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Preview: Nick Gillespie: Reason Magazine articles.

Nick Gillespie: articles.

Updated: 2018-04-22T00:00:00-04:00


Meet the Man Who Hated Carbs Before It Was Cool


Science writer Gary Taubes has a knack for subverting conventional wisdom. Sixteen years ago, he published a groundbreaking feature article in The New York Times Magazine arguing that decades' worth of government-approved nutritional advice was flat-out wrong, ideologically motivated, and contributing to rising rates of obesity and diabetes. Traditional dieting guidance attacking fatty foods and praising carbohydrates, he wrote, was based on "a big fat lie." Back then, Taubes was excoriated. (Reason published pieces both attacking and defending him.) But today his thesis is gaining ground among health and nutrition researchers. His work has been highlighted everywhere from The New York Times to Time magazine. Protein-rich regimens have taken off after millions of Americans found that stocking their pantries with supposedly "heart-healthy" snacks such as granola bars and fruit juice failed to improve wellness. Taubes' latest book on the subject is The Case Against Sugar (Knopf), which describes the sweet stuff as a toxic substance akin to cigarettes that can and does kill. "Something's triggering the epidemic everywhere, and it's probably the same thing everywhere," he says. The ingredient "at the scene of the crime"—one that's stealthily packed into even our diet foods, and one we've been consuming in ever-increasing doses over time, he argues—is sugar. In January, Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Taubes in his kitchen in Oakland, California, to talk about food, science, and the politics of both. Reason: Your book is framed as a kind of prosecutorial case, meant to convict sugar as the chief cause of many of our society's health problems: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, other chronic illnesses. Can you lay out the opening argument? Gary Taubes: It's meant to indict, but I'm not sure I could get a conviction. We have obesity and diabetes epidemics everywhere. Worldwide, they manifest whenever a population shifts from whatever their traditional diet is to a Westernized urban diet, and so you could think of the Western diet and lifestyle as the vector that carries obesity and diabetes into these populations. Describe the "Western diet." Is it processed foods? Pizza Rolls, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, Coca-Cola— So the things we live for are the things that are killing us? Something in our diet and lifestyle causes obesity and diabetes. Conventional wisdom is it's basically caloric overload. We eat too much and we're sedentary. Too many foods are available. They're packaged in a way that makes them irresistible. They have too much salt, fat, sugar. There's a whole host of theories around that idea, but ultimately it comes down to [the fact that] we take in more calories than we expend, and that causes obesity. Obesity increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Both those increase your risk of heart disease, cerebral vascular disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's, you name it—every major chronic disease. We see these chronic diseases appearing in populations when they make this nutritional shift, so the question is what is causing it? The argument I make in this book is that sugar has always been the prime suspect. You say it's always been a prime suspect, but at least in the past 40 or 50 years, we've been told, "Don't worry about sugar. Worry about fat, worry about meat." That's key to the story, and that's how I entered into it as an investigative journalist. We had this belief system that began as a hypothesis in the 1950s and started to be tested in the 1960s, which is that dietary fat causes heart disease. So by the 1980s, a "healthy" diet was being defined as a low-fat, low-salt diet. And this explains SnackWell's fat-free cookies and things like that. A whole genre of food. One of the things that happened in the '80s, when we embraced this low-fat healthy diet synchronicity, is the government, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], started telling industry to produce low-fat foods. So the iconic example is yogurt, a high-fat food by definition. You remove some of the fat and n[...]

Why John Boehner Was a Better Speaker than Paul Ryan: Justin Amash


One Republican member of Congress who won't be sorry to see Speaker of the House Paul Ryan leave office is the libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who also served under John Boehner.

Boehner famously had no use for Amash's principled stand on shrinking the size, scope, and spending of government and was known to swear ferociously at the Michigander. Yet Amash told Reason that compared to Ryan, "In many respects, Boehner was the better speaker." That's because Boehner believed in letting Congress actually debate, argue, and vote on amendments to appropriations legislation in a relatively open manner. Ryan, in contrast, controlled the process tightly and thus stifled the legislative process. In a recent interview with Reason's Nick Gillespie, Amash says:

I would rather have the guy swearing at me and letting me have a vote than not considering me at all...Under [Ryan's] speakership, we've had the fewest open amendments of any speakership. We've had zero....Everything has to be pre-approved by the Speaker.... Under Boehner, you could walk up...and offer an amendment as long as it was germane to the bill, you got to vote on it. And this was true on basically all appropriations bills. Now, we don't even do appropriations bills. They come up with some omnibus bill and spring it on us at the last second and they say, 'This is the bill.'

When asked how the Republican Party might be dragged in a more libertarian direction, Amash didn't miss a beat in suggesting that "you [need to] change the Speaker of the House and have a libertarian Speaker of the House."

