libertarian arizona david nolan colorado

Party founder on liberty and justice for all
quiz doctrinaire self-ownership

David Nolan, Nov 23, 1943 – Nov 21, 2010

Libertarians have their heroes, such as John Locke, Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Jay Nock, Milton Friedman, and David Nolan. With their love for liberty, another preference these heroes shared was justice regarding land ownership and taxation. We trim, blend, and append two articles, one of 2010 on the life of David Nolan by Brian Irving in the Raleigh Libertarian Examiner and the other from 1995 in the Libertarian Party News of March by David Nolan.

by Brian Irving and by David Nolan

David Nolan died November 21 in Tucson Arizona. Nolan was the founder of the LP and the creator of the Nolan chart.

Nolan died Sunday, apparently of a heart attack while driving near his home in, just days short of his 67th birthday

“David's importance to the liberty movement cannot be underestimated,” said state Libertarian Party chair Barbara Howe.

On December 11, 1971 the Libertarian Party was born in Nolan's living room in Denver.

“He not only helped found the Libertarian Party,” said LP national chair Mark Hinkle, “but remained active and helped to guide our party for the last forty years."

He had just completed a campaign for U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent John McCain.

Millions of people have taken his quiz online; it is referred to in over a dozen leading textbooks, and has been used in hundreds of classrooms around the world.

What is it that really makes one a libertarian?

As a founder of the Libertarian Party and editor-in-chief of California Liberty, I am often asked how to tell if someone is "really" a libertarian. This question has arisen more often than usual in the past few months, as more and more politicians are starting to use libertarian-sounding rhetoric. And it's a point worth raising.

There are probably as many different definitions of the word "libertarian" as there are people who claim the label. These range from overly broad ("anyone who calls himself a libertarian is one") to impossibly doctrinaire ("only those who agree with every word in the party platform are truly anointed"). My own definition is that in order to be considered a libertarian, at least in the political context, an individual must adhere without compromise to five key points.

Ideally, of course, we'd all be in agreement on everything. But we're not, and probably never will be. Debate is likely to continue indefinitely on such matters as abortion, foreign policy, and whether, when, and how various government programs can be discontinued or privatized. But as far as I'm concerned, if someone is sound on these five points, he/she is de facto a libertarian; if he fails on even one of the five, he isn't.

What, then, are the "indispensable five"-the points of no compromise?

You Own Yourself

First and foremost, libertarians believe in the principle of self-ownership. You own your own body and mind; no external power has the right to force you into the service of "society" or "mankind" or any other individual or group for any purpose, however noble. Slavery is wrong, period.

Because you own yourself, you are responsible for your own well-being. Others are not obligated to feed you, clothe you, or provide you with health care. Most of us choose to help one another voluntarily, for a variety of reasons -- and that's as it should be-but "forced compassion" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

The Right to Self-Defense

Self-ownership implies the right to self-defense. Libertarians yield to no one in their support for our right as individuals to keep and bear arms. We wish only that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution said, "The right to self-defense being inalienable . . . " instead of that stuff about a "well-regulated militia." Anyone who thinks that government -- any government -- has the right to disarm its citizens is NOT a libertarian!

No "Criminal Possession" Laws

In fact, libertarians believe that individuals have the right to own and use anything --gold, guns, marijuana, sexually explicit material -- so long as they do not harm others through force or the threat of force. Laws criminalizing the simple possession of anything are tailor-made for police states; it is all too easy to plant a forbidden substance in someone's home, car, or pocket. Libertarians are as tough on crime -- real crime -- as anyone. But criminal possession laws are an affront to liberty, whatever the rhetoric used to defend them.

No Taxes on Productivity

In an ideal world, there would be no taxation. All services would be paid for on an as-used basis. But in a less-than-ideal world, some services will be force-financed for the foreseeable future. However, not all taxes are equally deleterious, and the worst form of taxation is a tax on productivity -- i.e. an "income" tax-and no libertarian supports this type of taxation.

What kind of taxation is least harmful? This is a topic still open for debate. My own preference is for a single tax on land, with landholders doing their own valuation; you'd state the price at which you'd be willing to sell your land, and pay taxes on that amount. Anyone (including the tax collector) who wanted to buy it at that price could do so. This is simple, fair, and minimizes government snooping into our lives and business. Is this "the" libertarian position on taxes? No. But all libertarians oppose any form of income tax.

A Sound Money System

The fifth and final key test of anyone's claim to being a libertarian is their support for an honest money system; i.e. one where the currency is backed by something of true value (usually gold or silver). Fiat money -- money with no backing, whose acceptance is mandated by the State -- is simply legalized counterfeiting and is one of the keys to expanding government power.


The five points enumerated here are not a complete, comprehensive prescription for freedom . . . but they would take us most of the way. A government which cannot conscript, confiscate, or counterfeit, and which imposes no criminal penalties for the mere possession and peaceful use of anything, is one that almost all libertarians would be comfortable with.

JJS: Since the Libertarian Party has not done well -- no third party in the US has in a century and half -- I wonder if they should form caucuses in the two main parties?


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Attempts to Squash Challenger Political Parties

Patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers catch a break

Population, but not representation, has grown

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