The Best Ever Libertarian Gift Guide
"Eye-eye-eyeeeeee don't want a lot for Christmas," she said. "There is just one thing I need," she said. It's the secular holiday anthem for the ages. And it's based on a lie.
No shade to Mariah. But we all know that the ambiguous you is not the only thing she needs, nor the only thing needed by the masses—who can often be heard belting "All I Want for Christmas Is You" in unison in the bars and show choir concerts across the country. You can't wrap up a "you." You may get annoyed when "you" refuses to turn off football in favor of Married at First Sight. (This isn't personal.) Who is you anyway?
Since Mariah is no help, Reason is here to make it right.
We're back with our yearly gift-giving suggestions, tailored to all ages, personality types, and affinities, to the practical and the bizarre and (most) everything in between. For the Reason fan in your life, check out our swag, from shirts and hats and onesies to mugs and phone cases and even a stainless steel water bottle. Wow! And for the ones you want to convert, give a three-year gift subscription for the low, low price of $37.97. (Shorter timespans are available for gift recipients with commitment issues.)
For ideas a little more outside the box—to fill the hole Ms. Carey left—we're here for you. Happy giving! —Billy Binion, associate editor
For the dinner party host(ess) extraordinaire:
Inflation has made everything at the grocery store more expensive, but prices for meat and poultry rose even faster than average inflation for most of the past year. That means overcooking your filet doesn't just risk ruining dinner. It's a waste of money too.
Clearly, the stakes—and the steaks—have been raised. Now more than ever, a thermometer is the essential grilling accessory.
Meater+ connects via Bluetooth to any smartphone or tablet, providing real-time updates on the ambient air temperature and the internal temperature of whatever is on the grill. With it, the old "well, that looks done" method of grilling can be relegated to the dark ages where it belongs.
Even though it comes pre-loaded with the Food and Drug Administration's recommended temperatures for each type and cut of meat, Meater+ lets you freely ignore the food bureaucrats' often ridiculous edicts. That means Meater+ doesn't merely prevent the dreaded overcook, but also helps you zero in on exactly how you like different meats prepared and consistently hit the sweet spot. —Eric Boehm, reporter
I recently rediscovered the glory of good old pepper. It's underrated by many standards, which is unfortunate, because it's flavorful, packs a punch, and has many health benefits. But that's not all! It's a gift for the diverse palate: Whether from Europe, India, China, (or a blend of them all), whether red, black, white, soft or hard, I love them indiscriminately. And thanks to a free(-ish) trade system, we can buy most of them in the U.S.
Which leads me to my gift suggestion: the Peugeot Olivier Roellinger Pepper Mill. It comes in red or black—doubling as a beautiful fixture on the kitchen or dining room table—and you can change the setting for fine or coarse grinding. Most importantly, this is the gift for the person who already "has everything." Besides, it's a great conversation starter if you say, for instance, "pepper and libertarians have a lot in common." Spicy. —Veronique de Rugy, contributing editor
For the one who needs an aesthetic upgrade:
The "Come Back With A Warrant" doormat is a mainstay of liberty-minded home décor, and for good reason. It fulfills a utilitarian function—giving guests a place to wipe their feet—while also making your legal knowledge known to any state actors who might come a-knocking.
With many stylish variations of the, shall we say, un-welcome mat, there is a design for any taste. The basic version of the doormat is a classic—and it has adorned my entryway for two years, while staying in top condition. However, Etsy is replete with other options, from cutesy to, erm, aggressive.
I'm personally partial to another variation—this doormat reading "hippity hoppity, get off my property," featuring a shotgun-toting cartoon frog. But as both a renter and a non-gun owner, it seemed a bit mismatched to my personal needs.
