David Nolan dies at 66; founder of the Libertarian Party
David F. Nolan, whose disgruntlement with conventional politics — especially President Nixon’s imposition of wage and price controls in 1971 — drove him to launch the Libertarian Party with a small group of friends, has died. He was 66.
Nolan apparently was stricken while driving his car Saturday night in Tucson and was taken to a hospital, where he died Sunday, Libertarian Party Chairman Mark Hinkle said. The cause of death has not been determined.
Nolan also was known for his invention of the Nolan Chart, a visual representation of political ideologies that classifies people according to their attitudes on personal and economic freedom, two of the principles Libertarians hold dear.
“The chart made it easy to see how liberals, conservatives, populists and libertarians compared,” Reason Foundation co-founder Robert Poole wrote in a blog post, “and was a true breakthrough that reshaped political analysis, polling and news reporting, helping to introduce ‘libertarian’ as a distinct political position.”
Conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. once derided libertarianism as “a kind of anarchy,” with positions scattered all over the political map. Libertarians favor civil rights but oppose government spending, they’re pro-choice but anti-regulation.
“The government’s job is to protect you; beyond that,” Nolan told the Tucson Citizen in 2006, “it’s up to you.”
Four decades ago Nolan was an advertising executive active in the Young Republicans who was growing increasingly unhappy with Nixon. The disenchantment brought about a political identity crisis for Nolan, who found it perplexing to be allied with conservatives yet often agreeing with liberals.
On Aug. 15, 1971, he was sitting in his Westminster, Colo., living room with several friends when the president appeared on television to announce that he was taking the U.S. off the gold standard and imposing a 90-day wage-and-price freeze to tame inflation.
In Nolan’s circle, the president’s order was seen not as a welcome intervention but as an unwanted intrusion by the federal government.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘That does it,’” Nolan recalled in a 1996 interview with the Rocky Mountain News. “The Republicans, at least Nixon, no longer offered us any hope. At that moment we were galvanized into action to start a new party.”
On Dec. 11, 1971, in Colorado Springs, Nolan and his colleagues voted to form the Libertarian Party. It held its first convention in Denver in 1972 and began running candidates for office. In 1988, Ron Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas, ran as the Libertarian candidate for president.
Nolan, who lived in California for almost 20 years starting in the late 1980s, ran for office several times himself, including an unsuccessful 2000 bid for Riverside’s 47th Congressional District. This month he was the Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in Arizona held by Republican John McCain, who handily defeated him.
Born Nov. 23, 1943, in Washington, D.C., Nolan grew up in Maryland. He found his way to libertarianism as a youth through the writings of Robert Heinlein and Ayn Rand.
He became politically active as a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1960s. He belonged to the Young Republicans and was an avid supporter of Sen. Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. He earned a degree from MIT in 1965.
Nolan, whose first marriage ended in divorce, is survived by his wife, Elizabeth.
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