Nozick and Anarchy - the afterword

This afterword is a collection of thoughts, arguments and quotes (sometimes contradictory) on the subject of Nozick's Libertarianism, cf. individualist anarchism. It was written as an afterword to this essay. The whole piece, as is mentioned in the next paragraph, was mainly for my own ammusement.

Unfortunately as this is only a 2000 word essay there are a number of points that I had to leave out. There are also a number of thoughts that do not fit within the essay question. I will outline these here for my own amusement. As such, it is expected that this is not marked.

Question environmental aspects of state of nature.

Nozick gives two cases of pollution, one is where the pollution is out weighed by the benefits, and two where the benefits out way the costs.1 He says that in cases where the benefits do out way the costs of the pollution, then compensation should be paid to those who are affected. However, it has be argued that environmental degradation would almost always affect non consenting individuals in an involuntary way. And that therefore libertarianism, though it places no intrinsic value on the environment, would not allow most forms of environmental degradation.2

Whilst there are environmental streams in anarchist thought,3 there is no distinctive environmental stream in individualist anarchism. However, historical individualist anarchists, such as Thoreau (make sure this is correct), have been environmentalists.

If one accepts the point of view put above that libertarianism should protect the environment because damage affects others, then one should also accept this from an individualist point of view. If one does not accept this, then I would argue that individualist anarchism is more prone to protection of the environment. New lands are not continually needing to developed because all the houses are sitting empty. There is not the drive for profits that exists in a capitalist society.

Nozick's rights don't coincide with individualist anarchist rights, notably on the right to property

As was stated earlier, Nozick's conception of rights differs from that of the individualist anarchist. However, I feel that this does not significantly detract from Nozick's arguments and that they would fall or stand even if the individualist anarchist set of rights were substituted for the anarcho-capitalist set. (I notice that this paragraph seems to conflict with the next section. Oh well.)

And thus Nozick's state of nature is not a good one.

Nozick writes that

Which anarchic situation should we investigate to answer the question of why not anarchy? Perhaps the one that would exist if the actual political situation didn't, while no other possible political one did.4

Nozick chooses an anarchy that is what he considers to be the best possible, not a utopia, but not a Hobbesean 'state of war'. However, if he had chosen a different set of rights, for example the individualist anarchist set, then he may well have come to a different conclusion. It may be possible for a system of dominant protective agencies not to arise at all. If Nozick had chosen a set of rights which did not include property, then he would probably come to the conclusion that the state is not justified.

Thoughts on the DPA becoming a state, on what companies and states can do.

Problems could arise if the DPA becomes a state, it is conceivable that different agencies offered other services besides defence and arbitration, just like companies do now. Once the DPA formed it would be no different. However, if the state is simply supposed to provide police, army and courts, then what happens to the DPA's other businesses? Nozick provides no answer. If the DPA does have these other businesses and it does become a state, then by virtue of it owning other things, it becomes more then the minimal state. In a similar way, an agency would offer different levels of service, the DPA would be no different. Once the DPA becomes a state will it still offer these different levels? And why is this legitimate? Also once the DPA becomes a monopoly, what is there to stop it from raising prices and cutting services?5

Wolff also considers the idea that perhaps rather then being customers, when individuals join an agency, they become shareholders, thus having a say in decisions.6 A commercial company should not prohibit their employers (customers) from engaging in activities not related to the service being provided by the company. It is feasible that a DPA would arise by virtue of forbidding members from associating with individuals who are not members, thus limiting the agency's costs.

Once the state has arisen it presumably would be able to compel new citizens to pay taxes. These would include children. However, if these children did not have the resources to pay, then the state would still accept them. Why is this not redistributive when the children would not be able to defend themselves even if they were not covered by the state?

Looking at the principle of compensation, if a person is not disadvantaged by being prevented from exercising his/her rights, then the state does not have to provide discounted protection. Thus there is the possibility that there might be (rich) persons who are prevented from punishing others, but who still do not buy protection.7

Nozick's state is not a democratic state. It would be along the lines of a company, that is the people on top would be recruited from outside on the basis of perceived skill by a group which owned the original company. Nozick does provide a thought experiment which could conceivably create a state which is 'democratic'.8 However, this thought experiment would not convince the anarchist, for it would mean rule over him/her by others. Nor would it guarantee that the state would stay minimal.

