Nozick’s Reply to the Anarchist: What He Said and What He Should Have Said about Procedural Rights

Law and Philosophy 28 (6):585-616 (2009)
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Abstract

Central to Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia is a defense of the legitimacy of the minimal state’s use of coercion against anarchist objections. Individuals acting within their natural rights can establish the state without committing wrongdoing against those who disagree. Nozick attempts to show that even with a natural executive right, individuals need not actually consent to incur political obligations. Nozick’s argument relies on an account of compensation to remedy the infringement of the non-consenters’ procedural rights. Compensation, however, cannot remedy the infringement, for either it is superfluous to Nozick’s account of procedural rights, or it is made to play a role inconsistent with Nozick’s liberal voluntarist commitments. Nevertheless, Nozick’s account of procedural rights contains clues for how to solve the problem. Since procedural rights are incompatible with a natural executive right, Nozickeans can argue that only the state can enforce individuals’ rights without wronging anyone, thus refuting the anarchist. Thanks to Annette Dufner, Arnt Myrstad, Arthur Ripstein, Gopal Sreenivasan, James Sterba, Chloe Taylor, Sergio Tenenbaum, and Shelley Weinberg. Thanks also to Matt Zwolinski and Jonelle DePetro, who commented on earlier versions of the paper at the Central APA 2007 and at the 2006 Illinois Philosophical Association Conference (respectively). Finally, thanks to my graduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for their active engagement with the ideas during a seminar on liberal theories of justice (fall 2007)

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