This holiday season, give the new home or apartment owner a gift that will both spiff up their doorway and remind guests—and government employees—that you are not to be trifled with. —Emma Camp, assistant editor
Give the gift of self-sufficiency—and a side of boho-chic ambiance—with a Burpee self-watering seed starting system. The self-watering tray and pellets of coco coir make growing plants from seeds a breeze, even for anti-green thumb millennials who still want their homes to loosely resemble a Pottery Barn catalog. Burpee also sells high-quality vegetable seeds, including container-friendly cucumber and bean varieties for those who don't have space for outdoor garden beds. Growing your own food is rewarding, especially during an inflationary period. —C.J. Ciaramella, reporter
Buy it for $24.99mamzo
For the gaming evangelists:
If you're looking for a way to sneakily teach your friends and family the ills of taxation and central authority, you need to gift The Great Dalmuti. The game goes something like this: Players try to shed all of their cards, and at the end of each round, those trailing in last must pay taxes to the top two winners. True to form, those taxes lock the losers in a cycle of losing and the winners in a cycle of winning until a revolution happens and power dynamics shift. With no official end to the game, it can be played until your non-libertarian friends and family members become so annoyed with the state that they become libertarians. —Addie Mae Villas, Burton C. Gray Memorial Journalism Intern
While man is still trying to get back to the moon, you can take your family a few million miles further this Christmas by giving them the gift of Terraforming Mars. As the name suggests, the board game tasks players with adding plants and people to the dead, red planet until it starts to look and feel a little more like home.
The libertarian in your life will have a blastoff assuming the role of a geoengineering mega-corporation that tries to fill the driest oceans, build the most domed cities, and smash the most temperature-raising asteroids into the planet's surface. Ample opportunity for player cooperation will ensure the competition doesn't get too heated.
The production value of the game pieces might leave a little to be desired. The real fun is found in exploring the imaginative game's setting and endless victory strategies. —Christian Britschgi, associate editor
For the coffee connoisseurs:
Inflation getting you down? If you're like me, you've taken to making a lot more treats at home this past year to save and scrimp. I've certainly been fine-tuning my barista skills as coffee prices rise at many big chains and local haunts. Just because the economy sucks doesn't mean your coffee has to.
Enter Monin. The syrup company has a wide variety of interesting flavors, from amaretto to toasted marshmallow to tiramisu. I love to add the brand's lavender and French vanilla offerings to my lattes, but you can truly have some fun customizing your coffees (not to mention your alcoholic drinks, lemonades, and Italian sodas).
At around $15 per bottle of syrup—a hefty one, at that—you can try your hand at café-caliber drink combinations for pennies on the dollar. Happy mixing! —Fiona Harrigan, assistant editor
In 1933, Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti invented the Moka Pot—a small, sleek, stovetop coffee maker—democratizing espresso for the masses. It's cheap, easy to use, and makes a perfectly fine cup of joe. And thanks to Italian emigration and Alfonso's marvelously mustached son, Renato, the device grew rapidly in popularity and remains ubiquitous in homes throughout Italy, South America, and Australia.
I've had one for years but have been using it more than ever for the same reason I'm recommending it to you now: Putin's war in Iraq! (Oops, I mean Ukraine.) A one-pound bag of espresso at $15 yields roughly a month of my daily addiction: about a fifth of what I pay for the same dosage from my Nespresso machine. (Let's not even talk about the $4 a day I was paying at Starbucks before the pandemic. Yikes!) And at just seven inches, you can have your bougie java wherever you go. No longer will you be that guy who shows up at the shared beach house with a legit espresso machine, a 26-piece set of Wusthof knives, and filtered ice cubes. (You could even take it camping if that's something that someone ever makes you do.)
While the Moka Pot comes in a variety of sizes and finishes, I own the classic three-cup version. At just $30, you can gift this timeless beauty to all the caffeine junkies in your life. —Jackie Pyke, director of development
For the freethinking tot:
If you're shopping for young kids, I highly recommend anything from Lovevery. The toys are made of high-quality materials, are aesthetically pleasing (no garish flashing neon plastic bits!), and are able to take a battering. Best of all, they're designed around Montessori principles to support brain development and inspire independent play.
Lovevery sells some stand-alone toys—you can find some of these on its website, while others I've only seen on Target.com—as well as toy box kits tailored to children's developmental stages. Each kit comes with six to nine different toys and costs $80 to $120 individually, or slightly less with a subscription (with new kits delivered every two to three months). —Elizabeth Nolan Brown, senior editor
Instead of that misconceived (and overpriced) model high-speed-rail train set, consider a copy of How To Build a Road, a children's construction book that, true to its name, walks kids through the ins and outs of roadbuilding. (It's more interesting than it sounds.) Alternatively, there's the Lego City Roadwork Truck, which gives you another holiday excuse to teach a liberty-minded little one that government coercion isn't necessary for successful public infrastructure projects. At a minimum, a firm foundation in road work terminology comes in handy when the future free thinker finds herself dorm room jousting with a "you didn't build that"-kind of collectivist.
