Justifying the State from Rights-Based Libertarian Premises

Although many libertarians share similar moral foundations, they disagree about whether the state can be justified. The most famous libertarian attempt to justify the state is that of Robert Nozick. This attempt has been criticized by, among others, the libertarian anarchist Murray Rothbard. In this article, Nozick’s theory and Rothbard’s critique are discussed, as well as some other attempts to justify the state from libertarian premises. Keeping the criticisms of those theories in mind, an alternative theory, which attempts to bypass the criticisms, is put forward. This alternative theory explains how a state—most probably a nonminimal democratic state—can legitimately be formed in a condition of anarchy without violating anyone’s libertarian rights. One result of this is that the rights-based case for minarchism is severely weakened.
Keywords Robert Nozick  Murray Rothbard  John Locke  natural rights  state justification  democracy  state of nature  minarchism
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