David Nolan (politician)

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David Nolan
Nolan at the 2008 Libertarian Party national convention
1st Chair of the Libertarian National Committee
In office
Succeeded bySusan Nolan
Personal details
David Fraser Nolan

(1943-11-23)November 23, 1943
Washington, D.C., U.S.
DiedNovember 21, 2010(2010-11-21) (aged 66)
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
Political partyLibertarian (1971–2010)
Other political
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology (BS)
OccupationWriter, politician
Known forFounding the Libertarian Party
Inventing the Nolan Chart

David Fraser Nolan (/ˈnlən/; November 23, 1943 – November 21, 2010[1]) was an American activist and politician. He was one of the founders of the Libertarian Party of the United States, having hosted the meeting in 1971 at which the Party was founded.[2][3] Nolan subsequently served the party in a number of roles including National Committee Chair, editor of the party newsletter, Chair of the By-laws Committee, Chair of the Judicial Committee, and Chair of the Platform Committee.

He is also known as the inventor of the Nolan Chart,[4] an attempt to improve on the left versus right political taxonomy by separating the issues of economic freedom and social freedom and presenting them on a two-dimensional plane instead of the traditional line. Decades after its introduction, it continues to be popular, with millions of copies having been distributed, including by the group Advocates for Self-Government as the "World's Smallest Political Quiz".

Early life and education[edit]

Nolan was born on November 23, 1943, in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Maryland.[5] During high school, he was influenced by Ayn Rand and Robert A. Heinlein and their libertarianism. He enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating with a BS in political science in 1965.[6] While at MIT, he helped in founding M.I.T. Students for Goldwater in 1964, promoting the Republican presidential candidacy of Senator Barry Goldwater.[2]


While the traditional political "left-right" spectrum is a line, the Nolan Chart, created by David Nolan, is a plane, situating libertarianism in a wider gamut of political thought.
Nolan pictured with his eponymous chart at the 1996 Libertarian National Convention.

Nolan was a member of Young Americans for Freedom in 1969 when more than 300 libertarians organized to take control of the organization from conservatives. Many walked out after a physical confrontation sparked by the burning of a draft card in protest to a conservative proposal against draft resistance. While sympathizing with the radicals, Nolan remained with the organization.[7]

David Nolan during his 2010 Senate campaign

Nolan believed that in August 1971, President Richard Nixon's imposition of wage and price controls and closing the foreign gold window along with his belief that the Vietnam War was both ill-considered and illegal,[2] were three of the final straws for Nolan and his group of initial founders of the Libertarian Party. Nolan and his group had initiated a Committee the previous July, Committee to Form a Libertarian Party, and joined forces with a previous demonstration Libertarian Party project and non-partisan political efforts of the now Liberty International. The group organized among a number of libertarians, including the International Society for Individual Liberty, which had been formed by dissident members of Young Americans for Freedom and European libertarians. They officially founded the Libertarian Party on December 11, 1971.[6]

He ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian for the United States House of Representatives in the 2006 Arizona's 8th congressional district election and received 1.9% of the vote. He also ran as the Libertarian candidate in the 2010 United States Senate election in Arizona, and received 63,000 votes,[8] 4.7% of the total.

In the last few years of his life, especially after much of the Libertarian Party's platform was deleted in an organized "no confidence" effort by "reformers" in 2006, Nolan was sharply critical of the direction the party had taken, accusing party leaders of abandoning its radical roots and being "absorbed with minutia" and too focused on winning elections. "They're afraid to say anything that might scare people, because that might keep people from voting for them," he told Lew Rockwell in a December 2008 radio interview. "It's become a very timid organization in the last six or eight years."[9]

In 2009, Nolan publicly endorsed the Free State Project,[10] an attempt to move 20,000 Libertarians to New Hampshire to experience "Liberty in their Lifetimes".

Nolan died of a stroke in Tucson, Arizona on November 21, 2010.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Libertarian co-founder David Nolan died in Tucson". fox11az.com. November 22, 2010. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Martin, Douglas. David Nolan, 66, Is Dead; Started Libertarian Party, The New York Times, November 22, 2010. "After switching his major to political science, his involvement in conservative politics deepened. He was a founding member of M.I.T. Students for Goldwater in 1964, promoting the Republican presidential candidacy of Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, and helped it become the largest chapter in New England."
  3. ^ Bill Winter, "1971–2001: The Libertarian Party's 30th Anniversary Year: Remembering the first three decades of America's 'Party of Principle'" LP News
  4. ^ Doherty, Brian. "Radicals for Capitalism" p. 32. PublicAffairs.
  5. ^ Emma Brown (November 24, 2010). "Co-founder of national Libertarian Party." The Washington Post. Washingtonpost Newsweek Interactive. Retrieved January 13, 2013 from HighBeam Research
  6. ^ a b Brian Doherty Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, PublicAffairs, 2007, 389–394.
  7. ^ Rebecca E. Klatch, A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s, University of California Press, 1999 ISBN 0-520-21714-4, 215–237.
  8. ^ Clayton R. Norman David Nolan, a founder of Libertarian Party, dies, Arizona Daily Star, November 22, 2010.
  9. ^ Lew Rockwell Show "David Nolan: What Happened to the Libertarian Party"
  10. ^ "David Nolan endorsement of the Free State Project". Archived from the original on February 18, 2007. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
  11. ^ Dylan Smith, David Nolan, Libertarian founder, dies at 66, TucsonSentinel.com, November 21, 2010.
  12. ^ "OUR VIEW: Great defender of freedom passes on (poll)." The Gazette. Colorado Springs, CO. November 23, 2010. Newswire by the Orange County Register. Retrieved January 13, 2013 from HighBeam Research

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Position established
U.S. Libertarian Party Steering Committee Chair
Succeeded by