Nozick’s protective associations (and two untestable conjectures)

I am reblogging part 5 of my extended review of Robert Nozick’s beautiful book “Anarchy, State, and Utopia.” (See below.) Here, we move into section two of Chapter 2 of Nozick’s magnum opus, where Nozick makes two conjectures. First off, he retrodicts the emergence of “mutual-protection associations” in the state of nature, and then he further conjectures that some people in the state of nature will choose to specialize in the adjudication of disputes. But as I explain in my review below, there is a massive blind spot in Nozick’s libertarian picture of spontaneous protection rackets and entrepreneurial enforcers: the lack of enforceable contracts in the state of nature. Specifically, what if the enforcers or hired guns in of one of Nozick’s “protection associations” are involved in a dispute with each other? What then?

prior probability

Our previous post revisited the first section of Chapter 2 of Anarchy, State, and Utopia. In that post, we summarized Nozick’s comprehensive summary of three serious problems that could arise even in Locke’s idyllic version of the state of nature. To sum up, these practical problems, or what Nozick euphemistically refers to as “inconveniences,” could generate terrible injustices and could also potentially lead to endless blood feuds, to a Hobbesian war of all against all. In the next two section of Chapter 2 (pp. 12-15), Nozick offers up two bold but untestable conjectures. First, he posits the spontaneous emergence of “mutual-protection associations” (p. 12). That is, people in Locke’s state of nature will not sit idly by on their asses; they will proactively form protective associations or informal alliances in order to avoid the risk of endless feuds and protect their natural rights, such as the right to life and the right…

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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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