With Paul Ryan's departure in January 2019, that opportunity just might arrive.

This interview was conducted at Reason Weekend, our annual donor event, which was held this year in West Palm Beach, Florida.

For more of this interview with Amash, go here.

For a podcast version, go here.

Cameras by Jim Epstein and Meredith Bragg. Edited by Alexis Garcia.

"Destiny Day" by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist:

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Mark Zuckerberg vs. Silicon Valley's Richard Hendricks: Why Facebook 'Welcomes' Regulation


Mark Zuckerberg is the multi-billionaire founder and CEO of Facebook. This week he testified before Congress, assuring lawmakers that his company will play nice with government regulators.

Richard Hendricks is a character on HBO's sitcom Silicon Valley, the bumbling CEO of the unfortunately named Pied Piper. His memorable moments include evacuating his bowels, vomiting, and then lunging into a glass wall in front of his workers.

One is poised when being grilled by Congress and the other can't deliver a pep talk to his staff without hurling under his desk.

But Hendricks is a better hope for the future of the internet than Zuckerberg. Here's why.

In his testimony, Zuckerberg welcomed regulation—and agreed to help craft it. He's in the same position as late-19th-century railroad tycoons. Contrary to conventional wisdom, these robber barons embraced regulation as a way to raise the barriers to entry for competitors who were eating into their profits and market share.

Still sporting a hoodie, Richard Hendricks is at an earlier stage of his career. He's trying to build a new internet in an effort to outmaneuver Hooli, a fictional amalgamation of Google and Facebook. Richard represents the next wave of innovation—the competitor who, if government stays out of it, will eventually erode Facebook's market share by offering a better product.

Even Richard's approach to disrupting Facebook is more than just TV fantasy. There's a real movement in the tech world to build a new decentralized web that would give users actual control over their own data and create open platforms that aren't controlled by any single all-powerful CEO. One reason to bet on real-life projects such as Blockstack and Ethereum to decentralize the internet is that talented engineers are beating down their doors, because working at Google and Facebook is lucrative but soul killing.

As Facebook and Congress start to write new rules for cyberspace, all of us who believe in free expression and permissionless innovation have a stake in making sure that the future of the internet remains as open as possible.

Written by Jim Epstein and Nick Gillespie, who also narrates. Produced by Todd Krainin.

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Rep. Justin Amash on Trump, Ryan, and the 'Stupidity' of How the Government Spends Your Money


Since arriving in Washington in 2011, Justin Amash has cast more consistently libertarian votes than any other member of Congress. A lawyer by training, the 37-year-old Michigan Republican is an outspoken defender of due process, civil liberties, and defendants' rights. He is also resolutely non-interventionist and friendly toward immigrants. Outspoken in his principles, he rarely misses an opportunity to excoriate his GOP colleagues when they fail to live up to the party's limited-government rhetoric. "There is such a level of stupidity right now in the way we spend money," says Amash, an opponent of ever-increasing Pentagon budgets and adventurism overseas. He is also a fierce critic of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.): "The speaker has not been protecting the institution. You need a speaker in there who is an institutionalist, who cares about the institution first, who is not a partisan." Instead, Amash tells Reason's Nick Gillespie, Ryan is protecting individual members from having to cast votes for which they might be held responsible. "Let Republicans and Democrats and others offer their amendments, and let's have votes on all sorts of things, substantive things, not just post offices like they do now." He is also fed up with Republican scapegoating of immigrants and refugees. "My parents are immigrants," he explains. "My dad's a Palestinian refugee. I think that a lot of his experience rubbed off on me. That he came from a place where he had no rights. He came here as a refugee. He told me all the time how wonderful it was to be in this country. How blessed we were to have been born in this country. That we have an opportunity here." Amash is known for explaining each of his votes on Facebook and for maintaining a lively Twitter feed, where he excoriates Democrats and Republicans whenever they seek to expand the size, scope, and spending of the federal government. "The omnibus is one of the worst—and most costly—pieces of legislation ever to become law. Period. That's why I voted no," Amash tweeted after his congressional colleagues passed a 2,300-page bill they clearly had not read. This interview was conducted at Reason Weekend, our annual donor event, which was held this year in West Palm Beach, Florida. NOTE: Podcast version contains full interview and audience Q&A. Run time 1 hour. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Meredith Bragg. Edited by Alexis Garcia. "Destiny Day" by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist: "Dimmy" by Podington Bear is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License ( Source: Artist: "Saunter" by Podington Bear is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License ( Source: Artist: Photo Credits: Jim West/ZUMA Press/Newscom—Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom—Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/Newscom Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. PLEASE CHECK QUOTATIONS AGAINST AUDIO FOR ACCURACY. Nick Gillespie: Over the past couple of months, Congress has passed a budget deal that increases spending by about $300 billion dollars. It lifted the last of the budget caps from 2011, reauthorized domestic surveillance. The House overwhelming passed a sex trafficking bill that goes directly— It'll do less about sex trafficking, but it will open a lot of online speech to government regulation, which it had protected. And my first question, then, to you is remind us why anyone should vote Republican. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan): Fir[...]