And while we can't expect all to grow up and attain Bob Poole levels of transportation policy distinction, kids should at least know the difference between a bulldozer and an excavator if ever they're to engineer that privately owned, market-priced (and pothole-free) toll bridge to a brand new Panamanian seastead around, say, 2042? —Hunt Beaty, podcast producer
For the survivalists:
No libertarian bunker is complete without a decent soldering iron.
Enter the Hakko FX600. Pair it with free online tutorials and tinkerers can quickly start turning boxes of old cords into practice projects.
For those who get good at it, fixing stuff will become a hedge against instability. Being able to put broken electronics and appliances back into working order during an emergency situation could literally save someone's life. Or maybe even enable them to play GameBoy during the apocalypse.
They wouldn't be able to keep up the salvage-hacker lifestyle forever. But it doesn't take a doomsday scenario for some basic wiring skills to come in handy. It at least might help them weather the whims of a finicky supply chain, lest their replacement gadgets get stuck on a boat coming from China. —Adam Sullivan, digital marketing specialist
First designed by ArmaLite's Eugene Stoner as a survival weapon, the AR-7 is an underappreciated semiautomatic rifle that has gone through multiple manufacturers over the years. This takedown rifle—the barrel detaches from the receiver and both can then be stored in the water-resistant stock—was featured as an assassin's tool in From Russia With Love in 1963, but it works better in the hands of outdoorsy types for small-game hunting and plinking. I like to throw mine into a daypack when I hike and bike in the desert, along with a good supply of the small, lightweight .22 LR rounds it shoots.
My rifle dates back to when Survival Arms owned the design, but current production from Henry Repeating Arms is well-reviewed, though the magazines were redesigned and aren't fully interchangeable with older models. Standard magazines hold eight rounds, but extended magazines can be purchased from other makers. —J.D. Tuccille, contributing editor
For the vice addict:
You can't make a classic Negroni without Campari, and it turns out it's pretty good in a movie, too. A lavish new book, Campari and the Cinema, traces the Italian bitter liqueur's history on screen, from a 1984 TV commercial for the brand directed by Federico Fellini—it's a love story set on a train—to a more recent short film, "Killer in Red," directed by Paolo Sorrentino and starring Clive Owen as a bartender whose cocktails "express people's destiny." (He makes a lot of drinks that use Campari, of course.) One might argue that an oversized, brand-approved book like this doesn't have much practical value, but practicality isn't the point. This is a massive, gorgeous coffee table book that will appeal to fans of movies and Negronis—and even more to people who, like me, love both. —Peter Suderman, features editor
The home bars of true American cocktail aficionados may already be stocked with bottles of green and yellow Chartreuse, a liqueur first developed and still exclusively sold by Catholic monks in a remote valley in the French Alps. The Last Word is one (relatively) well-known drink that contains Chartreuse as an ingredient, alongside gin, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice.
But even serious imbibers may never have tasted the original iteration of Chartreuse, which the Carthusian monks' in-house apothecary perfected in 1737. That even-higher-proof liquid, made from all the same herbs and flowers as the green and yellow versions available around the world, has long been sold in France in tiny bottles labeled "Élixir Végétal." As of fall 2022, it's now available in the United States as well.
Thanks to federal regulators, though, who associate the word elixir with medicines, the same product has to be marketed here merely as "Chartreuse Vegetal." In fact, the Carthusians do consider the liqueur to have medicinal properties, but with three-letter government agencies on the prowl, their distributors find it easier to pretend otherwise. —Stephanie Slade, senior editor
Throw away that five-gallon jug because gravity bongs just got a major upgrade.
Stündenglass combines physics, airflow, and clean design to create a contactless smoke delivery system. With a 360-degree rotatable activation, it's easy to keep herbs burning with no re-light needed. The Stündenglass gravity infuser comes in six colors and glass globes can be swapped out to match your aesthetic. This piece is truly a stunner on your bud cart.
