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The chart that is the centerpiece of the Quiz is based on a chart devised in 1969 by political scientist David Nolan. Nolan, a libertarian (he co-founded the Libertarian Party in 1971) came up with the chart because he was frustrated by the old "left-right" line that leaves no room for libertarians and others.
Nolan's insight was that the major difference between various political philosophies, the real defining element in what a person believes politically, is the amount of government control over human action that is advocated.
Nolan further reasoned that virtually all human political action can be divided into two broad categories: economic and personal.
The "economic" category includes what you do as a producer and consumer - what you can buy, sell, produce. Where you work, who you hire, what you do with your money. Examples of economic activity: starting a business; buying a home; constructing a building; working in an office.
The "personal" category includes what you do in relationships, in self-expression, and in general what you do with your own body and mind. Examples of personal activities: marriage; choosing what books you read and movies you watch; what foods, medicines, and drugs you choose to consume; sports; your religious choices; organizations you join; who you choose to associate with.
Since, Nolan realized, most government activity (or government control) occurs in these two major areas, political positions can be defined by how much government control a person favors in these two areas. The extremes are no government at all in either area (anarchism) or total or near-total government control of everything (various forms of totalitarianism).
Most political philosophies fall somewhere in between.
In broad terms:
* Conservatives and those on the right tend to favor more freedom in economic areas (example: a free market), but more government control in social areas (example: censorship).
* Liberals and those on the left tend to favor more freedom in personal areas (example: no military draft), but more government activism or control in economics (example: a government-mandated minimum wage).
* Libertarians favor both personal and economic freedom, and oppose most (or all) government intervention in both areas. Like (some) conservatives, libertarians believe that people should be free to make economic choices for themselves. Like (some) liberals, libertarians believe in personal freedom.
* Statists favor a lot of government control in both the personal and economic areas.
Of course, liberals, conservatives, and others may disagree among themselves on particular issues, and hold different positions. Examples: a liberal might be opposed to censorship and draft, but want to continue the Drug War and end the minimum wage. Or a conservative may oppose censorship and the draft, but favor restricting free trade. But the broad division generally holds true.
Another way of expressing this (a sort of "libertarian-centric" view): conservatives tend to be more libertarian on economic issues; liberals tend to be more libertarian on issues of personal freedom.
In order to visually express this insight, Nolan came up with a two axis graph. One axis was for economic freedom, and the other was for personal freedom.
Once both areas were on a graph, it was possible to put a scale on each of the two axes of that graph. Nolan's scale started at zero (total state control) to 100% (no state control). 100% in economics would mean a free market; 100% in personal issues would mean no government control in your private, personal life.
By using the scale on each of the two axes, it was possible to measure the amount of personal liberty and economic liberty a person, political organization, or political philosophy advocates, and then plot that on the graph.
Thus, while the old "left-right" line attempted to measure politics along a one-dimensional line, Nolan's graph divided political issues into two dimensions: economic and social.
So, instead of classifying all political opinion as being some variant of liberal or conservative, Nolan's chart allowed a far more accurate measurement: how much (or little) government control a person favored in personal and economic matters.
This is a breakthrough concept that instantly gives far more insight into politics. By using this simple but accurate chart, it becomes much easier to see and understand the differences between liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and others. The chart more accurately places totalitarian or interventionist philosophies -- fascism, communism, and so on -- next to each other, instead at opposite ends of a single line. And it is far more inclusive, with room for libertarians and others; indeed, virtually every political philosophy can be put onto that chart, unlike the one-dimensional "left-right" line.
Nolan introduced his chart in an article entitled "Classifying and Analyzing Politico-Economic Systems" published in the January 1971 issue of The Individualist, a libertarian newsletter.
In 1999, Nolan was named one of the "2,000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 20th Century" by the Cambridgeshire, England-based International Biographical Centre (IBC), and he was included in their reference work of the same title, to be published in late 2000. Nolan speculated his inclusion in the book is due to his creation of the Nolan Chart, which has gained international fame as the core of the World's Smallest Political Quiz.