Whole Foods’ John Mackey on Amazon Merger: ‘A Meeting of the Souls.’


"We're going to reinvent the supermarket business as we know it," says John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, about his company's recent, controversial merger with online retailer Amazon. If that happens, it means that Mackey will have reinvented the supermarket business twice in his own lifetime, as no individual has done more to revolutionize how Americans shop for groceries than he has since co-founding Whole Foods in 1980. Gone are the days of dreary, heavily processed, and strictly limited choices when it came to bread, produce, meats, and service. If we demand variety, freshness, and a sense of morality when we go shopping for dinner these days, it's in large part due to the triumph of Mackey's explicitly libertarian re-imagining of the great American supermarket. Reason's Nick Gillespie caught up with him at LibertyCon, the annual conference of Students for Liberty, and talked with him about Whole Foods' recent, controversial merger with the online retailer Amazon, his belief that young Americans are more "conscious" about life and morality than past generations were, and his take on Donald Trump's presidency so far. "I will say that there are some things President Trump has done that I like and some things that I don't," says Mackey, the co-author of the 2013 best-seller Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business and last year's The Whole Foods Diet: The Lifesaving Plan for Health and Longevity. "I'm not a huge optimist about government solving our problems." (Disclosure: Both Mackey and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are donors to Reason Foundation, the 501(c)3 nonprofit that publishes Reason.) Photo Credit: LINDSEY WASSON/REUTERS/Newscom. Kris Tripplaar/Sipa USA/Newscom. Music: Massive by Podington Bear is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License. Edited by Mark McDaniel. Intro by Todd Krainin. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. The interview has been edited for clarity. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. For an audio version, subscribe to the Reason Podcast. Nick Gillespie: Are you optimistic about young people in general, or is it that there's a certain percentage ... Because it seems when you listen to young people talk or the way that they vote, etc., there's a certain amount of libertarian [inaudible] there, which is like, "We like capitalism," or, "We like freedom because it allows us to express our purpose in peaceful ways." But then there is a really resurgent or insurgent group of young people on college campuses and elsewhere who are kind of in a Bernie Sanders camp. How do you think that plays out? John Mackey: It's a good question. And I think there's two trends that are going on. I definitely think there's a... Young people are idealistic. You know, the old saying that, "If you're not a socialist when you're 21, you've got no heart, and if you're not a capitalist by the time you're 30, you have no brains." And I still think that plays out. Young people, they came of age, they look around, they take for granted the prosperity, they take for granted the ethical moral progress that humanity's made. They look around and they say, "By God, it's not perfect. There's still racism. There's still poverty. There's still inequality. The whole thing is unfair." So, they are susceptible to the siren call of any type of utopian answer that promises to fix it and make things better. But because they're not very experienced and they don't know history very well and they don't understand how, "The bad get on top." It's like I said, that utopian impulse of perfectionism is usually the enemy of the good. Usually they grow out of that, so I'm not going to be too disturbed when I hear utopian young people because I was one, and I grew out of it. And you're probably one, and you're probably going to grow out of it someday. Gillespie: I'll grow out of this mustache first, but ..[...]

Silicon Valley's Ultimate Diversity Problem Is Ideological


Last year, Google engineer James Damore wrote a memo, called "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," that led to him getting fired by the online giant. Damore was canned partly because Google said his discussion perpetuated gender stereotypes. But the memo didn't discuss just the number, status, and compensation of female employees—it also raised questions about Google's commitment to ideological diversity.

Earlier this year, the Lincoln Network, a Bay Area group that works to bolster libertarian and conservative workers in the tech sector, published a survey on diversity and cultural norms in Silicon Valley. The results are preliminary but stunning. In the wake of the controversy over the Damore memo, for instance, about half of self-described "moderates," two-thirds of "libertarians" and 71 percent of "very conservative" respondents said they were less comfortable sharing ideological viewpoints with their colleagues.

Reason sat down with Lincoln Network co-founder Garrett Johnson to discuss his outfit's preliminary study, why it's bad to stifle ideological viewpoints in the tech world, and what it means that more survey respondents called themselves libertarian than any other term.

Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Ian Keyser. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Andrew Heaton.

