R.I.P. Libertarian Party-founder David Nolan

The man who founded the Libertarian Party in a Colorado living room 39 years ago died this past weekend in Tucson at the age of 66.

David Nolan, who lived in Colorado for about 20 years had just completed a losing campaign for the United States Senate.

The Washington Post relates the story of the founding of the libertarian party:

The impetus for the new party was a national address by President Richard M. Nixon on Aug. 15, 1971. U.S. currency would no longer be pegged to the gold standard, Nixon announced, and the federal government would institute new wage and price controls to curb inflation.

David Nolan died on Sunday, at 66

Mr. Nolan, who had campaigned to repeal the federal income tax, considered himself a Republican until he watched Nixon’s speech from his home in Colorado, surrounded by a group of friends. They saw the president’s moves as an unconstitutional overreach of power.

“We heard the announcement that he made, and we looked at each other and said . . . ‘If there was ever any doubt as to whether we need a party that stands for real limited government and individual freedom, then this should settle it for us.’ ”

Less than four months later, Mr. Nolan and seven others voted to form the national Libertarian Party. Its ideals were succinctly articulated by Mr. Nolan in a diagram known as the Nolan Chart, first published in 1971 in the Individualist magazine.

Instead of picturing the political spectrum as a simple line anchored by liberals on the left and conservatives on the right, Mr. Nolan’s chart depicted two axes: one labeled economic freedom and the other labeled personal freedom.

The Nolan Chart

Political philosophy was a result of one’s attitudes toward the two freedoms, Mr. Nolan wrote. Libertarians believed both should remain unfettered by government meddling.

Those willing to sacrifice economic liberty – whether Democrats pushing tax-supported social programs or Republicans authorizing big defense spending – were authoritarian. Ditto for those who believed in government’s right to monitor civilians, regulate abortion or otherwise impinge on civil liberties.

Clint Jones, Libertarian candidate for Colorado’s 1st CD seat this past go-around, had this to say, “David was very well known as one of the founders of the party and also for the Nolan Chart. He really helped spread the word that there was more to American politics than just liberals and conservatives, that there was a third tier that stood for freedom. He saw the Republicans losing their philosophy and losing their way and he did something about it.”

Said David K. Williams, Jr., state chair of the Libertarian Party, “David knew winning at the ballot box wasn’t likely, at least not in state-wide or national elections but he wanted people to know there was another way of looking at things. Both major parties are statist in their own ways.”

Nolan was found parked in his car Saturday. He apparently suffered either a heart attack or a stroke. He was taken to the hospital where he died on Sunday. The Tucson Sentinel printed an obituary yesterday.

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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