The Squirrel and the State

The Independent Review 14 (3):377-387 (2010)
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Robert Nozick famously argued that acknowledging that individuals have certain fundamental natural or prepolitical rights to their lives and property does not preclude the legitimacy of the state, as the individualist anarchist would claim. The reason is that “a state would arise from anarchy. . . even though no one intended this or tried to bring it about, by a process which need not violate anyone’s rights”. Many doubts have been raised about some of the claims that Nozick needs to make to reach this conclusion. Doubts have also been raised about the normative relevance of that conclusion for the moral evaluation of states that did not arise in such a way. But even if all these doubts were unfounded, Nozick’s argument falls short of justifying what, according to the anarchist challenge, is in need of justification. This shortcoming is significant because it reminds us about the true nature of the problem that the state poses for any philosophical outlook grounded on a theory of natural, libertarian rights.



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