"Integration Blues" by Javolenus is used under CC BY 3.0

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How Will The Americans' Final Season End? Q&A With the Creators Behind the Cold War Spy Drama


"We all struggle with questions of our true identity, our identity with our loved ones, and our public personas," says Joe Weisberg, the creator of FX's cold-war drama The Americans, which begins its final season on March 28, in an exclusive interview with Reason's Nick Gillespie. "In this final season, that all comes to a head for the characters, who have to deal with it in their careers as spies, challenging their loyalty to their family, but also testing it against their loyalty to one another in their marriage, and their loyalty to their country, and their core idealistic beliefs." Since 2013, The Americans has revisited 1980s America and Cold War politics with a depth and nuance usually reserved for PBS documentaries. The first season begins in the early Reagan years, when the Cold War seemed forever on the verge of escalating into nuclear war. The show follows the lives of Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, two Soviet sleeper agents whose cover is running a travel agency in the Northern Virginia suburbs near Washington, D.C. Their days are spent booking vacation packages and schlepping kids to school, and their nights are filled with deadly honeypot espionage setups, betrayals by and of close associates, and thefts of state secrets. Complicating matters is the presence of Stan Beeman, their neighbor who just happen to be an FBI agent working to infiltrate Soviet spy rings in America. The Americans is at once deeply serious and darkly comic, a domestic drama that plays out against the backdrop of the 20th century's twilight struggle. Gillepie recently sat down with Weisberg and Joel Fields, an executive producer and one of its lead writers, to discuss the genesis and meaning of the series, their thoughts on the Cold War, how changing technology is leading to better television, and what we can expect from the series' sixth and final season, which debuts on FX on March 28. Interview by Gillespie. Produced and edited by Meredith Bragg. Cameras by Bragg, Jim Epstein, and Mark McDaniel. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. The interview has been edited for clarity. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. For an audio version, subscribe to the Reason Podcast. Nick Gillespie: Joe, you were actually in the CIA for a number of years, and you've said that the agency, of all things, is what got you started thinking about doing something about your time in the agency. What was going on there? Joe Weisberg: One of the things that I sort of absorbed when I was there— I didn't think I was going to ever write about spies, or anything like that, but I still absorbed a lot that came out later. So, I was very, I worked with a lot of people who were married and had families, and like me, were lying to the people around them. And I didn't have kids, and I wasn't married at the time, but colleagues of mine had to lie to their kids about what they did—couldn't tell them they worked at the CIA, until a certain point that was known inside the agency as "the talk." When you sat down with your kids—and nobody told you what age to do it or anything like that, you had to determine for yourself when your kids were mature enough to keep it secret. And then you sat down, and you told them what you really did for a living. And if you thought your kids were maybe never mature enough for that, there were even occasionally some people who never told their kids. But that idea, even when I was there, I thought that was like, pretty intense. And after I'd left the CIA and sort of was no longer a part of that culture, the further away I got, the... In a way... I don't want to... It's not just that it seemed odd to me, it started to seem really like the most emotional and dramatic thing. And when I was later going to write a series about spies, it seemed to me that was something that had never been[...]

Steven Pinker Wants Enlightenment Now!


America, observers are fond of saying, is the only country based upon an idea. That idea—that all men and women are created equal and have inalienable rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness—is directly informed by the Enlightenment, the movement that dominated ideas and culture in the 18th century. But are we still an Enlightenment nation? "The Enlightenment principle that we can apply reason and sympathy to enhance human flourishing may seem obvious," writes Steven Pinker in his new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress. "I wrote this book because I have come to realize that it's not." Pinker is a linguist who teaches at Harvard and is the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Blank Slate, and How the Mind Works. He's been named on the top 100 most influential intellectuals by both Time and Foreign Policy. In this wide-ranging interview with Reason's Nick Gillespie, Pinker explains why he thinks Pope Francis is a problem when it comes to capitalism, nuclear energy is a solution to climate change, and why libertarians need to lighten up when it comes to regulation. He also makes the case for studying the humanities as essential to intellectual honesty and seriousness even as he attacks that "cluster of ideas, which is not the same as the humanities, but just happens to have descended over large sectors of the academic humanities: "the deep hatred of the institutions of modernity, the equation of liberal democracy with fascism, the feeling that society is in an ever-worsening spiral of decline, and the lack of appreciation, I think, that the institutions of liberal democracy have made the humanities possible, made them flourish." Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Mark McDaniel and Krainin. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. The interview has been edited for clarity. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. For an audio version, subscribe to the Reason podcast. Nick Gillespie: What comprises the Enlightenment? Steven Pinker: My point of view identifies four things: reason, science, humanism and progress. Reason being the ideal that we analyze our predicament using reason as opposed to dogma, authority, charisma, intuition, mysticism. Science being the ideal that we seek to understand the world by formulating hypotheses and testing them against reality. Humanism, that we hold out the well-being of men, women and children and other sentient creatures as the highest good, as opposed to the glory of the tribe or the race or the nation, as opposed to religious doctrine. And progress, that if we apply sympathy and reason to making people better off, we can gradually succeed. Gillespie: Why did the Enlightenment happen when it did? Pinker: Because it only happened once, we don't really know and we can't test hypotheses, but some plausible explanations are that it grew out of the scientific revolution of say the 17th century, which showed that our intuitions and the traditional view of reality could be profoundly mistaken, and that by applying reason, we can overturn our understanding of the world. Maybe the more proximate technological kickstarter was the growth of printing technology. That was the only technology that showed a huge increase in productivity prior to the Industrial Revolution. Everything else had to wait for the 19th century. Gillespie: You talk about how basically between the year 1000 and about 1800, in many places people saw very little increase in material well-being. Pinker: Yeah. Economic growth was sporadic at best. But printing technology did take off in the 18th century. Pamphlets were cheap and available, and broadsheets and books, and they got translated. They were circulated across all of the European countries as well as the colonies, so that the exchange of ide[...]

