I never met David Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party, who died this weekend at the age of 66. I've never been an adherent of "the LP," as we call it, though I have voted for their candidates on several occasions.
In addition to founding the LP, Nolan was famous for creating the Nolan Chart, a two-dimensional map upon which the views of economic and political freedom are measured after the answering 10 relatively simple questions. There have been many maps, surveys and quizzes based upon Nolan's chart--some more objective than others. (I did some digging and thought this one seemed to be the most even-handed online.)
I bring this up, and felt I should note Nolan's passing, because that chart helped start me down the path to my current life. I took a survey based on this chart for the first time in 1992. I was an ardent Republican then, but had already become disaffected by Rush Limbaugh and the Religious Right and knew which side I would take if the latent schism between the fiscal and social conservatives ever materialized. (Of course, it did in the late 90s and early 00s.) The quiz we took, oddly enough in my sophomore year English class, separated me from my classmates even more than I had been already. I was, apparently, a "libertarian" and I'm pretty sure it was the first time I'd ever read the term "classical liberal."
It may not seem like much to you, but it helped me by chipping away at the stigma associated with the term "libertarian"--those 'crazy people' who protest the post office on tax day and implore you to vote for someone you've never heard of who has no chance of winning. The result would lead me to find that I was, in fact, different--but that there were others, however few, that believed the things that I believe: that fiscal prudence and social tolerance are not mutually exclusive; that government welfare programs promote sloth and dependence, despite the good intentions of their designers; and that the government should be drastically smaller than it is now and the country would be better for it if it were.
Thus, for this seemingly innocuous survey--or, at least, the chart upon which the survey was based--I am indebted to David Nolan. My former colleague Dave Weigel has a nice write-up at Slate that's worth a read. Bob Poole, Nolan's personal friend and classmate, in reason here.
David Nolan, RIP
bellum medicamenti delenda est.