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HOW THE QUIZ WAS CREATED: A SHORT HISTORY
The two parts of the Quiz.
We believe the World's Smallest Political Quiz offers a far better political map, and helps people quickly and easily and accurately place themselves on that map.
The Quiz is composed of two parts:
The following sections explain how they came together to form the Quiz.
Centerpiece of the Quiz: David Nolan's Chart
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.
Nolan's original graph looked something like this:
o, 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.
Adding The Questions To The Chart: Enter Marshall Fritz
In 1985, Marshall Fritz founded the Advocates for Self-Government. Part of the Advocates mission was to introduce and explain libertarian ideas to the public. Fritz found that Nolan's chart was a great help in explaining how libertarianism was distinct from conservatism and liberalism. Fritz also came to believe that the inaccurate "left-right" line was a major obstacle to the public understanding libertarianism, since that line left libertarians off entirely. The "left-right" line forced people to keep trying to shoe-horn libertarians (and others) into the liberal or conservative camps, when actually libertarians are neither. The left-right line also marginalized libertarians, by making them essentially invisible.
Fritz saw Nolan's chart as a way to challenge all this.
Convinced of the validity of the chart, Fritz wanted to popularize it, while also keeping it accurate so it could be accepted by academics and other political thinkers. A great way to do this, he decided, would be to turn Nolan's chart into a self-scoring computer game. In order to do this, he came up with the idea of asking a series of questions covering each of the chart's two broad areas, personal liberty and economics. A person would answer several important and significant questions on civil liberties and economics, and then the computer would use those answers to instantly plot his or her score on Nolan's chart.
Fritz spent hundreds of hours testing and revising questions for the proposed computer Quiz, seeking issues and wording that would consistently produce accurate and meaningful scores on Nolan's chart. He circulated print-outs of the chart and different sets of questions to numerous people, ranging from friends and neighbors to political scientists, to get their reactions.
Then longtime libertarian Bernie Baltic looked at one of these print-outs and suggested to Fritz that he could simply shrink the chart and questions down to a business-card size handout. The result, Baltic suggested, would be a unique and valuable tool that could be cheaply produced and easily distributed.
Great idea, Fritz thought. He played with the layout a bit, then ran off some test copies of the little business-card-size quiz in 1987 in a Fresno, California copy shop.
The little card didn't have a name yet. After printing it, Fritz asked the copy-shop clerk, "How'd you like to be the first person in the world to take the world's smallest political quiz?"
As Fritz recalls: "His eyes lit up at the words 'world's smallest political quiz,' and then I knew I had the name."
Thus was born the "World's Smallest Political Quiz" card
The first mass printing of the Quiz was 3,600 copies. They went fast. The next order was 15,000. They went fast, too. Then 30,000. As demand kept growing, so did the print runs. The biggest so far has been 400,000 copies.
As of August 2004, over 7 million Quizzes had been printed and distributed.
It was clear from the beginning that the Quiz was something special. The diagram was an eye-opener, and the questions stimulated political thinking and helped people place themselves on the chart.
The wording and the graphics have undergone considerable change since Fritz's first Quizzes. But the basic concept has remained the same.
The Quiz, then, is a combination of two elements: Nolan's graph, and Fritz's idea of ten short questions to quickly and easily help a person find their place on that graph.
(Marshall Fritz thanks the many people who contributed their time and thought to helping shape the questions on the Quiz. These people include Steve Alexander, David Bergland, Barry Conner, Dave Dawson, Don Ernsberger, Joe Fuhrig, Jeffrey Hummel, David Nolan, and Perry Willis. There are many others who played important roles as well. Fritz notes that literally hundreds of phone calls and hundreds of hours of conversations with these people went into formulating the Quiz.)
What's the most important part of the Quiz: the ten questions, or the chart?
Both are important -- it's the combination that gives the Quiz its appeal and makes it work quickly and accurately.
But the most central element is the chart. The questions are important, but their function is to help people quickly and accurately place themselves on the chart.
This is frequently overlooked by many people. The questions are the most provocative part of the Quiz, the part that people think about and ponder. But the questions, important as they are, are just guides to help you find your best place on the more accurate, more inclusive political map.
The Quiz for computers
Excited by the great success of the business-card-size Quiz, Fritz put aside the idea of a computer version of the Quiz, and in the pre-Web days, it was quickly forgotten. But others picked up the idea a few years later.
In 1993, the Quiz returned to its computer roots. Programmer Brian Towey, with the help of his wife Ingrid, produced a full-color, instant-scoring computer Quiz on disk, for DOS and Windows. Programmer Jon Kalb created an equally outstanding version for Macs. These computer Quizzes were a big hit, and were loaded onto hundreds of bulletin boards and computer networks across the country, in the pre-Web days.
These are still available on disk from the Advocates. (Though the easiest way to get a copy of the Quiz for your computer is simply to download it from our site. You can do so by clicking here: http://www.self-gov.org/download.html.)
(A tip of the Advocates' cap to the pioneer programmers who worked with Marshall Fritz in the early attempts to turn to Quiz into a computer game: Dave Dawson, Virgil Swearingen, and Al Weiss.)
The Quiz on the Internet
Advocates supporter and computer programmer Toby Nixon created an ASCII text copy of the Quiz in the pre-Web days, and this version was circulated widely across the Internet, in newsgroups, computer networks, bulletin boards, and on software. This version of the Quiz was bundled with other information about libertarianism by software designer Paul Schmidt, and this package too was widely circulated. The ASCII text version still circulates on Usenet (the Internet newsgroups) and elsewhere.
In 1995, Paul Schmidt -- by then serving as Advocates Internet coordinator -- created the Advocates' Web page, the centerpiece of which was, and remains, the interactive World's Smallest Political Quiz you find there today.
The Quiz quickly became extremely popular on the Web. As of July 2012, it has been taken online almost 19,000,000 times!
The Quiz chart becomes diamond-shaped.
A few years after the creation of the Quiz, Marshall Fritz decided to rotate Nolan's chart from a square to its current diamond shape, thus creating the visual image called the Diamond Chart. (It looks rather like a baseball diamond.) The reason? It put the left and right at, logically enough, the left and right. And it also created a sort of vertical scale -- almost like a thermometer -- that measures support for maximum government (the bottom, a zero-zero score) to little or no government (the top, a 100-100 score). Logically, visually, and aesthetically, the change made sense and made the Chart more useful. And Nolan himself had offered a diamond shape in his early writings about the Quiz.
(In his 1974 book Key Influences in the American Right, Ferdinand V. Solara also advocates a diamond-shaped map of the political spectrum, very similar to the current Quiz chart.)