3 innovative question asking techniques for a Nolan Chart test

Can you identify progressives, conservatives, and libertarians in 20 questions? Retweet

Our previous Plans & Progress report shared the 20 USP-oriented (unique sales proposition) questions we’ll use in our new Nolan Chart survey — the PCT (Political Conscience Test).

Today’s edition will show how these questions are…

  • Current
  • Powerful
  • Tension-paired

We’ll also explain the benefits of our new answering approach.

How tension-paired questions can expose self-contradiction

We’ve taken an innovative approach to the questioning. Many of our PCT questions create self-contradiction traps for the Left and the Right. For example…

First Amendment tension-pair

  1. Punish companies that broadcast obscenity?
  2. Limit financial expressions of support to political candidates?

Both are free press rights. Progressives love anti-traditionalist entertainment but loathe a conservative’s or a libertarian’s ability to mount political campaigns.

Feminist tension-pair

  1. Control who can or cannot be married?
  2. Punish adults who engage in prostitution?

Feminism long ago endorsed gay marriage. But a large segment of feminists think prostitution exploits women, requiring legal prohibition.

Patriot tension-pair

  1. Tax unwilling people to fund foreign aid that ostensibly serves national interests?
  2. Imprison people who refuse to pay taxes for wars they find morally objectionable?

Conservatism is unquestioningly and enthusiastically pro-military. But the patriot segment is opposed to foreign aid.

Subsidy tension-pair

  1. Force people to subsidize causes such as Planned Parenthood, abstinence education, and DARE?
  2. Compel people to subsidize industries of environmental and national security importance?

We’re especially proud of these questions. The religious values conservative probably loves abstinence and anti-drug education. But Planned Parenthood? The secular humanist will pause too, with the opposite set of biases. Holy cow!

Then we do it again. The left claims to despise “corporate welfare” — unless it’s for the environment. The right claims to be pro-free market, but makes exceptions for defense and energy related fields.

Since we’re “Conscience Building“, we hope this approach will foster some thought. At the same time…

Tension-pairing will tend to push quiz-takers toward the center. We think this reflects reality. However, we don’t want people who strongly identify with the left or right to feel like the PCT forced them to the wrong place. Which brings us to our next question-writing strategy…

Ask crucial political identity questions

Some people complain that Nolan Chart surveys push people to score libertarian. We hope to avoid that complaint by asking questions about the issues that matter most to progressives and conservatives. These questions will keep them in their proper place (on the chart) Examples include…

  • Three questions related to warfare
  • Two questions about immigration
  • One question about the environment
  • A question about universal healthcare

It can be hard to fit issues like war and the environment on either the civil liberties axis or the economic liberties axis, but we found a way to do it. These questions will help self-perceived progressives and conservatives land where they think they belong on the chart. That will increase their confidence-level with the test. This trust will lead to greater sharing. And greater sharing will help us discover more libertarians.

Another question writing strategy was…

Ask current event questions

A new Nolan Chart test should be current. That’s why we have two post-9/11 national security questions.

Also, note the specificity in this current event, tension set…

  1. Penalize adults who use marijuana?
  2. Incarcerate adults who use heroin?

Libertarians are winning on marijuana. But the drug prohibitionists are pushing hard on opioids. This question pairing captures the current state of debate. And these drug prohibition questions will also help us identify more libertarians, right?

Answering methodology is another part of our strategy…

Non-binary answers

Other Nolan Chart surveys measure binary-agreement with common libertarian policies. But we ask,

How much should your favored politicians be able to…” do X or Y?

We then use a slider that lets our test takers choose between ten degrees of deviation from the Zero Aggression Principle — from 10% to 100%. This is especially powerful because…

The next word in each question is something like… Force. Punish. Restrict. Limit. Control. Imprison. The test-taker is being asked, Do you want…

  • To make everything a political matter?
  • Severe punishments, including police executions, for those who merely resist your policy preferences?

Our approach forces people to think about how much aggression they want to use. It will also synergize with the next ZAP tool we create. That new tool will help you move people who’ve taken the PCT. But first, we need the PCT, so we must ask you to…

Be a Conscience Builder

We’re building the PCT. We only need $5,054 more to finish it!

For the month of August — or less, if we achieve our goal faster — every contributor or pledger will be…

  • Recognized in these Zero Aggression newsletter messages. See the P.S.
  • Remembered on the About Us page of the PCT site as a “Conscience Builder.”

Conscience Builders are listed in rank order, based on the size of their contribution.

Current pledgers are included automatically. New monthly pledges are multiplied by 10 for ranking purposes. So a $15/month pledge ranks equal to a $150 donor! Pledge increases will be handled in the same way.

Contributions to the Downsize DC Foundation, the parent organization of the Zero Aggression Project, can be TAX-DEDUCTIBLE. But…

When we reach our modest goal, we’re done — even if there are weeks or days to go in August. So you don’t want to wait!

Jim Babka & Perry Willis

P.S. John McAlister, Martin Johnson, Bryne Parker, Wilma Sinclair, Robert Davis, Ben Bachrach, David Brown, Franklin Davis, John DiLiberto, Randall Enterline, Michael Gibbs, Barbara Haskins, Len Hofferber, Anne Marshall, Shawn M. Murray, J.D., David Yett, Jack Bruns, Gary Cavener, Dan Litwin, Brian Mason, Odetta Pierce, Tom Serkowski, Mike Spalding, Lance Cheney, Robert Herzfeld, Wayne Zachery, Ronald Pond

Show Comments 2


  1. Since around the age of 16 or so, I’ve identified myself as a feminist. So, when I later found out that there were other self-identified feminists who did not share my opinion that there should be no laws prohibiting voluntary prostitution, I was quite surprised. I wasn’t even a libertarian yet at that point, and yet, it seemed to me that the heart of the issue was unavoidably clear: who owns the woman’s body, the woman herself or the state? If the latter, then how is she anything but a slave? If the former, then by what right has the state to tell her which nonviolent activities she can pursue? (It was just a matter of time before I, in trying to become more philosophically consistent, applied this same ethical reasoning to all other areas of life.)

    I did encounter one feminist online once who said to me that she agreed with me that female sex workers should not be thrown into government cages merely for acquiring money while engaging consensual sexual activity, but that the male john who pays her should. I found the disconnect startling. How can she it be said that the state is recognising her right to make a living using her body if it is simultaneously depriving her of clientele? That’s like saying that the state recognises an inventor has a right to make money off of her/his inventions even if the state is all-the-while prosecuting any and every individual who dares purchase said inventions. One cannot legitimately say that the state is in recognition of the fact that a person has a right to something if the same state is actively using force in order to prevent the person from receiving the thing to which she or he has this right. Besides, her position amounted to a belief that there is nothing wrong with having sex and being the receptor of money, but that there is something untoward with having sex while simultaneously giving money away. If she had understood that economics is a not a zero-sum game, she would understand that both parties gain from the exchange; but, even if she had incorrectly believed that economics is a zero-sum game, she should have recognised the john, as opposed to the sex worker, as the loser in that exchange.

    Norma Jean Almodovar has a fantastic essay on the topic titled “For Their Own Good: The Results of the Prostitution Laws as Enforced by Cops, Politicians, and Judges.” It’s available in Wendy McElroy’s Liberty for Women (Chicago: The Independent Institute, 2002).

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