Conclusion of ASU

It’s time to conclude our review of Chapter 10, the last chapter of Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Nozick closes this chapter by restating his original vision of the dual nature of his conception of utopia (p. 332): “There is the framework of utopia, and there are the particular communities within the framework.” In addition, Nozick asserts that his vision “totally rejects planning in detail [and] in advance, one community in which everyone is to live …” (ibid.). While we certainly sympathize with Nozick’s libertarian vision, isn’t it somewhat disingenuous–to not say intellectually dishonest–for him to reject some amount of planning, since by his own admission (see our previous post), a “central authority” will still be necessary to police and protect the utopian framework? After all, once we introduce a state (or “central authority,” if for some silly reason you still prefer Nozick’s euphemism), then some level of design and planning will be necessary to ensure that Nozick’s minimal state is strong enough to do its job of resolving disputes and policing exit rights, but not so strong as to subvert the libertarian character of the framework. (In other words: Nozick, get back to us after you have finished reading Federalist Paper #51!)

But wait, there’s more! Nozick also restates his opening question (p. 333): “Recall now the question with which this chapter began. Is not the minimal state, the framework for utopia, an inspiring vision?” Alas, why not restate his question thus: Is not Rawls’s original position, or Lenin’s system of soviet socialist republics, an inspiring vision, at least on paper? Simply put, I could give two hoots whether Nozick’s vision is an inspiring one or not. What I do care about is whether his utopian framework is logically coherent and whether it will work out in practice. (Or to be more precise, what I care about is the probability whether it will work out or not.) On that score, however, judging by his own libertarian standards, Nozick fails miserably. Why? Because his framework will require a strong state or “central authority” to enforce contract and property rights and keep the peace. So like Maxine Nightingale’s vintage song (see below), 334 pages later we are right back where we started …

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2 Responses to Conclusion of ASU

  1. Kathy H says:

    When I look at the world we live in I can not see a libertarian system working.

    • That is the supreme irony of Nozick’s framework. It’s a great framework for promoting liberty, but it’s going to require some “central authority” to maintain and protect the framework, yet Nozick doesn’t explain how or why the central authority will respect our liberty.

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