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Robert Nozick (1938-2002) has gained popularity due to his political philosophy described in his Anarchy, State and Utopia (1974). Nozicks book argues against the Theory of Justice (1971) by John Rawls . Before turning to the characterization of Nozicks libertarian political philosophy, let us point out the main ideas of Rawls. According to the Theory of Justice, the individual in society can only be free to enjoy the benefits of the produced by him/ her goods if at the same time he/ she gives a compensation to the less successful members of society . The well-being of society depends on the adopted schemes of cooperation. Such a society will be fair and sustainable. Rawls theory of justice reflected an idea that freedom and social justice are fully compatible; that the egalitarian society, based on redistributive taxation, is ethically and rationally justified, and that the achievement of justice requires the redistribution of wealth in the direction of equality .
The Theory of the Minimal State
Unlike Rawls, Nozick thought that the free individual choices would inevitably destroy any attempt to build an egalitarian society. As a result, Nozick introduced the modern theory of individual rights and the minimal state, believing that the states based on the redistribution of wealth, are not morally justified, since the redistribution inevitably violates individual rights. Justification of the minimal state and the theory of property form are the two key ideas of the book. Is any state necessary? This is the fundamental question of political philosophy. The first thing that Nozick does is that he denies anarchy as the only condition in which the rights are not violated. In his understanding of the rights and their boundaries, he uses one of the formulations of Kant categorical imperative, according to which a person must always be seen as an end and never as a means. A person cannot be used as a tool for anything against his/ her will. All human beings are endowed with extensive and well-defined rights.
Based on the classic concept of the natural state of Locke, Nozick argues that the state arises from a dominant position on a given territory of a protective association without violating of anyones rights that allows one to overcome the moral objections against the state stated by anarchists. In this case, the minimal state, which has a monopoly on the protection, occurs not as a product of someones conscious intent or conscious actions of people, but as an unplanned result of multiple interactions of individuals with each other, who have their own goals. People do not have a specific purpose for the creation of the state, and the contract is not necessary for the emergence of civil society.
Nozick substantiates the concept of the minimal state as the only kind of state, which is morally justified and fair. The main function of the minimal state, which is morally legitimate , is to protect individuals from violence, fraud, theft, and enforce contracts. Such a state ensures a ban on aggression of some individuals against others. Any state with more extensive features would violate an individuals right to personal freedom from coercion to certain actions. The minimum state should not use the apparatus of coercion in order to force some people to help others. It should not prohibit any kind of human actions for their benefit or protection (only coercive ways of achieving good goals are excluded). Such a state cannot control what people eat, drink, smoke, what they publish or read. It cannot create programs of social insurance or programs of public education, as well as to regulate the economy.
Nozicks Theory of Justice
Generally, Nozick uses Webers understanding of the state as an institution that has a monopoly on the right to decide who and when can use force. A necessary condition for the existence of the state is that it should do everything possible to punish those who use force without permission. The focus moves to the justifications of the state, which does not violate anyones rights. Another cornerstone of Anarchy, State and Utopia, isa theory of justice. According to Nozicks theory of justice, an action is just if and only if it violates no libertarian rights, where the libertarian rights are the following:
1) Initial full self-ownership: each autonomous agent initially has full property rights in
him/ herself (paradigmatically rights of bodily integrity, which rule out killing or physically assaulting one without ones permission);
2) Initial rights of common use of the external world: the right to use non-agent things (as long as this violates no ones self-ownership);
3) Rights of initial acquisition: the right to acquire full property rights in unowned things as long as one leaves enough and as good for others;
4) Rights of acquisition by transfer: the right to acquire any property right in a thing held by another by voluntary transfer .
Nozicks evaluation of the redistributive taxation is closely linked with the ideas above. According to Nozick, redistributive taxation is not consistent with the principle of self-ownership and, therefore, is unfair. Indeed, the individual does not own him/ herself, and other individuals have a legitimate claim on what he/ she produces through his/ her talents and abilities. Only an individual has a legitimate claim to the products of his/ her talents, and hence the absolute rights of ownership of them.
To sum up, the initial point of Nozicksargument is the sacred rights of the individual. In contrast to the classical anarchists who reject the state, he recognizes the need for the minimal state, which takes away from the individuals the right to use violence, but at the same time, provides them with the protection from arbitrariness. The transfer of ownership, according to Nozick, is only just when it happens in accordance to the will of the individual. Any attempt to regulate the process of this transfer is doomed to failure. Any redistribution of wealth imposed by the state (for example, in the form of tax collection), Nozick considers unfair restrictions on the rights of individuals. This thought provides Nozickscategorical rejection of the idea of ??social state.
From my point of view, the merit of Robert Nozick is that he tried to justify the freedom of individuals within the state, regardless of its political system. I am impressed by his commitment to social justice by approving vote of the citizens. However, his concept of the state and social justice scares me a little, as it provides the arguments for the civil chaos. This is supported by his statements that the state should not intervene in the economy, social order, etc. I think that this is quite a dangerous idea, which if not properly understood, can lead to unexpected and unpleasant social consequences. I believe that the state must manage the economic, social and other spheres, while respecting the rights of citizens. Moreover, the minimal state of Nozick is still the state, which means that it might legitimate and justify the maximum state, which may lead to the justification of paternalism or even tyranny. I may agree with the statement that Nozicks minimal state is, in fact, the unattainable utopia, precariously balanced between devolving back to free market competition or growing into Leviathan .