Friday, December 24, 2010

David Nolan and the Libertarians

       Here I am, playing catch-up again.  I just read today that David Nolan passed away, when in fact he left us -- quite suddenly -- a full month ago.   He had just finished a successful campaign for the US Senate from Arizona.  Successful, not because he won (he didn't), but because his candidacy enabled 43,000 good citizens of Arizona not to waste their vote on whoever is the greater of two evils running on the Democratic and Republican tickets.

       (Who was the greater of two evils, you ask?  That's easy:  whoever it was that won.  He/she will be in position to do the greatest damage to the Republic; and being a member-in-good-standing of one of the two established parties, will be fully encouraged and empowered to do so.)

       David Nolan is famous for popularizing the Nolan Chart and the World's Smallest Political Quiz.  Many years ago, when I was teaching in a small public school, a fellow-teacher gave me the Quiz.  And that is how, in one day -- in five minutes -- I found out two things.  First of all, that libertarians existed.  Second, that I was one.  I encourage you to take the take the Quiz right now.  Answer the questions honestly and surprise yourself.

       Nolan is rightly remembered for other achievements.  He helped establish the Libertarian Party in the early 1970's, partly in reaction to the Nixon Administration's imposition of wage and price controls, and he wrote essays on several topics libertarian.  I particularly appreciated his essay,  "The Essence of Liberty," when I read it a few years ago.  He posited five "essential points" of libertarian viewpoint.  It put to rest any lingering concerns I may have had that I was somehow implicitly buying into the quite arbitrary "Objectivism" of Ayn Rand.

       (I had read her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, and her fictional heroine, Dagney Taggart, didn't impress me much. Well, actually, she didn't impress me at all.  In fact, she was a real turn-off;  I had met much better examples of free and responsible women in real life who didn't think like she [or Ayn Rand] did. )

       But as I was saying, the Nolan Chart was the beginning for me.  I would later run into the writings of Murray Rothbard, Lysander Spooner, Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls), Lew Rockwell, and a dozen others.  At the same time, I was discovering that Richard Maybury, John Whitehead, Lord Acton, Charles Williams, and other writers were variously believers in the long tradition of Natural Law.

       Well, what with all those free thinkers, wasn't I bound to run into an atheist or two?  Yes, I did.  Well, didn't it bother me?  Maybe a little, at first.  But then I got used to the hospitality of those sinners and enjoyed feasting at their mostly generous, sometimes boisterous intellectual tables, and I found I didn't much miss the quacking in the synagogues of the pharisees.  When it occurred to me that, in all of this, I was in pretty good Company, I just stopped worrying altogether.

       And I haven't lost my faith.  In fact, it has been quite otherwise.  I've encountered the Master in those places.

*       *       *

       Would several readers be willing to comment, and add to our understanding of libertarian thought and libertarian people?


  1. After knowing you for about thirty years, I am so glad to now have the missing piece of the puzzle, in how you turned to things libertarian. I encourage all my Christian brethren who have mistakenly thought that libertarian ideology auntomatically conflicted with their Christian convictions, to do as the old cigarette commercials say - "Try it, and taste the difference!" I continue to find hard evidence in the Bible to support the limitation of the scope of Gentile government to those matters as cited by libertarians (thus "rendering to Caesar"), with the remainder subject to the Kingdom of God.

    Your last two paragraphs should be the most ground-shaking to all seriously devout American Christians who read this post, and should give them the most to deliberate on - I recommend that, after and if they have internally reconciled its message, that they forward this link to all Christians they know; and then go practice its suggestion to go out and "mix it up" with some people you would not normally rub shoulders with, and expect to find Jesus there. For example, I found Him at work, and even some of His wisdom, amongst a bunch of hippies at a radio station, who did not know much about organized religion, but knew how to love and bear with each other better than other Christians I had been aroudn at church, and thus taught me much, as well as to be concerned about the "little guy" (they were "card-carrying liberals", to boot!).

  2. Thanks, Doc. Anybody else want to weigh in? For instance, would anybody like to comment on Murray Rothbard?

  3. I first heard of libertarianism when I was 18 just before my first vote. Ron Paul was running as a Libertarian that year, ever hear of him, lol! But my older and wiser brother told me that I couldn't be a libertarian as it would conflict with my Christianity and otherwise conservative values.

    The whole subject intrigued me, especially at every election when there was no one to vote for and when I was more conservative and more free market than those running--even the ones proclaiming to be Christians. That was before the internet and it was hard to get any info on libertarianism. I didn't know about Rothbard or Ludwig von Mises or Henry Haslitt or the like. I wish I had! That was before the internet.

    The first time I read Rothbard's For A New Liberty, it was smooth sailing until he got into having private roads. No way! And private police. Are you kidding me? And private courts. Huh? What? Impossible! Absolutely insane! But I read to the end, you know, to chew on the meat and spit out the bones. But the more I thought about it, the more even the points I rejected actually became more acceptable in my thoughts. More and more of the whole of libertarianism made sense. I had been so conditioned that government and all it's agencies were a necessary evil. Just because they have always been (in my lifetime) doesn't mean that there isn't another way to approach the same goals.

    I've started reading Mises', Human Action. Sadly, I haven't gotten very far. I have young kids in the house, enough said, as reading Mises does require a noise value below freight train/airliner and more than 2.3 seconds between interruptions (mommy!mommy!mommy!mommy!) and diaper changes : )

    [One great thing about is that many of the classic libertarian books are available as pdf to download at no charge.]