Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 597, November 28, 2010

"If you want to be free, you must grant that freedom to others"

Attribute to The Lbertarian Enterprise

David F. Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party, inventor of the Nolan-Fritz Political Diagram, and my friend of thirty-eight years, is dead.

There isn't any easier way to say it. No euphemism can fill the void left by his absence. Nothing can do that. There is no adequate way to describe the feeling of unreality when I learned about it from a mutual friend. He was always there in the back of my mind, one standard against which I measured my own activism. I never realized Dave was one of the pillars of my life until he was suddenly snatched away.

Dave and I were often at odds over movement-related issues both trivial and significant. He tended to be the buttoned-down advertising man (although by most establishment standards he was a wild and crazy guy) while I advocated third party strategies and tactics that were much noisier, far more flamboyant and deliberately confrontational. Sometimes the tenor of our disagreements seemed to cut deep (when I first heard the neologism "frenemies" I immediately thought of Dave and me), but I don't believe that we ever stopped respecting one another.

In the late 1970s, I was attending a Libertarian Party regional conference, or a national committee meeting, or something in Las Vegas. I don't really remember why. Dave was there, too, and we were sitting to one side on folding Samsonite chairs, sort of idly watching the national committee doing their thing at a big table in the middle of the room. Murray Rothbard was standing up and holding forth about something.

I turned to Dave with a question that had been on my mind for a long time. Why do you suppose, I asked him, although I probably agree with Murray more than anybody else on matters of principle and policy, he and I don't like each other? Whereas, I said to Dave, you and I disagree on practically everything, especially tactics, and yet we're friends.

Dave hardly hesitated. It's pretty simple, he said. Murray's folks were communists, mentally living in a worker's paradise, a kind of behavior Murray grew to detest. You and I, said Dave, grew up reading science fiction, especially Heinlein, so we have very similar values, a very similar view of the world, now and in the future. Murray hates science fiction and he hates Utopianism of any kind, socialist or libertarian.

And it was true. Murray seemed to believe that outer space was a closet somewhere in New Jersey that only perverts and weirdos were interested in exploring. He never seemed to understand that space is all there is, that the Earth is just a little dust mote floating in it.

On the 1977 national platform committee, Murray made fun of those of us who believed it was important to establish private property rights in space, at a time when the United Nations was trying to pull off a Marxist revolution before we ever got there. Murray believed that space exploration and space itself were trivial at the very moment the rest of us were waiting for Skylab to fall on somebody's head.

Maybe it was a generational difference. I don't think so. Murray was born in 1926. Timothy Leary didn't have any problem understanding these issues, and he was born in 1920. Robert Heinlein was born in 1907.

Like Leary and Heinlein, Dave was a man of the future, prophetic and visionary. He was also one of the most decent, principled, and ethically reliable human beings I've ever known. The future will remember him as a great man. I will be proud to remember him as my friend.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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