Reason was founded in 1968 by Lanny Friedlander as a more-or-less monthly mimeographed publication. In 1970 it was purchased by Robert W. Poole, Manuel S. Klausner, and Tibor R. Machan, who set it on a more regular publishing schedule. As the monthly print magazine of "free minds and free markets", it covers politics, culture, and ideas with a mix of news, analysis, commentary, and reviews.
Nick Gillespie has been the magazine's Editor-in-Chief since 2000. Other Reason writers include Charles Paul Freund, Jacob Sullum, Jesse Walker, Brian Doherty, Ronald Bailey, Radley Balko, Tim Cavanaugh, Julian Sanchez, Kerry Howley, David Weigel, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Cathy Young, Jonathan Rauch, and cartoonist Peter Bagge. Former editors include Marty Zupan and Virginia Postrel. Doherty's wife, Angela Keaton, currently serves on the Libertarian National Committee.
Erik Spiekermann, the inventor of the typeface Meta, headed a redesign of Reason in 2001, aiming for a look that is "cleaner, more modern, making use of the Meta typeface throughout".
In June 2004, subscribers to Reason magazine received a personalized issue that had their name, and a satellite photo of their home or workplace on the cover.
The magazine now has a circulation of around 60,000 and has twice been named one of the (US) country's "50 best magazines" by the Chicago Tribune. In addition, since December of 2002 the magazine's website has hosted a popular blog, Hit & Run, with many Reason writers as contributors.