Nozick’s two problems of libertarian theory

Let’s resume my review of Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” (ASU). Here, I am reblogging part 8 of my review (see below), which covers the first section of Chapter 3 of ASU, where Nozick draws a distinction between two types of nightwatchmen states: a “soft core” minimal state that protects all its citizens against harm — even those persons who would prefer to opt out of state protection altogether — and a “hard core” libertarian ultra-minimal state that only protects its own customers (i.e. a protection racket).

prior probability

Nozick begins Chapter 3 (pp. 26-28) by drawing a distinction between two types of libertarian government (see image below): a “soft core” libertarian minimal state that protects all its citizens against harm and a “hard core” libertarian ultra-minimal state that only protects its own customers. In Nozick’s own words (p. 26), a minimal state is the “night-watchman state” of libertarian theory, one that is “limited to the [narrow] functions of protecting all its citizens against violence, theft, and fraud, and to the enforcement of contracts.” An ultra-minimal state, by contrast, “provides protection and enforcement services only to those who purchase its protections and enforcement policies” (ibid., italics in original). Also, Nozick identifies two foundational problems, one for each type of libertarian governance.

On the one hand, the problem for proponents of the soft core minimal state is that such a state is necessarily committed to some level of economic redistribution…

View original post 167 more words

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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