Libertarian Party NEWS

August 1999 


Online Edition
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David Nolan: A leading 20th Century thinker?

David Nolan, the man who founded the Libertarian Party, has been named one of the "2,000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 20th Century" by a British publishing company.

In May, Nolan was notified by the Cambridgeshire, England-based International Biographical Centre (IBC) that he would be included in their upcoming reference work which features the greatest thinkers of the past 100 years.

Nolan's reaction? "Amusement, mostly. I really don't think I'm one of the 2000 leading intellectuals of this or any other century . . . but then again, maybe I am," he said -- especially considering "what idiots most intellectuals really are."

Although the IBC did not explain their selection criteria to Nolan, he speculated his inclusion was due to the so-called Nolan Chart, which pioneered the measurement of political beliefs on a four-way Liberal/Conservative/Libertarian/Authoritarian scale, rather than the old-fashioned Left-Right spectrum.

"I'm pretty sure it's because of my two-axis 'map' of the political universe," he said. "It's appeared in countless textbooks by now, and Sharon Harris at the Advocates for Self-Government told me their online Political Quiz [based on the Nolan Chart] is one of the most linked-to sites on the Web, with over 3,000 links. That's actually pretty impressive."

The four-way political map is now also used in public opinion polls, noted Nolan -- just one more sign of its increasing influence.

"When I first came up with the concept in 1970, I didn't think it would be a big deal, but I guess it has literally changed the way millions of people (including political scientists) look at the political universe," he said. "It may not be truly 'Copernican' in its impact -- as Marshall Fritz once suggested -- but it's probably as powerful and significant a conceptual tool as, say, the Laffer Curve."

The finished book, to be entitled 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 20th Century, will be published in late 2000, according to the IBC.

If Nolan isn't sure that he belongs in such prestigious company, who would he include as the century's greatest minds?

"Tough call," he said. "Stephen Hawking comes to mind, immediately. Among our [Libertarian] own, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, Henry Hayek and the whole Friedman clan (Milton, Rose, and David) are certainly contenders. And while he'd probably spin like a top in his grave at the thought, I'd have to nominate H.L. Mencken. If I had to narrow it down to three, I guess I'd go with Hawking, Mises, and Mencken."

Nolan, who conducted the first meeting of what would become the Libertarian Party in his living room in Colorado in 1971, has been a newspaper editor, advertising and marketing executive, Interim LP Chair, creator of a World Wide Web site, and talk radio host. He holds a political science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.