the immaculate conception of the state


Robert Nozick, 1938–2002

Ask a nonlibertarian academic for the title of a libertarian book. If they’ve heard of any, it will be Harvard Philosopher Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, the winner of the 1975 National Book Award. Nozick’s libertarianism was heavily influenced by the antistatist radicals of Murray Rothbard’s circle, but Nozick was no Rothbardian. His book defended the existence of the state as both inevitable and necessary to liberty.

Rothbard’s reply goes straight to the heart of the matter:

Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia is an “invisible hand” variant of a Lockean contractarian attempt to justify the State, or at least a minimal State confined to the functions of protection.

Beginning with a free-market anarchist state of nature, Nozick portrays the State as emerging, by an invisible hand process that violates no one’s rights, first as a dominant protective agency, then to an “ultraminimal state,” and then finally to a minimal state.

Before embarking on a detailed critique of the various Nozickian stages, let us consider several grave fallacies in Nozick’s conception itself, each of which would in itself be sufficient to refute his attempt to justify the State.

FULL ARTICLE

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