University of Kansas, Spring 2004
Philosophy 555: Justice and Economic Systems

Class notes: Nozick, chapters 5–6

The following notes correspond roughly to what we cover, including at least a portion of what I put on the board or the screen, in class. In places they may be more or less comprehensive than what we actually cover in class, and should not be taken as a substitute for your own observations and records of what goes on in class.

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  1. chapter 5: “The State”
    1. from the dominant protective association to the ultra-minimal state
      1. the ultra-minimal state
        1. what this means: a monopoly on (the en)force(ment of rights)
        2. what this doesn’t mean: protecting everyone (this is how the ultra-minimal state falls short of the state)
      2. problems with the transition to the ultra-minimal state
        1. Even if the totality of independents were dangerous, not every (or any) independent is, and the dominant protective association doesn’t have the right to single out any particular independent(s) as the one(s) to interfere with (p. 89.3).
        2. The principle of fairness doesn’t give a group the right to coerce an individual, as the example of the public-address system shows (p. 93.6).
        3. The natural-rights tradition gives very little guidance about procedural rights, though it does hold “that one may . . . defend oneself against being handled by unreliable or unfair procedures” (p. 101.4)
      3. making the transition
        1. Since “a person may resist, in self-defense, if others try to apply to him an unreliable or unfair procedure of justice” (p. 102.7), individuals in a protective association may empower it to do this on their behalf (p. 102.8).
        2. p. 105.3: ”The protective agency may treat the unreliable enforcer of justice as it treats any performer of a risky action.”
        3. The protective agency may treat the unreliable enforcer of justice in this way even when the unreliable enforcer of justice happens to be getting it right (p. 107.3), and this claim does not depend on any procedural rights of the (guilty) person being punished (p. 107.8).
      4. the establishment of a de facto monopoly (p. 109.5)
    2. from the ultra-minimal state to the state
      1. protecting independents
        1. The protective agency owes protection to independents in exchange from prohibiting them from doing their own rights-enforcing (p. 110.8).
        2. To support this service, it may require such individuals to pay it the monetary costs of self-help enforcement that they would have incurred if they had been permitted to engage in self-help enforcement (p. 112.7).
      2. redistribution
        1. What the agency collects from independents may not be sufficient to cover the cost of the service (pp. 112.9–113.1).
        2. This means that there is a redistributive element (p. 114.2).
        3. But this is not fundamentally redistributive; it is based on the principle of compensation (p. 114.4).
      3. end of the explanation; note that it is an invisible-hand explanation (p. 119.9)
  2. chapter 6: “Further Considerations on the Argument for the State”
    1. big question: We have seen that it is o.k. to forbid others to punish you with an unreliable procedure, on the grounds that it’s dangerous for you when others engage in such conduct. Does this mean it’s also o.k. to prohibiting others from joining another protective association, or keeping another protective association from getting very strong, on the grounds that it’s dangerous for you when these things happen, too? (p. 125.7)
    2. answer: No—“We have put forth a principle which excludes prohibiting actions not wrong in themselves, actions that merely facilitate or make more likely the commission of other wrongs dependent upon other wrong decisions the agent has not made (yet)” (p. 129.6).