Gary Taubes on How Big Government Made Us Fat


Science writer Gary Taubes has a knack for subverting the conventional wisdom. Sixteen years ago, he published a groundbreaking feature in the The New York Times Magazine, arguing that decades of government-approved nutritional advice attacking fatty foods and praising carbohydrates was flat-out wrong, ideologically motivated, and contributed to rising rates of obesity and diabetes. He was widely attacked—including in the pages of Reason. His 2007 book Good Calories/Bad Calories followed up on that story, as did Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It, which appeared in 2011. Today, his thesis is gaining traction among heath and nutrition researchers, and has been highlighted once again in The New York Times and Time magazine. Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Taubes in his kitchen in Oakland, California, to talk about his latest book on nutrition, The Case Against Sugar, which recently came out in paperback. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Camera by Paul Detrick, Justin Monticello, and Weissmueller. Additional graphics by Brett Raney. "The Rat King is Coming" by Krackatoa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Photo Credits: Timkiv Vitaly/ZUMA Press/Newscom Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. The interview has been edited for clarity. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: The Case Against Sugar is framed as a kind of prosecutorial case. Can you lay out the opening arguments that you make against sugar for us? Gary Taubes: We have obesity and diabetes epidemics everywhere in the world. Worldwide, they manifest whenever a population shifts from whatever their traditional diet is to westernized urban diet and so you could think of the western diet and lifestyle as the vector that carries obesity and diabetes into these populations. Then the question is, what is it in that diet? Gillespie: Describe the western diet? Does that mean processed foods? Taubes: Well, so that's a question. Processed foods, sedentary living- Gillespie: Totino's pizza rolls, microwaved food? Taubes: Pizza rolls, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and McDonald's, Coca-Cola- Gillespie: So the whole reason that we live, the things we wait for, are the things that are killing us? Taubes: It's a simplistic way to think about it, probably wrong, the things many of us live for and many of us wait for. Anyway, so this is the issue. Something in our diet and lifestyle cause obesity and diabetes. We see these chronic diseases appearing in populations when they make this nutritional shift, so the question is what is it? The argument I make in this book is that sugar is the prime suspect, always been the prime suspect, cause you can track these epidemics back in time. Gillespie: Now, you say it's always been a prime suspect but really at least in the past 40 or 50 years, we've been told and this is a lot of your work, what we've been told is don't worry about sugar, worry about fat, worry about meat and that beautiful arc of fat around the edge that you might gristle up a little bit? Taubes: That's key to the story, and that's how I entered into it as an investigative journalist is we had this belief system that began as a hypothesis in the 1950s and started to be tested in the 1960s and was never confirmed, which is that dietary fat causes heart disease. So by the 1980s, a healthy diet was being defined as a low-fat, low-salt diet. Gillespie: And this explains Snackwell cookies and things like that. Taubes: One of the things that happened in the 80s when we embraced this low fat healthy diet synchronicity is the government, the CDC, started telling industry to produce low fat foods. So, we could take foods[...]

Want to Hack Your Own Body? Neo.Life's Jane Metcalfe Is Making It Easier Than Ever


"How can we optimize ourselves personally to live the happiest, healthiest, longest lives possible? What does that look like? What are ethical ways of doing that? What are unethical ways of doing that? Where are the slippery slopes?"

