Sunday, August 26, 2018

Limited government as framework for utopia

Why Robert Nozick was a libertarian | Big Think - Scotty Hendricks:

August 13, 2018 - "Robert Nozick ... was a philosopher at Harvard.... After the publication of his colleague John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, which brilliantly argues for social democracy, Nozick was inspired to use similar arguments to promote his political positions. Appearing three years later, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (ASU) was Nozick’s only political philosophy book.

"He begins by advancing a straightforward premise, 'Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights)'.... Nozick’s idea of rights are protections against harm to us or our property. In this way they are negative rights; they assure us that other people won’t bother us and that we can claim compensation when they do, but they don’t obligate anybody else to do anything for us....

"Our having these rights means that it is wrong to hurt people or take their property for any reason unless they consent to such action, excepting when we are correcting for a previous violation of rights. Nozick argues that this premise leaves us with only one option when we’re deciding what kind of state is justified. He calls it a 'minimal state' or the 'night watchman state' and it is much, much, smaller than any functioning state is today.

"Nozick explains that the night watchman state is 'limited to the functions of protecting all its citizens against violence, theft, and fraud, and to the enforcement of contracts, and so on.' There would also not be any taxes in this state, as that would be forcing people to hand over their property with or without their consent. It also would not be able to enact laws preventing people from making their own life choices or that force people to make ones that they don't want to make....

"Nozick ... asks how we can build a society that works for a very diverse group of people.... [H]is stance is that you can only build a 'meta-framework' that allows for a variety of people to pursue a variety of life plans. Because of this, the 'utopia' that Nozick alludes to in the title is not one but many.

"In the minimalist state, it will be possible for people to form utopian communities on their own without outside interference. Nozick claims that this is one of the greatest perks of a minimalist state, as it will allow people to choose communities that fit their lifestyle, create new ones, leave ones they don’t like, or avoid utopian dreams altogether without hassle.

"Such utopian communities could be puritanical, hedonist, communist, capitalist, dedicated to eating cheese, or whatever else people think will make them happy. The minimalist state only assures that nobody is forced into these living situations, that nobody is forced to pay for these communities other than the people living in them, that any contracts signed are adhered to, and that nobody tries to harm or defraud the members of such groups."

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