But Stündenglass isn't just for cannabis consumers. They sell an assortment of woodchips, from hickory to apple, for all your culinary and mixology needs. Use the tray cloche to smoke out ribs or the beverage cloche for an added flavor in one of Suderman's cocktail recipes.
Elevate any smoking experience with Stündenglass and leave your janky DIY gravity bong where it belongs—in your college years. —Bess Byers, digital marketing specialist
For the crypto-inclined and the crypto-skeptic:
What do you get your bitcoin-crazy friend who has everything and for whom pesky Christmas gifts seem quaint? More bitcoin, of course.
SATSCARDs are Coinkite's newest vehicle for conveniently gifting bitcoin. You drop bitcoin onto the SATSCARD with a single transaction to the address displayed on the back of the card, hand it to your loved one, and they now control the balance. From there, they can sweep the funds to wherever they please. Gifting the world's hardest money doesn't get easier than this.
Nobody has enough corn—not even your Bitcoiner bro—and you doing the work to put coin on a winter themed SATSCARD is all the more reward. Even the non-techie can pull this one off. —Joakim Book, copy editor
Effective altruism is taking a drubbing as the media covers every detail the implosion of Sam Bankman-Fried's cryptocurrency exchange, FTX. SBF, as he is known, was one of the largest funders of the effective altruism movement, which aims to maximize the impact of charitable giving. SBF's FTX shenanigans aside, effective altruism has a lot to recommend it, and the institutions that practice this type of philanthropy certainly need to diversify their donor base in a hurry. Why not do your end-of-year charity this year through GiveWell? Founded in 2007, the nonprofit is part of the O.G. crew of effective altruists who have worked diligently to find and fund powerful cheap interventions such as bed nets in malarial zones, dewormers for kids, and direct cash transfers to the world's poorest people. (They also take donations in crypto if SBF hasn't scared you off.) Too many Christmas charity donations are political or pointless. GiveWell is neither—and it won't clutter up your house. —Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor in chief
For the self-care obsessed:
When traveling for the holidays, there's nothing like stepping off a germ-ridden plane and into a piping hot sauna, punishing your body with high temperatures to get those heat shock proteins flowing through your veins. The obvious problem: Most of us don't have easy access to saunas on the road. So if you want your loved ones to keep those sniffles at bay and escape the winter blues, buy a sauna they can take with them, like the TaTalife Portable Professional Far Infrared Sauna Dome. It's perfect for family and friends with a PhD in bro science and pairs perfectly with their ice baths and cold showers. —Hilary Hackleman, director of operations
I'm back, baby, with another sleep mask. "Another one!?" you might ask. Hear a girl out. I'm retracting my claim from last year that lumped in any weighted eye mask with flimsy airline freebees. (The latter are still trash.) That's because the Nodpod Gentle Pressure Sleep Mask is a weighted sleep experience that any over-taxed and under-slept (who isn't?) individual needs.
I opt for the "Sedona" shade because I love a desert vibe, but there are plenty of colors to pick from for a loved one (or even just a liked one). The design gently forces any overstimulated eyeballs to get the rest we so need; until some billionaire comes up with a way for us to avoid dedicating a third of our lives to sleep, we might as well be smart about it. The 2022 holiday season doesn't have to be about Black Friday stampedes. So click the link, spend the money, and sleep well. Have a happy, restful holidays, Reason readers and viewers. —Regan Taylor, video editor
For the comic book creatives:
Firefly is not coming back to the small screen—I'm sorry, but Nathan Fillion doesn't need the money, and it would probably just be a disappointment anyway. Yet fans of the 2002 space western with libertarian vibes can get their fix with the series of Firefly comics published by Boom! Studios. The libertarian-adjacent themes and well-drawn cast of characters continue their adventures in a series of 36 comic books and two one-off graphic novels. Those ready to jump in should start with the hardcover Firefly: The Unification War Vol. 1 which collects the first four comic books in the series.
