RIP David Nolan

The founder of the US Libertarian Party and the inventor of the Nolan Chart (the basis for the “world’s smallest political quiz“, which has an economic & social axis) died yesterday. The following message was sent out by the Advocates for Self-Government

The Advocates for Self-Government is deeply saddened to report that David F. Nolan, creator of the Nolan Chart that is the basis of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, has passed away. Nolan died on November 21, just two days before his 67th birthday. He lived in Tucson, Arizona.

Nolan is famous among libertarians for two major accomplishments. He was a principal founder of the Libertarian Party — in fact, that party was formed in his own living room in 1971.

And in 1970, he created a new multi-spectrum map of the political world that is rapidly replacing the old-fashioned left-versus-right linear model. His model is today known internationally as the “Nolan Chart.”

The Nolan Chart forms the basis of the Advocates for Self-Government’s world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz. The Quiz took Nolan’s chart to a vast, worldwide audience. The Quiz has been taken over 16 million times online, is referenced in numerous major textbooks, is used in countless high school and college classrooms, and has been reprinted in numerous newspapers, magazines, books, and other media. The Quiz has been translated into several languages. Through the success of the Quiz, the Nolan Chart model has won acceptance among political scientists and has changed the political thinking of countless individuals.

“The libertarian movement has lost one of its giants, and I have lost a dear colleague and friend,” said Advocates president Sharon Harris. “David Nolan changed political history and changed the way millions look at the world of politics. It is impossible to overstate the importance of his legacy to liberty.”

Nolan was an enthusiastic supporter of the Advocates for Self-Government, speaking at Advocates events, serving on the Advocates Board of Advisors, and publicly endorsing the Advocates and the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

Nolan credited the Advocates with rescuing and popularizing his Nolan Chart.

Nolan introduced his chart in an article he wrote in the summer of 1970 entitled “Classifying and Analyzing Political-Economic Systems.” It appeared in the January 1971 issue of The Individualist, a newsletter published by the Society for Individual Liberty.

The idea generated some interest, but, as Nolan later told the Advocates in an interview, “the discussion died down… the idea didn’t completely disappear, but it drifted into a kind of semi-obscurity for several years.”

That obscurity ended abruptly, Nolan said, when Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz — searching for new, effective ways to communicate libertarian ideas — became excited by the Nolan Chart’s possibilities in the early 1980s. Marshall tweaked the chart and added ten questions alongside it, allowing users to place themselves on the chart by their answers.

The result was the World’s Smallest Political Quiz — arguably the most successful outreach and educational tool in the libertarian movement’s history.

“Marshall essentially resurrected the Chart,” Nolan said. “Marshall saw its value as a recruiting and promotional and mind-changing tool more clearly than anybody else ever had, perhaps even more than I had.

“Marshall dusted it off, refined it, fine-tuned it, and started promoting it. And thanks to Marshall’s efforts, it took off.”

Nolan’s long history of libertarian political activism and leadership dated back to the early days of the modern libertarian movement. He credited Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand as key influences on his political thinking. His activism started with the Goldwater for President campaign, and continued with organizations including Young Americans for Freedom, the Liberty Amendment Committee, and the Society for Individual Liberty, before the formation of the Libertarian Party.

Nolan remained active in the two organizations that most represented his legacy until his death. He spoke at the Advocates 25th Anniversary celebration at FreedomFest in Las Vegas this past July, and this month he completed a vigorous campaign for the U.S. Senate on the Libertarian ticket.

2 thoughts on “RIP David Nolan

  1. Guys like Nolan lit a candle when the night was darkest. When I first encountered the worlds smallest political quiz it definitely set some long idle cogs in motion.

  2. I never heard of any of this! Are they going to build a giant statue to Nolan in a park somewhere? Perhaps you could change the face on the Statue of Liberty to Nolan’s? Anyone want to resculpt Ayre’s rock?

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