PLSC 118 - Lecture 14 - Rights as Side Constraints and the Minimal State

Lecture 14 - Rights as Side Constraints and the Minimal State


Professor Shapiro dives more deeply into Robert Nozick's theory of the minimal, or night watchman, state. This formulation is not redistributive, nor does it consider rights as goals, but rather as side-constraints on what we can do. In other words, Nozick's is a deontological, not teleological, approach. However, the Achilles' heel of this formulation is the incorporation of independents, based on a system of compensation. Some people will opt not to enter into our hypothetical social contract, but for the dominant protective association to protect its members from the fear of these independents, they must be forced to incorporate. Nozick thinks that if members could compensate the independents for this rights violation, it would legitimize the state. Unfortunately, no one has ever solved the puzzle of compensation without some interpersonal comparison of utility. But another way to salvage Nozick's account is with the Kantian dictum "ought entails can," meaning that since independents cannot be tolerated, it cannot be an obligation not to violate their rights. But what if the independents could compensate the members for their fear? And couldn't this compensation model be used to justify the welfare state as well? Isn't the value of consent, in which Nozick's account is rooted, completely violated here?



Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, chapter 4
Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, chapter 5, 8-10 [optional]

Course Media





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