway Report receives significant media attention each year for ranking all fifty states for quality and cost-effectiveness.

The Galvin Mobility Project has led to the production of studies on the causes of congestion, such as the book "Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive Twenty-First Century" by Reason Foundation's Director of Urban Growth and Land Use Policy, Sam Staley.

Reason Foundation is often the target of criticism from transportation experts and observers.[20] The criticism is typically motivated by the argument that Reason Foundation has a simplified perspective on transportation that it employs in analyses of projects, which often excludes walking/biking and misrepresents the societal costs of road congestion.[citation needed] Another common criticism is the typical neglect of interrelations between transportation and other aspects of society, such as the impact on public spaces and the improved quality of urban life in less car dependent environments.[citation needed]


Reason Foundation has strongly advocated for education reform - namely through expanded school choice initiatives. Reason's Director of Education and Child Welfare Lisa Snell authored a study in 2009 entitled Weighted Student Formula Yearbook 2009, which examined school districts using student-based "backpack funding."[21] Snell is also: "an advisory board member to the National Quality Improvement Center for the Children’s Bureau; on the charter school accreditation team for the American Academy for Liberal Education; and serves as a board member for the California Virtual Academy."[22]

Municipal broadband[edit]

In 2006, Reason Foundation issued a report attacking a municipal Wi-Fi project iProvo in Provo, Utah as financially unstable and ineffective at lowering Internet costs or raising broadband use.[23] iProvo proponents responded vigorously with a white paper rebutting Reason's conclusions.[24] In particular, the iProvo team noted that the author of the report, Steven Titch, "is a technology and public relations consultant with strong ties to Qwest Communications, an incumbent provider who has opposed the concept of iProvo from its infancy." Titch claimed that there was no conflict of interest.[24] Others have noted that Reason received a $100,000 grant from AT&T the previous year,[citation needed] although AT&T does not seem to be necessarily opposed to municipal WiFi.[25]

In 2008, Reason issued a follow-up report titled, iProvo Revisited: Another Year and Still Struggling. According to Reason, the predictions in its first report had proven true: "iProvo's total losses are likely to exceed $10 million by the end of this fiscal year - and that figure doesn't include the $39.5 million borrowed to launch the project, most of which still needs to be paid back."[26] Reason called for the city to "cut its losses" and sell the network to a private company. Shortly after the 2008 report was issued, the mayor of Provo, Lewis Billings, who had been highly critical of the Reason reports, announced that iProvo would in fact be sold to a private enterprise, Broadweave, for $40 million.[27]

Climate change[edit]

In 2005, Reason magazine's science writer Ronald Bailey wrote a column declaring that climate change is both real and man-made. He wrote, "Anyone still holding onto the idea that there is no global warming ought to hang it up. All data sets—satellite, surface, and balloon—have been pointing to rising global temperatures."[28]

In 2006, Bailey wrote an article titled "Confessions of an Alleged ExxonMobil Whore: Actually no one paid me to be wrong about global warming. Or anything else."[29] In the article Bailey explains how and why he changed his mind on climate change.

War in Iraq[edit]

The Reason Foundation has been critical of the cost of the war in Iraq. Reason magazine's May 2008 cover story "Trillion Dollar War"[30] discussed the dubious ways in which the war in Iraq and Afghanistan have been funded by Congress and the Bush administration. The majority of Reason magazine's staffers opposed the war, but a few, such as Beirut-based contributing editor Michael Young, endorsed it.[31]

Health care[edit]

On August 25, 2010, Reason TV published a video titled "Wheat, Weed and Obamacare: How the Commerce Clause Made Congress All-Powerful" as part of an effort to question the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as Obamacare.[3] The video has been credited with popularizing the argument in conservative circles that PPACA's individual mandate to buy health insurance is constitutionally equivalent to requiring consumers to buy particular types of fruits or vegetables.[3] This argument was ultimately articulated by Justice Antonin Scalia, who suggested during oral argument of the PPACA cases that if Congress has the power to require Americans to buy health insurance, then "Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli."[3]

Drew Carey Project and Reason TV[edit]

Comedian and The Price Is Right host Drew Carey serves on the Board of Trustees at Reason Foundation. According to an interview by Katherine Herrup of The New York Sun with Nick Gillespie (current editor-in-chief of Reason TV), Carey initially proposed the idea for Reason TV after reading Reason magazine for years. He then both appeared in and narrated numerous videos produced by Reason TV.[32]

One of the collaboration's first projects, Carey's video criticizing the Drug Enforcement Administration's medical marijuana raids, received significant national attention,[33] Other of his videos for the foundation have promoted free trade; criticized the government's raids of local poker games; an Arizona attempt to ban dancing in a family restaurant (Footloose in Arizona)[34] highlighted a ban on bacon-wrapped hot dogs in Los Angeles; detailed abuse of eminent domain laws; called for more toll roads to relieve congestion; argued for deregulation of organ donation (including kidneys and other organs); and called for immigration reform.[35]