The army and police force would hopefully be voluntary. To have otherwise would violate rights.

Market problems are the easiest to find, there are a number of these. Firstly is Nozick's assumption that all but the dominant protective agency will be crushed by market forces, and a monopoly would form.9 Nozick assumes this because the biggest agency will be the one that most people would use, if all other things are equal. However, some agencies, frequented by the rich, would command more resources, by perhaps offering special services for exurbident costs. These would continue despite the majority of middle income people joining the biggest agency. Showing that even in a state of nature there are two 'laws', one for the rich, and one for everyone else. However, even if there did exist more then one DPA in a particular geographical area, they would probably form an alliance, thus being a monopoly of the form which surgeons or lawyers are in Australia.10 However, this could still form a type of federated state.

An individualist anarchist society would be a society of workers and workers, not workers and capitalists. It is unlikely that an agency system would arise, more likely a mutual system, or a sheriff/posse system à la the USA.

Nozick examines a number of different methods where by individuals will protect their rights. Mutual-protection associations, where individuals form groups that help each other; hired peoples; and businesses selling protection.11 These are all possible in an individualist anarchist society, however, because of the

Community 'law' centres, would address the problems of an individual moving away from where his/her protective agency has offices.


Nozick argues in the third part of his work that his minimal state is an ideal worth fighting for.12 He claims that with in such a system it would be easy for people to set up their own utopias; "The best of all possible worlds for me will not be that for you."13

It may be possible to set up a myriad of utopias. However, it would not be easy necessarily to set up communistic or co-operative utopias with no access to the outside world. There are the problems of raising capital and buying land. Also poorer people would move to more co-operative communities flooding them, and using their resources without bringing resources in.14

An individualist anarchist system would be a better framework because it allows more freedom. To set up different communities, whether communistic, co-operative, extremely individualist or even capitalist would be much easier for the problems that were outlined above for the minimal state, do not exist, to nearly the same extent.

On Egoists

Egoists have an even easier time rejecting Nozick's arguments and conclusions. They reject the premise that there exist natural rights at all.

Moral reasons to obey the law or not:

3. It implies no moral obligation to obey the state. Locke's theory of tacit consent implies that if we break the law (e. g. by driving over the speed limit) we do something morally wrong, namely violate an undertaking we have tacitly given to obey the government. On Nozick's theory there is no consent, no duty of obedience (though there is a natural duty to respect the natural rights of others).15

Is there really someone who, searching for a group of wise and sensitive persons to regulate him for his own good, would choose that group of people who constitute the membership of both houses of [Parliament]16

Problems with the concept of compensation:

It is, roughly, as follows: if I stop you from doing something which may be perfectly right and harmless, on the grounds that there is also a risk that it may harm me, then I ought to compensate you for stopping you from doing it: especially if the thing I prevent is something generally done, important in people's lives, that cannot be forbidden without seriously disadvantaging them.17

Compensation should only be paid if something wrong is done. If nothing wrong is done, then there is no need to pay compensation, if wrong is done, then it should not be done.

[E]ither it is wrong to prohibit independents from trying to enforce their rights and to punish them for doing so, in which case the UMS acts immorally in doing these things, or it is not wrong, in which case there is no reason to transcend the UMS.18

If the DPA can prohibit individuals from exercising their rights to punish or extract compensation in a way that is 'risky', then it forms the ultra-minimal state. However, as it still enables the individual to carry out punishment under the state's supervision then it cannot form a minimal state. Thus, there is no need for the principle of compensation.

Procedural rights, the existence or not, and other issues.

Nozick claims that there is no hierarchy of rights. Yet he claims that procedural rights are ... come before natural rights. Maybe.

I maintain that this is precisely what the natural rights tradition does hold or, at least, should hold: That there are no natural procedural rights. Let me briefly defend this claim.

In the state of nature one has the right to defend oneself against the wrongful use of force against person or property. But if you commit an aggressive act, the use of force by the victim to regain what was taken from him is not wrongful. If you have stolen a T.V., the rightful owner may come and take it back. You may rightfully resist only if you are innocent or have some legitimate defense. What are we then to make of procedural rights?

