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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eric Sundwall Fisks My Nolan Test

I've earlier answered some of Eric's complaints about my test here:

Yes, the Javascript version of my test currently only implements answers of 0, 5 or 10.  This is similar to how The Advocates' quiz only allows three options, but the printed version of my test clearly allows people to enter any integer score.  I of course make no claim that each issue can only have 3 positions (or only 11, for that matter).

For each issue question that Eric complains about, I issue this blanket retort now instead of repeating it for each issue: if you think you can state the issue in 35 characters or less, and in a way that is useful for LP outreach, and do so in a way that is more fair or insightful than the way I did it, then let's see your 35 characters.  And if instead you think there's no way to use 10 or 20 short questions to get a rough idea of which standard political label applies to someone, then your complaints are better directed to The Advocates, not to me.

Censorship: if you think "most people would not favor censorship per se", you need to get out more.  Protecting kids from sex, drugs, and violence in media is enormously popular in America.  I admit that "censorship" can suggest a more narrow context of just political/ideological speech, but the point of this choice is to confront people with what you and I agree is the fundamental equivalence of all speech acts.  Is that such a bad thing to try to do?

Monitoring: yep, whether monitoring is acceptable is extremely sensitive to context and to people's reasonable expectations.  So?  Doesn't that just mean that this is a fair question?  Are you suggesting that this question cannot help us decide whether someone is left/right/libertarian?

Religiousness: this was by far the hardest question to phrase.  I would have asked about government "establishment of religion", but I don't want you to score a 10 just because you wouldn't have a Church Of England here.  I wanted to ask about government using "coercive or monopoly powers to establish, aid, or attack any religion" (as I phrase it in my Free Earth Manifesto), but I couldn't condense that into 35 characters.

Donate to any political ad: "campaign" would be better than "candidate" and either would be better than "ad", but "ad" fits and the other two don't.  "Party" is too narrow.  By choosing "ad", I actually make it too easy to get libertarian points here, contrary to your charge of bias (which I've already admitted is not entirely baseless).

Risk your body: I'm of course talking about helmet laws, seatbelt laws, product safety laws, building codes, etc. etc.  I don't understand your complaint here.

Marriage: sigh. See my comment @194, and try to read my quiz without your anarchist hat pulled down over your eyes. :-)

Procreation: By this I mean cloning, surrogacy, stem cells, frozen embryos, contraception, RU486, etc.  I personally think that early-term abortion is a procreation question, while late-term abortion is an infanticide question, but I'm not trying to ask about those here.  The point here is to get people to ask themselves: "is there a method or aspect of procreation for which I think the government should override individual choice?"  Of course, I can't guarantee that people won't read it as superficially as you did, but again: what 35 characters could do a better job?

Adult entertainment: this phrasing tries to capture all the notorious consensual sex-related commerce, while also keeping children out of it.  I don't think you could seriously claim that my phrasing would trick porn-snatchers into giving a libertarian answer.

Own a gun: I almost made this "carry a gun", but I think it's up to property owners to decide this, and too much property is owned by the government.  Now that I think of it, I'll change this to "own any gun" in the next version, as "own a gun" is indeed too easy to agree with.

Drugs: the test asks elsewhere about "medicine", so this is indeed asking about drugs -- all drugs.  I put this one last, because I tried to order them by increasing difficulty of agreeing with the hardcore libertarian position.  Sneaky me.

It's silly for you to call it "silly" to try to judge how politicians would answer these questions.  Yes, there are limits to how much precision we can achieve in 35 characters, but words do have meanings, and you were able to figure out most of the contexts I was trying to invoke.  For an effort to plot each member of Congress on the Nolan Chart, see e.g. and  They analyze about 200 votes to score 20 issues, and ended up plotting Paul and Obama very close to where I plot them.  What would be "silly" would be to call this a mere coincidence.

"Rock solid notion of what they should subsequently be labeled" is just a clumsy strawman.  Did you really think I wouldn't diagnose it, Eric?  I've never used the numbers from this test without a qualifier like "about" or "roughly".  I don't see how your complaint here is not something that is already addressed at

Immigration and national defense are excluded not because they are "policy", but because they are policy that is more about franchise than about the personal or economic liberty of those whose franchise isn't in dispute.  Nobody disputes whether the American government should have concern for the rights of Americans who are black or female or Jewish etc.  By contrast, there is much dispute over how much concern the American government should have for animals, fetuses, would-be immigrants, victims of overseas tyranny, victims of overseas catastrophe, etc.  For more on this, see

I'm glad you conclude that the test is "a convenient tool for those seeking to integrate more people into the libertarian cause and party".  I certainly don't claim that the test by itself can divert "most people [from] the same partisan path they were on".  What I claim is that it is the most effective, interesting, fair, and comprehensive analysis+marketing that can fit in those 20 square inches of space for an audience who care about a broad range of issues and who are persuadable that neither Left nor Right is a good fit for them.