Those are the sorts of questions that Wired co-founder Jane Metcalfe is exploring at Neo.Life, an online magazine that both chronicles and informs "the early adopters of the Neobiological Revolution." Lushly illustrated and beautifully designed, recent articles include "I Study the Female Brain. Here's What 'The Female Brain' Gets Wrong", "Get Ready for Same-Sex Reproduction," and "Will a $5,000 Checkup Save Your Life?"

"The basis of Neo.Life," Metcalfe tells Reason's Nick Gillespie, "is that computer science and engineering thinking have invaded biology....How do we think about human life differently if we start thinking about 'code'?"

If you're interested in the pioneers, dreamers, and tinkerers who are trying not just to edit a few genes but to overhaul the entire human "operating system," cure their own cancer when doctors have given up, and bring back the wooly mammoth, Neo.Life is a must-read.

Photo of Craig Venter, Credit: K.C. Alfred/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Big Bird's Disease by Twin Musicom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (

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Gary Johnson: 'I Always Thought Telling the Truth Would Rule the Day. And It Doesn't.'


"I always thought that honesty would rule the day. I always thought integrity would rule the day. I always thought that telling the truth would rule the day. And it doesn't," says Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian presidential candidate and a two-time former governor of New Mexico, in an exclusive new interview with Reason. Visiting Washington, D.C. in late February to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in late February, Johnson talks candidly with Nick Gillespie about his presidential run, which mixed memorable gaffes ("Aleppo") with historic triumphs (he pulled 3.27 percent of the final vote, more than tripling the best of any previous LP candidate). "I'm done with elected political office," he avers, even as he discusses his ongoing work with Our America Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to training libertarian candidates and promoting libertarian positions on immigration, sentencing reform, occupational licensing, and more; his involvement in CB1, a hedge fund devoted to publicly traded marijuana investments; and why he's done with running for office. Johnson also weighs in of the presidency of Donald Trump, whom he said was appealing to racist sentiments during the 2016 campaign. Trump's tone, says the former governor, remains absolutely awful, but some of his policies, such as those regarding regulation and corporate taxes, are worth celebrating. When asked whether Hillary Clinton would have been a better president than Trump, Johnson says, "I think we would have kind of a myriad of other issues with Hillary that would probably be equally as bad.... I think it would be horrible if Hillary would have been president, but I think Trump's got his horrible also." Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Todd Krainin and McDaniel. Creative Commons music by Ketsa. Photo Credit: Christopher Brown/Polaris/Newscom. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. PLEASE CHECK QUOTATIONS AGAINST AUDIO FOR ACCURACY. Nick Gillespie: So, you are in D.C., and we're talking before you go talk at CPAC, the annual convention of conservative action people in D.C. Why are you speaking at CPAC? Gary Johnson: Well, I think it's an opportunity to give a Libertarian perspective on things. Now, I'm going to be on a panel when it comes to economics and tax policy, so that is a Trump plus, the reduction of taxes. Gillespie: Okay, well I was going to ask, what do you think about Trump so far? I mean, you ran against Trump, and you did historically well for a Libertarian Party candidate against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Trump's been in office over a year. What is your evaluation? Johnson: Well, he has not told the truth. Building a wall across the border is crazy. Now, he did say he was going to build a wall across the border, but he said he wasn't going to involve himself in states' rights, or he was going to stand up for states' rights. And here we have Jeff Sessions that has come out very vocally against marijuana. Ultimately, that may lead to legislation that will not make marijuana a Class I narcotic, which is really a good thing. Gillespie: So those are two things, though, where Trump's bluster, or his bark is worse ... He's got a lot of bark, but no bite. Because we haven't actually started building the border wall, and Sessions is saying 'I'm going to ... Let's start looking at these states that have legalized marijuana.' But nothing has happened yet. Johnson: Nothing has happened. And, like I say, it may lead to legislation. On the Dreamers, hey, here it is. We may have legislation that clears all this up, but his rhetoric is horrible. Gillespie: Are you looking for a position in his cabinet? Johnson: No. Gillespie: But no, I mean, in a weird way,[...]