Though only the innocent party may rightfully use self-defense, it is often unclear to neutral observers and the parties involved just who is innocent. As a result there exists the practical problem of determining the facts of the case and then the respective rights of the disputants. But I must stress here that this is a practical question of epistemology not a moral question. The rights of the parties are governed by the objective fact situation. The problem is to discern what the objective facts are, or, in other words, to make our subjective understanding of the facts conform to the objective facts themselves.19

The point is that you have a right of self-defense if you are innocent but not if you are guilty. Only if a procedure finds an innocent man guilty and someone enforces that finding has anyone's rights been violated. You have the right to defend yourself against all procedures if you are innocent, against no procedures if you are guilty. The reliability of the procedures is irrelevant. Unless an innocent person agrees to be bound by the outcome of a judicial proceedings, he retains his right of self defense even after a "reliable" procedure has erred against him.20

On individuals and mutual protection associations:

Not everyone who does not join a protection agency is going to be an individual, there may well be mutual protection associations as well. The same problems with the dominant protection agency occurs for these as when compared to individuals.

Random Thoughts.

Like Libertarians, Anarchists have no desire to force people to join associations that they do not wish to join (including any state like structure), "the decision to join a commune will be a free one, with the potential for living outside it guaranteed for non-exploitative and non-oppressive individuals and groups".21

It is degrading to be ruled, how much more degrading to be forced to choose one's masters?

footnotes and bibliography

1Nozick Anarchy State and Utopia (Basil Blackwell, USA, 1974) pp80-81

2R Taylor 'The Environmental Implications of Liberalism', Critical Review, (1993) p279 quoted in Main Currents in Western Environmental Thought Peter Hay, (UNSW Press, Sydney, 2002). p198.

3See chapter 9 of Main Currents in Western Environmental Thought Peter Hay, (UNSW Press, Sydney, 2002).

4Nozick Anarchy State and Utopia (Basil Blackwell, USA, 1974) p4

5Jonathan Wolff, Robert Nozick - Property, Justice and the Minimal State (Stanford University Press, USA, 1991) p58

6Jonathan Wolff, Robert Nozick - Property, Justice and the Minimal State (Stanford University Press, USA, 1991) p58

7Jonathan Wolff, Robert Nozick - Property, Justice and the Minimal State (Stanford University Press, USA, 1991) p71.

8Nozick pp280-294

9Jonathan Wolff, Robert Nozick - Property, Justice and the Minimal State (Stanford University Press, USA, 1991) p55

10Jonathan Wolff, Robert Nozick - Property, Justice and the Minimal State (Stanford University Press, USA, 1991) p57

11Nozick Anarchy State and Utopia (Basil Blackwell, USA, 1974) pp12-13

12Nozick Anarchy State and Utopia (Basil Blackwell, USA, 1974)

13Nozick Anarchy State and Utopia (Basil Blackwell, USA, 1974) p298

14Peter Singer 'The Right to be Rich or Poor' in J Paul Reading Nozick (Rowman and Littlefield; USA, 1981) p38

15 John Kilcullen, 'Nozick, Anarchy, State & Utopia', 1996, (accessed: 14/9/2005)

16Nozick Anarchy, State and Utopia, p14

17 John Kilcullen, 'Nozick, Anarchy, State & Utopia', 1996, (accessed: 14/9/2005)

18R.L. Holmes 'Nozick on Anarchism', in J. Paul, Reading Nozick (Rowman and Littlefield; USA, 1981) p60

19 'Whither Anarchy? Has Robert Nozick Justified the State?'·Randy E. Barnett Journal of Libertarian Studies v.1 1977, pp. 15-21

20 'Whither Anarchy? Has Robert Nozick Justified the State?'·Randy E. Barnett Journal of Libertarian Studies v.1 1977, pp. 15-21

21I.3.7 What about people who do not want to join a syndicate? Anarchy FAQ

Site & page info (footer)

Mostly handcrafted by Michael, this website was designed to standards, with the highest quality in mind, and in result. The code and content is freely available.

This page is located at and was last modified on 2023-08-31.