Law and Philosophy

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 585-616

First online:

Nozick’s Reply to the Anarchist

What He Said and What He Should Have Said about Procedural Rights
  • Helga VardenAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Email author 

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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.