5 Great Libertarian Movies!


Forget the Oscars! Here are five great movies made over the past quarter-century that any libertarian will (must?) enjoy. The Incredibles (2004) This Pixar film directed by Brad Bird is so full of speeches extolling individualism, personal greatness, and self-fulfillment it sometimes sounds like it was scripted by Ayn Rand. Even the supervillain in The Incredibles, Syndrome, is a creature of self-invention and self-improvement. While the Incredibles are born with their powers, Syndrome is a normie who worships Mr. Incredible and is desperate to be his sidekick. When his hero dismisses young Buddy, he uses that disillusionment to fire his ambitions to create weapons and powers via innovative technology and then sell them to the highest bidder. Like an animated version of Richard Nixon, Syndrome's ambition ultimately gets the best of him, but he just may be the real hero of the movie, at least for those of us without naturally occurring superpowers. The Incredibles are returning after a 14-year hiatus, with a sequel hitting theaters in June, so we'll see them again soon. The Barbarian Invasions (2003) Québécois director Denys Arcand's brilliant sequel to The Decline of the American Empire is the single best depiction of the depredations of socialized medicine. Canada's health care system is so sclerotic that the movie's protagonist, a retired left-wing academic named Rémy, cannot even score the drugs he needs to commit suicide until his estranged son, a banker, buys them on the black market. Even more disturbing is the moment when the terminally ill Rémy and his former colleagues admit that their intellectual faddishness led them to embrace every awful "ism" of the past 30 years despite those ideas' often massive human toll. Dallas Buyers Club (2013) This based-on-a-true-story movie about a rodeo rider and a drag queen routing around the Food and Drug Administration brought home Oscars not just for its two leads, but the film's makeup artist, who reportedly worked on a budget of just $250. Set in the 1980s, Matthew McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a boozy roughneck who is given 30 days to live after being diagnosed with AIDS. Faced with a death sentence, he schools himself on a wide variety of treatments, first in Mexico and then all over the world. With the help of a cross-dressing party girl named Rayon, Woodroof skirts FDA prohibitions against importing, using, and selling unapproved drugs by creating a "buyers club," in which members pay a monthly fee and assume all risks. The depiction of official indifference to patient suffering and the bureaucratic quashing of medical freedom even for people who are certain to die is unsparing, moving, and inspirational, especially now that even Donald Trump has endorsed "right to try" legislation that would allow terminally ill patients access to non-approved medicines. Joy (2015) Jennifer Lawrence became a mega-star playing the anti-government rebel Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies. While there's no shortage of libertarian sentiment coursing through that series, it's actually a quieter movie starring Lawrence that fully embodies libertarian virtues of hard work, commercial innovation, and dogged entrepreneurship. In Joy, Lawrence plays real-life "Miracle Mop" inventor Joy Magano, who helped make cleaning your floors easier while making herself rich. The film is a paean to capitalism's genius at allowing self-expression and self-fulfillment. As the story begins, Magano is supporting a wide variety of family layabouts while barely making ends meet. In a dramatic scene with Bradley Cooper, who plays an executive at a home-shopping network, Joy summarizes in a few sentences what it took Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman whole books to say: [...]

The Volokh Conspiracy Comes to Reason


In December, the cast of characters known collectively as The Volokh Conspiracy left The Washington Post—where they have made their home since 2014—and moved to Shortly before the eclectic crew of legal bloggers began their migration, the conspiracy's namesake and unofficial ringleader, University of California, Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh, talked with Reason's Nick Gillespie about life, liberty, and the law. Q: The contributors to The Volokh Conspiracy are mostly libertarianish, but not exclusively so. Is that accurate? A: That's right. We're basically moderates, libertarians, and conservatives. Some of us are more on one side than another, but I like "libertarianish." That's how I think of myself. For the purposes of our blog, we never feel we need to toe the party line. Sometimes I talk about court cases, and I point out that the legally correct result under the precedents, it's not the libertarian result. We might like to have a Constitution that's more libertarian than ours, but in many ways our Constitution is majoritarian rather than libertarian. Q: Why "conspiracy"? A: I was trying to come up with a name, and I thought, "How about The Volokh Gang?" Then I realized there was a show on television, a public affairs show, called The Capital Gang, and people would think that we are trying to rip them off, or at the very least that we're derivative. Q: And who wants that? Especially in law, where everything is based on what came before. A: There's a line that law is the only discipline in which the phrase "That's an original idea" is a pejorative. But in the academy, we're always supposed to be original, and what's more, it's more fun to be original. "OK," I thought, "so it can't be gang." This was in 2002, not long after all this talk about the "vast right-wing conspiracy." So I thought, "How about The Volokh Conspiracy?" The absurd thing is that a conspiracy would call itself "The Conspiracy" on a webpage. I will say that since then I've heard people say, "Look, I'm reluctant to pass along your stories to my friends, because they're going to think that this is a conspiracy theory website." On the other hand, at times I remember looking in our referrer logs, and people were looking for conspiracy theories. They found our blog. They may have been disappointed, but maybe they got enlightened. Q: You have a pretty fascinating American story. How does that experience affect your views? A: I was born in Kiev, which was then in the Soviet Union. My parents, as a result of their experience in Russia, ended up being Republicans. They saw Reagan as telling it like it is on communism, and the Democrats of the late '70s and early '80s as basically missing the evils of communism. I was 7 when I came [to the United States]. Their support made me open to the values of free markets. I like to think I've independently reached that result, but I think it helped that free markets and laissez-faire were not dirty words in our household. Q: How has Trump has done on the federal judiciary so far? A: There are many things to quarrel with the administration on, but in my view the one area in which they have done a really good job is picking top-notch judges. I'm sure you can find some exceptions, but the judges that I happen to know who were picked by the administration are really all superb. Q: When you say a judge is good, is it because they come to results you agree with? A: Human beings being who we are, we do tend to see more virtues in those we agree with and more vices in those we disagree with. But here I'm speaking about intelligence and, to the extent that we have this information, judicial craft. In any event, if what you're looking for is liberals, you're not going to g[...]

