Robert Nozick’s magnum opus, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia,” was responsible for popularizing and legitimizing libertarian thought in academia during the 1970s. Not only did Nozick try to refute Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism, he also tried to dismantle John Rawl’s “Theory of Justice,” which was published a few years earlier and made huge waves in philosophical thought.
Nozick argued competing defense agencies in a state of nature (anarchy) would evolve into geographical monopolies through market processes without violating any rights. What you would get was a form of a state. The question of natural monopolies in defense agencies still lingers today and is a common theme in anarchist and minarchist debates.
Furthermore, Nozick set out to argue against the other side of the political spectrum; Rawl’s politically liberal state. Nozick argued this “night watchman state” that emerged out of anarchy was preferable to the kind of social democratic state Rawls proposed. Nozick argued for a government that was limited to protecting individual rights. Namely, for a government tasked with three core functions: the administration of justice, protection from domestic threats, and the protection from foreign threats.
Here, Matt Zwolinski, philosophy professor and Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog contributor, discusses Nozick’s monumental work with Kyle Platt of Liberty.me.
“Anarchy, State, and Utopia” remains a critical and influential piece in libertarian literature and ought to be read by every libertarian.