Nozick on punishment and anti-punishment

The last two subsections of Chapter 6 (pp. 137-146) contain an extended digression on the problem of punishment and the possibility of “anti-punishment” (my term) via preventive detention in “resort detention centers”, one of my favorite Nozickian thought experiments thus far. More to the point, Nozick identifies some serious problems with Locke’s state-of-nature theory:

  • Don’t all persons (not just the victim) have the right to punish wrongdoers in the state of nature?
  • What happens when people disagree about the content or scope of their rights?
  • How much compensation must be paid to persons who are prevented from exercising their rights?

Nozick’s answer to the first two questions is the dominant protection association. Once a protection agency becomes the dominant one in a territory, it (the agency) will monopolize the right to punish and will settle disputes about the scope of one’s rights. Nozick, however, glosses over the possibility of conflict among protection associations in adjoining territories. With respect to the compensation question, although Nozick considers the two extremes of “no compensation” and “full compensation”, he falls back onto his principle of compensation: it is morally required that compensation be made for any disadvantages imposed on others. (See, for example, the paragraph on the bottom page 143.) Alas, Nozick does not specify how such “disadvantages” are to be measured or monetized.

We are now done with Part I of Anarchy, State, and Utopia. We are attending a conference in Athens, Georgia this weekend, so we will jump into Part II of ASU next week.

Soccer Red Cards

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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1 Response to Nozick on punishment and anti-punishment

  1. Reblogged this on prior probability and commented:

    Part 36 of my epic review of Robert Nozick, which covers the last two subsections of Chapter 6 (pp. 137-467), formally concludes my review of Part I of “Anarchy, State, and Utopia.” In summary, Nozick’s thesis in Part I of his magnum opus has both descriptive and normative components. The descriptive part of Nozick’s thesis is that a plethora of protection rackets will spring up in the state of nature until one of them becomes the dominant one, monopolizing the right to punish and settle disputes about the scope of one’s rights. By contrast, the normative part of his thesis is that this dominant protection racket is morally required to pay compensation for any disadvantages imposed on others, though he fails to explain how such disadvantages are to be measured or monetized. My concluding questions for Nozick are below:

    1. What is the moral baseline for deciding when someone has suffered a disadvantage?
    2. How are conflicts between neighboring protection rackets resolved?
    3. What role do families play in your Lockean state of nature?
    Note that these are the same questions I have raised before, and further note that Nozick has failed to provide satisfactory answers to any of them.

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