Unclear if Boom! Studios has put the series on hiatus (the most recent comic book was published in January 2022), but anyone who makes it through their Firefly collection can indulge in the initial Serenity comic books that were sporadically published by Dark Horse Comics from 2005–2017 (which I have not read and cannot vouch for). Whether you're interested in the comics or satisfied with the TV show's lore, just remember the theme song's opening lyrics: "Take my love / Take my land / Take me where I cannot stand / I don't care / I'm still free / You can't take the sky from me." —Jason Russell, managing editor
Exhaustive but not exhausting, if you ever wondered how the geek cultures of comics, science fiction, and animation managed to become huge engines of money and crowds in showbiz, you'll be interested in See You At San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture. This deep-dive explores the history of San Diego Comic-Con via the voices of the curious, driven gang of nerdy weirdos and creatives who started small gatherings of fellow fanatics in San Diego hotels. Over 50 years, they took over the town and the entertainment industry. As with the best examples of spontaneous growth, it isn't because they planned or intended it: It's because their fantasies and hard work created a pulsing and paradoxically-colorful black hole of attention and energy that gradually drew big money and crowds bigger than the city's convention center could hold.
The kids and their less-than-a-handful of adult mentors who started it all just wanted to hang out, talk to their pals, meet other potential pals, honor their creative heroes, and buy old comic books. When people get attracted to a wonderful dream, the shape of the dream must change. But when your idea is this attractive, it can't be helped. Both those who love and lament how success changes things will be fascinated watching these passionate feuding fans make dreams bigger than they could have imagined come true. —Brian Doherty, senior editor
For the culturally indulgent:
If you have an Americana fan on your list, consider a Carter Family product. These revered conservators of the Appalachian mountain-music tradition virtually kick-started what became the professional country music scene, providing a repertoire of timeless songs to generations of earnest folkies, dorm-room guitar hotshots, and pop outliers like Devo (who covered the Carters' "Worried Man Blues" in Neil Young's oddball 1982 movie Human Highway) and Anna Kendrick (who turned their "When I'm Gone" into a cup routine in the first Pitch Perfect film). There's a ton of variously-packaged Carter Family paraphernalia available, most abundantly on a Bear Family box set called In the Shadow of Clinch Mountain, which collects 307 of the tracks the group recorded from 1927 to 1941. Unfortunately, it costs $237.
If the thought of that sort of gifting outlay puts you in a Scroogey mood, let me suggest a fine alternative. Try Meeting in the Air, a collection of 14 Carter songs performed by Jim Watson, Tommy Thompson, and Mike Craver, all veterans of a long-running North Carolina string band, the Red Clay Ramblers. This record was recorded in 1979 and '80 and thus had the benefit of modern recording technology. The guitars (and occasional banjo and autoharp) are fuller than on the original records and the twining vocal harmonies—at which these guys truly excel—are clearer. Not all of the songs are the usual Carter "hits" (there's no "Wildwood Flower" or "Can the Circle be Unbroken"). But "Lulu Walls" and "The Wayworn Traveler' and the sublime "Give Me the Roses" are here, and they're incandescently rendered.
Meeting in the Air can be hard to find and expensive when you can. Happily, Rambler Mike Craver appears to have stashed away some reserve CDs, and he's selling them on his website for $10.95. A real deal, believe. —Kurt Loder, film critic
Mariah left out a few things with her hit single. But she may have been onto something when she excluded stuff. So for the person who already has all the stuff they need, or whose home is cluttered with stuff they don't need, give the gift of a cultural experience.
Who doesn't love a good musical? I can already hear one response: "A lot of people." I'll counter: Most everyone likes music, and most everyone likes a good story, so there's at least one musical for everyone. And it may be coming to a city near you.
Check out the Broadway shows currently touring the country, which bring the quality of New York theatre to your backyard at a more affordable price. For the history buff, check out the schedule for 1776, Hamilton, or even Les Misérables. For the nostalgic one, look at Beetlejuice, Ain't Too Proud, Beautiful—The Carole King Musical, and Jagged Little Pill (depending on your era of choice). For the Disney princess in your life, get thee to Frozen or Aladdin. And for that person mentioned above who rolls their eyes at the idea of spending a night out at a musical, try the almost-universally crowd-pleasing Wicked. Even if they don't fall in love, at least they'll finally understand the cultural references when Ariana Grande portrays Glinda on the silver screen. Cultured and well-informed. —Billy Binion, associate editor