Reading Atlas Shrugged changed not only my understanding of the world but also my choice of career.
While ensconced in my first aerospace job, I decided to try my hand at advocacy journalism, researching and writing a long article on why government should get out of the business of regulating airlines. Not knowing where else to submit it, I sent it to a fledgling libertarian monthly called Reason, published in mimeograph(!) by student Objectivist Lanny Friedlander in Boston. It became the cover story of the first typeset and offset-printed issue of Reason. And when it was reprinted in the much larger magazine The Freeman, generating a dozen letters from serious people, I had one of those life-changing moments. Somehow, I was going to move into the ideas business.
It took more than eight years to get to the point of being able to make a living as an advocate of liberty. The first step was joining forces with Objectivist scholar Tibor Machan to buy Reason
from Friedlander and run it as a glorified hobby business from my house. I switched from aerospace engineering to policy analysis at a non-ideological think tank, learning how such organizations operate. Finally, in the summer of 1978, we opened the doors of the Reason Foundation, with me as president and editor-in-chief of the magazine. Within a few years, I'd expanded the foundation's scope to include policy studies on privatization and deregulation.
Many factors led to the creation of the Reason Foundation, but the single most important one was the influence of Ayn Rand
Robert W. Poole Jr. launched the Reason Foundation in 1978 and served as its president until 2001. He is also a trustee for The Atlas Society. This article originally appeared in the December 2004 issue of Navigator magazine, The Atlas Society precursor to The New Individualist.