Proto-state or protection racket?

I am reblogging part 7 (see below) of my review of Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” (ASU). Here, we proceed into the last section of Chapter 2 of ASU. Before proceeding, however, let’s recall two of Nozick’s previous conjectures — that “protection associations” will emerge in a state of nature and that these protection rackets will end up carving up their own exclusive zones, with a single dominant group selling protection in each territory. In the last part of Chapter 2, Nozick asks whether these dominant groups can be classified as “states” (or proto-states) or whether they are just extra-legal protection rackets?

Either way, I take objection to Nozick’s entire approach to the state of nature. Why? Because Nozick paints a picture of spontaneously-emerging and competitive protection rackets, but how can such a market exist in a state of nature, or as I wrote in my original post below: “… how can there be a market without some meta-protection agency to enforce the contracts made between individual buyers and sellers of protection? Instead of providing an answer to these fundamental questions, Nozick simply assumes them away. Like a good economist, he simply assumes into existence a perfect world of zero transaction costs and perfect enforcement of contracts, but a good economist might make a bad philosopher.”

Note: I will begin reviewing Chapter 3 of “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” on Monday (11/22).

prior probability

Nozick concludes Chapter 2 (pp. 22-25) of Anarchy, State, and Utopia with a hybrid definitional-theoretical question: Is the dominant protection association a state? That is, does the postulated dominant protective association (postulated by Nozick) rise to level of a minimal or proto-state, or is such a private group just a protection racket? (Recall that, according to Nozick, a number of protection rackets will emerge in a state of nature and that these protection groups will end up carving up their own exclusive zones, with a single dominant group selling protection in each territory.) For his part, Nozick defines the state in terms of monopoly (p. 23): “A state claims a monopoly on deciding who may use force when; … furthermore it [the state] claims the right to punish all those who violate its claimed monopoly.” With this definition in mind, he then proceeds to distinguish private protection rackets from states…

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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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