Nozick’s preface sets forth his main conclusion: only a “minimal state”–i.e. a collective “limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, and so on”–is consistent with the principle of individual rights. Nozick further concludes that a collective may not use coercion to promote distributive justice (reduction of income inequality) without violating individual rights, and he also tells us that he arrived at these libertarian conclusions “with reluctance.” Be that as it may, these conclusions raise a new set of difficult (and perhaps unanswerable) questions. At what point, for example, does a state stop being “minimal”, and further, what rights do people have? Yet, as we mentioned in our previous post, Nozick’s makes no attempt (so far) to identify what these sacrosanct individual rights consist of. By all accounts, it looks like Nozick is against coercion and that respect for individual rights must entail the total absence of coercion, unless coercion is necessary to counteract prior acts of coercion. So, we are going to need a theory of coercion/consent and a method for distinguishing between justified acts of coercion from unjustified ones. We will thus jump into Chapter 1 of Nozick’s tome in our next post.
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