When I found a check for $30.55 in my mailbox early last week, however, it was a bittersweet event.
Why was that? It marked the end of an era. The check was the refund on the remainder of my subscription to Liberty magazine, which is switching to an exclusively on-line format starting in 2011. The print version of the magazine will be no more.
I have been reading Liberty since about 1990. It is always a delight, especially when I begin -- as I invariably do -- with the feature on the last page, "Terra Incognita," a collection of oddities from the world press, showcasing strange behavior by governments and political elites, and sometimes just strange behavior, full stop. The additional short items in the front of the book, under the heading of "Reflections," may represent the first group blog -- having existed for years, if not decades, before the concept of "group blog" ever manifested itself.
Editor-in-chief Stephen Cox also has a monthly column on the abuses of language that can be thoughtful and provocative, often bringing me to say, "Yes, I get peeved about that, too; I'm glad I'm not the only one."
Though not an organ of the Libertarian Party, Liberty has often been the only publication that treats the LP both seriously and critically, serving not as a cheerleader (though the magazine and the party have clearly been on the same side in the struggle against statism) but often as a gently chiding friend. For example, the founding editor, the late R.W. Bradford, ran a series of articles about a decade ago calling attention to alleged malfeasance on the part of LP executives and officials in the campaigns of Harry Browne, who was the LP nominee for president in 1996 and 2000. This investigative journalism led to better management of the party.
Liberty also offered book and movie reviews from a libertarian perspective, recollections of the early days of the libertarian movement, and lots of articles about Ayn Rand and her disciples.
I was lucky enough to be published in Liberty, at least once -- a review of Paulina Borsook's book, Cyberselfish, which I found to be a caricature, rather than a serious exploration, of libertarian thought and libertarians.
I am sure that I will occasionally visit Liberty's web site to keep up with all the writers whom I've come to enjoy, but unless I receive regular email, Twitter, or Facebook updates reminding me to do so, I'm afraid I will be neglectful. (That's how I end up visiting the web sites of Reason and The Freeman several times a week.)
The print edition, with Liberty's plain appearance and rich content, will be missed. In the meantime, I have dozens of copies strewn around my house. Since they all look alike, I can pick up any one of them, ignore the date on the cover, and pretend it's new. Even if it's not, I'm bound to learn something.