Robert Nozick

Nozick was a free-market libertarian who argued in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974) that humans own themselves . By self-ownership (Nozick referred to individuals as ‘self-owners’) he meant that individuals have the moral right to keep what they produce and should not be obligated or forced to give those resources to others . They also have the right to act in any way they choose, even if that means harming themselves, e .g . by smoking . Nozick was strongly opposed to egalitarianism, arguing that individuals must be free to do what they wish with their own resources . Whatever the outcome of this is, regardless of inequalities, it is a just one . A belief in equality of outcome will always result in unjust state interference in people’s lives and is always collectivist rather than individualist, focusing on common goals and seeing the individual as unimportant . The state’s role should therefore be limited to that of police, defence and the administration of courts . Other tasks traditionally undertaken by governments could be carried out more effectively by voluntary organisations or religious bodies on a free-market/competitive basis . This would be less wasteful and would prevent the growth of unnecessary bureaucracy . This very minimal state is similar to that favoured by some classical liberals, and Nozick is sometimes characterised as such . Progressive taxation and other forms of state interference are rejected as they use the individual to achieve a higher moral outcome, when individuals are ends in themselves

Nozick The tale of the slave

Individuals in society cannot be treated as a thing or used against their will as a resource. Individuals own their bodies, talents, abilities, and labour.

Robert Nozick, the US philosopher and right-wing Libertarian, was one of the most important intellectual figures in the development of the New Right. In his major work Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), Nozick argued for a rights-based libertarian system and a minimal state.

Nozick's libertarianism was partly based on Kant's moral principle that humans should be treated 'always as an end and never as a means only'. By this, Kant meant that since humans are rational, self-aware beings with free will, they should not be treated as mere things, or used against their will as resources. The assumption that individuals are an inviolable end in themselves, Nozick argued, gives them rights to their lives, liberty and the rewards resulting from their Labour. According to Nozick, these rights act as `side-constraints' on the actions of others by setting limits on how a person may be treated. For example, an individual cannot be forced against his or her will to work for another person's purposes (even if those purposes

are good).

From this Nozick reached the radical conclusion that the taxes levied to fund state welfare programmes are immoral because:

  • they amount to a type of forced labour imposed on the individual by the state •

  • they treat individuals as a means or resource to further the goals of equality seen and social justice and, in so doing, violate the principle that humans should be as better ends in themselves.

The only type of state that can be morally justified is a minimal or 'night watchman' state with powers Limited to those necessary to protect people against violence and theft. Nozick also used the concept of self-ownership to support this right-wing libertarian position. Dating back at least to the liberal political philosopher John Locke (163Z-1704), self-ownership is based on the idea that individuals own themselves - their bodies, talents, abilities and labour, and the rewards or products created by their talents, abilities and labour. Nozick maintained that self-ownership gives the individual the right to determine what can be done with the 'possession'. Self-ownership gives a person rights to the various elements that make up one's self.

For these reasons, Nozick asserted, self-ownership also opposes taxation to fund welfare programmes and supports the minimal state. Viewed from this perspective such taxation is a form of slavery- in effect the state gives others and entitlement ( in the form of welfare benefits) to part of the rewards of an individual's labour. Citizens who are entitled to benefits become part owners of the individual since they own part of the product of their labour. State should not regulate how people eat, drink or smoke since this violates the principle of self ownership.