Around 1997 or 1998, I came across the Nolan Chart in that vast, young wasteland known as the internet. Surprisingly (considering I was already at or close to voting age), this was my first exposure to “libertarianism,” and that options existed outside the left/right paradigm. After reading a bit about it and marinating on the implications, I decided (realized?) I was indeed a libertarian. Through the years, there was an ebb and flow of growth and retraction, swaying a bit left or a bit right with the times, though mostly continuing toward anti-statism. I have never stopped learning, eventually becoming a few short years ago the anarcho-capitalist, austro-libertarian voluntaryist I am today (yet the intellectual journey never ends, of course).
And it began with, of all things, the Nolan Chart.
Now, the Nolan Chart is a useful promotional tool to proselytize to non-libertarians that the more the state controls, the less liberty the individual has. But as a tool to accurately chart philosophies, it is woefully flawed (I find this chart a bit more instructive). Of course, there’s too much philosophical nuance to properly identify an individual with only a few questions, but within the context of the parameters of the quiz, what bothered me most was the layout of the chart itself (click here for examples). How can someone score only 40% on both economic and personal liberty (or less on one or the other) and not be a statist? Conversely, how can someone only advocate for 50-60% freedom in any one category and still be considered a libertarian? The threshold of turning over liberties to the state was wrong; too many statists were off the hook.
But the quiz is widely utilized in various forms (effectively so, in my opinion, as my anecdotal case demonstrates), and I wanted something that would fit the results of the existing quizzes. So I took a few minutes to create the chart below to clarify the categories. As you can see, the sections aren’t quite as neat and evenly placed out. Those who advocate for government interference in most aspects of life cannot hide from their authoritarianism by choosing the reasonable-sounding “centrist” or “moderate” label. Those on the right and left who promote heavy state authority over our lives in one way or the other are recognized as the statists they are. The small gradient from yellow to black at the very top of the chart signifies the rise from minarchist to anti-statist.
Go ahead and take a quiz and see where you fall in the updated chart (this quiz is decent for its inclusion of foreign policy and this one for its question on the war on drugs… This quiz, on the other hand, is not recommended due to too many - frankly - stupid and/or irrelevant questions with no legitimate responses. A political compass should address matters regarding the proper role of the state. Too often this addresses issues of general morality or opinions that may inform but are ultimately unrelated to political opinions. As one example, one might agree that “It’s a sad reflection on our society that something as basic as drinking water is now a bottled, branded consumer product” but still conclude it improper to use the state’s monopoly on force to counter such a development. Also, how does one’s opinion on “It’s natural for children to keep some secrets from their parents” or “When you are troubled, it’s better not to think about it, but to keep busy with more cheerful things” or “Abstract art that doesn’t represent anything shouldn’t be considered art at all” have anything to do with the state’s role? Some questions have built-in assumptions that lend themselves no correct answer. For example, it asks whether it’s more important to control unemployment or inflation, but an economically literalte libertarian would answer “neither” and instead understand that economic control through fiat currency manipulation is immoral and/or yields poor results). If you’re in the purple, there’s hope for you yet!
Ultimately, political and philosophical opinions aren’t so simple. There are questions of war/foreign interventionism and private property that rarely seem properly addressed. But generally speaking, this chart should get people most of the way there.
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- the-quiet1-has-a-new-blog said: The one that you find irrelevant seems to takes more nuanced positions into account. Ex. one test seems to use gay marriage as a definer of all social views. What if one supports g. marriage, free drug use, but not abortion?
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