Balaji Srinivasan: Technology Will Lead to a Borderless World


"Soon you'll be able to join a VR world, and earn virtual currency in virtual reality," says Silicon Valley entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan. "Which means that, for a good chunk of people in the world, the majority of their waking hours are going to be spent in the Matrix." Srinivasan believes that new technologies—mobile devices, cloud computing, cryptocurrencies—are rapidly taking us into an era when geography, nationality, and other limitations on our labor and freedom fade away. He says that this evolution will empower individuals and erode the authoritarian capabilities of the state. Srinivasan is a modern-day polymath who venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has called the person with "the highest output per minute of new ideas of anybody I've ever met in my life." A Ph.D. in electrical engineering, a co-founder of the genetic testing firm Counsyl, and a Stanford computer science lecturer, Srinivasan was also on Donald Trump's short list to head up the Food and Drug Administration. He believes in technology's power to provide a way for individuals to migrate away from ossified institutions and destructive policies. Borrowing a framework from a 1970 political science treatise by Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, Srinivasan described his vision in a much-discussed 2013 talk titled "Sillicon Valley's Ultimate Exit." Today, he spends most of his time running the cryptocurrency-based startup, which allows users to get paid for small tasks, like responding to emails and completing surveys. It is ultimately, he says, a tool for creating a "frictionless digital workforce." He imagines providing users with a new type of decentralized employment based purely on their skills. Participants would log on, see a feed of tasks they needed to accomplish, and then be compensated accordingly. While teaching at Stanford a decade ago, Srinivasan and his brother Ramji founded the genetic testing firm Counsyl, which offers a single assay that tests for every major Mendelian genetic disease. The company aims to lower costs, empower parents, and improve the way genetic diseases are identified and treated. In a wide-ranging discussion, Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with Srinivasan about his current ventures; how the FDA and other regulatory bodies should adapt to new technologies; the controversy over genetic testing and "designer babies;" how the 1997 book The Sovereign Individual has influenced his thought; his intellectual heroes; and how he's contributing to "Silicon Valley's ultimate exit." Interview edited by Justin Monticello. Camera by Paul Detrick and Monticello. Music by Grégoire Lourme, Silent Partner, Blue Giraffe, and Hare. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. The interview has been edited for clarity. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Balaji Srinivasan: One of the things I think a lot about is, if you've got an existing system, and it's ossified, there's at least two responses to it. There's more than two, but at least two. One is, you know, voice, which in its extreme is revolution. Revolution is extreme voice, where it's saying, "Oh, I'm so dissatisfied, let's take the whole thing over." And then democracy is, you know, like a much more limited version of that, but still also effective in many cases. You know, you could actually vote to go and change things. Alternatively, if you believe that it's going to be too hard to change things that way, but you're also cognizant of the fact that certain people like it that way, there's an alternative you can pursue, which is exit. You say, "Okay,[...]

After Pablo Escobar: Murder, Chaos, and the Failure of U.S. Drug Policy in Colombia


"The whole premise of the war on drugs is that if you focus on the supply side, you'll solve all of the U.S.'s problems with problematic drug use," says Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. But "no matter how much money you put into fighting organized crime, there are always going to be new leaders ready to step into the shoes of those who've been arrested."

The failure of that supply-side approach is an overarching theme in McFarland's new book, There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia. It recounts the bloody aftermath of cocaine trafficker Pablo Escobar's death, when the Colombian military, surviving drug lords, left-wing terrorists, and paramilitary groups vied for power. Focusing on three individuals who helped expose the atrocities and win justice, the book examines the impact of U.S. intervention in Colombia's drug trade.

Before joining the Drug Policy Alliance last September, McFarland spent over a decade as a drug policy analyst at Human Rights Watch.

Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with McFarland recently in New York City

Edited by Mark McDaniel, graphics and introduction by Todd Krainin.

Music: Modem by Kai Engel. All music licensed under Creative Commons. (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US.)

Photo credits: JAIVER NIETO/El Tiempo de Colombia/Newscom, Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom, Tracy Barbutes/ZUMA Press/Newscom.

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