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Libertarian women’s history month: Virginia Postrel

26 Mar

Virginia Inman Postrel (born January 14, 1960 – ) is an American political and cultural writer of broadly libertarian views who was the editor of reason magazine during the 1990s.

She is best known for her non-fiction books, The Future and Its Enemies and The Substance of Style. In the former she explains her philosophy, “dynamism,” a forward-looking and change-seeking philosophy that generally favors unregulated organization through “spontaneous order“. She contrasts it with “stasis“, a philosophy that favors top-down control and regulation and is marked by desire to maintain the present state of affairs. In November 2013, she published a third book, The Power of Glamour, which defined glamour as “nonverbal rhetoric” that “leads us to feel that the life we dream of exists, and to desire it even more.”  (It would be interesting if Postrel had returned to reason to do its recent interview with Camille Paglia, given her research interests.)

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/virginia_postrel_on_glamour.html

Virginia Inman was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. Her father was an engineer and her mother was a homemaker who later went on to get her masters degree and teach at the college level. Virginia went on to college at Princeton University, graduating in 1982 with a degree in English Literature.


Postrel was editor of Reason from July 1989 to January 2000, and remained on the masthead as editor-at-large through 2001. Her writing has been attacked by paleo-libertarian Justin Raimondo and praised by Objectivist philosopher Diana Hsieh.  She hired editor Nick Gillespie, her successor at reason.  Prior to that, she was a reporter for Inc. and the Wall Street Journal. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). From 2000 to 2006, she wrote an economics column for the New York Times and from 2006 to 2009 she wrote the “Commerce and Culture” column for The Atlantic. She also appeared on the last episode of the third season of Pennand Teller‘s Bullshit!.

Postrel wrote the biweekly column “Commerce & Culture” for the Wall Street Journal until April 2011. Since May 2011, she has written a biweekly column foR Bloomberg News.

Postrel has written several articles on health care and bioethics, including accounts of her own experiences.  In March 2006 Postrel donated a kidney to an acquaintance, writer Sally Satel. She has recounted the experience, and referred to it in several subsequent articles and blog posts—many of which are critical of legal prohibitions against compensating organ donors. In some of these pieces she discusses strategies for working around these restrictions, such as organ donor transplant chains.
In her March 2009 article “My Drug Problem” in The Atlantic, Postrel wrote about her own experience of being treated for breast cancer with the expensive drug Herceptin.  She questioned if such a costly treatment would be available to others and if the risky research that makes such innovative treatments possible would be profitable under proposed health care reforms in the United States.

Postrel has also referred to her experience as a cancer patient in her writing about the importance of design aesthetics in hospitals, and the competitive forces that drive them to create more attractive environments for patients. This ties into the thesis of her second book—that beauty is more than simply a superficial, frivolous trait, and can go more than skin deep. Notions of beauty and desirability—and thoughts on what makes good design good beyond the needs of sound engineering—inform her work at the “Deep Glamour” blog.

On December 10, 2013, Postrel was criticized by The Colbert Report for an opinion article she wrote for Bloomberg.com titled, “Who Needs a Raise When You Have TV?”