Nozick: free protection services for all?

To his credit, Nozick recognizes the reciprocal nature of the relationship between private protection agencies and independents in the sixth subsection of Chapter 5 (pp. 110-113). Specifically, if a protection agency decides to prohibit independents from exercising their right of self-help against due-paying members of the agency (on the pretext that the guilt-finding procedures of independents are unreliable and unfair), such a prohibition would impose a significant disadvantage on independents. So, what is to be done? In a word: compensation.

In summary, Nozick re-introduces his principle of compensation from Chapter 4 of ASU (p. 110, emphasis added by us): “The clients of the protection agency, then, must compensate the independents for the disadvantages imposed upon them by being prohibited self-help enforcement of their own [natural] rights against the agency’s clients.” So far, so good. But, alas, to make this scheme workable, Nozick qualifies his compensation principle in a major way. According to Nozick, the compensation to be paid need not be in money; instead, the compensation can be in kind. In Nozick’s words (p. 112, emphasis added by us), “the dominant agency must supply independents … with protective services against its clients.”

Say what???? Free protection services for all? Although Nozick mentions the possibility of free riders, he is far too quick to dismiss the free rider problem that will most likely result from the compulsory provision of protection services to independents. After all, if independents have a natural right to protection services (if a protection agency prohibits them from using self-help), then what incentive does a person have in the first place of becoming a dues-paying member of a protection agency? Also, go back to the quotes above. Why must? And in any case, why does the protection agency get to decide in what form — in money or in kind — the compensation can take? (In other words, why doesn’t the independent who has been disadvantaged by the self-help prohibition get to decide how it wants to get paid?) To bring this post to a close, suffice it to say that Nozick’s picture of the state of nature is out of focus; his intellectual edifice is on very shaky ground. Can Nozick perfect his theoretical painting in the last two subsections of Chapter 5, or will the entire structure collapse like a proverbial house of cards? We will review the rest of Chapter 5 in our next blog post …

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2 Responses to Nozick: free protection services for all?

  1. Pingback: Nozick’s Panglossian’s claims | prior probability

  2. Pingback: Nozick refutes his own theory! | prior probability

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