Reason TV produced a full-length documentary entitled Reason Saves Cleveland with Drew Carey applying success stories from around the United States to "save Cleveland." The documentary was awarded "Best Advocacy Journalism" at the 53rd Annual Southern California Journalism Awards by the Los Angeles Press Club.[36]

Oath of Presidential Transparency[edit]

Reason Foundation and a bipartisan group of over thirty other organizations asked all of the 2008 U.S. presidential candidates to sign a pledge promising that, if elected, they would deliver the most transparent presidency in history and guaranteeing the executive branch would adhere to the concepts of open government. The candidates who signed the oath were: Sen. Barack Obama (DIllinois), Rep. Ron Paul (RTexas), Sen. Sam Brownback (R–Kansas), former Sen. Mike Gravel (D–Alaska), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D–Ohio), Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, and John Cox.

Reason Foundation's Vice-President of Research Adrian Moore said of the oath, "The next president should be committed to transparency and accountability. Redesigning the federal government so that it is more accountable to taxpayers is a nonpartisan issue. Transparency will help produce a government focused on results instead of our current system, which is plagued by secrecy, wasteful spending and pork projects."[37]

Then-Senator Barack Obama echoed those sentiments saying, "Every American has the right to know how the government spends their tax dollars, but for too long that information has been largely hidden from public view. This historic law will lift the veil of secrecy in Washington and ensure that our government is transparent and accountable to the American people."[37]

Reason posted the signed oaths on its website.[38]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "About the Reason Foundation". Reason Foundation. Retrieved June 14, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Charity Rating". Charity Navigator.  Also see "GuideStar Summary". GuideStar. 
  3. ^ a b c d Stewart, James B. (June 13, 2012). "How Broccoli Landed on Supreme Court Menu". New York Times. 
  4. ^ James G. McGann (Director) (February 4, 2015). "2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report". Retrieved February 14, 2015. .
  5. ^ "Reason Foundation". Reason Foundation. 
  6. ^ Robert Poole's Bio on
  7. ^ a b John Blundell, "Margaret Thatcher: A Portrait of an Iron Lady", 100.
  8. ^ "Reason Foundation". Reason Foundation Expert. 
  9. ^ "Reason Foundation". Reason Foundation. 
  10. ^ "Directory SPN Members". State Policy Network. Retrieved March 23, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Charity Navigator Rating - Reason Foundation". Charity Navigator. 
  12. ^ "Reason Foundation". Reason Foundation. 
  13. ^ Brian Doherty, "40 Years of Free Minds and Free Markets," Reason Magazine, December 2008 (
  14. ^ Reason magazine "About Us" Section at
  15. ^ Los Angeles Press Club's List of Winners at the "50th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards"
  16. ^ Robert Poole's Staff Page on
  17. ^ Margaret Thatcher, "Rebuilding An Enterprise Society Through Privatisation", Annual Privatization Report 2006, p. 7 (
  18. ^ a b Leonard Gilroy and Adrian Moore, "Ten Principles of Privatization"
  19. ^ Transportation on
  20. ^ Todd Litman, "Evaluating Rail Transit Criticism"
  21. ^ Lisa Snell, Weighted Student Formula Yearbook 2009
  22. ^ "Reason Foundation". Reason Foundation Expert. 
  23. ^ Steven Titch (1 December 2006). "Spinning its Wheels". Reason Foundation. 
  24. ^ a b Tad Walch, Deseret News, "Provo lashes iProvo critics"
  25. ^ Eric Bangeman, "AT&T gets into municipal WiFi business"
  26. ^ Reason Foundation Press Release iProvo Losses at $8 Million and Counting
  27. ^ Deseret News: iProvo, Broadweave Nearly Close Deal,5143,700239528,00.html
  28. ^ Ronald Bailey (11 August 2005). "We're All Global Warmers Now". 
  29. ^ Ronald Bailey (22 September 2006). "Confessions of an Alleged ExxonMobil Whore". 
  30. ^ Trillion Dollar War by Veronique de Rugy in Reason magazine
  31. ^ Archive of Michael Young's Reason magazine columns
  32. ^ The Project. YouTube. 5 May 2008. 
  33. ^ Associated Press and USA Today: "Drew Carey Defends Medical Marijuana"
  34. ^ Arizona Republic: San Tan Flats Wins Dance Duel
  35. ^ Archive of Videos Produced by Drew Carey for Reason TV
  36. ^ "Radley Balko Named "Journalist of the Year," Reason Wins Three Other First Place Prizes at the Southern California Journalism Awards". 
  37. ^ a b "Reason Foundation". Reason Foundation. 
  38. ^ Copies of the Signed "Oath of Presidential Transparency" at

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°59′03″N 118°23′58″W / 33.9842°N 118.3995°W / 33.9842; -118.3995