Nozick, Political Justice, and the Democratic Protection Association / by Tyler Wood

Robert Nozick conceives of a "Dominant Protection Association" (DPA) model that would arise from the Lockean state of nature through an "invisible hand" model, meaning not designed but organic. He claims that this "invisible hand" model would violate no ones rights because no one would be in charge of it (like natural disasters aren't violating rights). This would be a natural progression from nature in the attempt to gather into society for protection, but is this protection agency enough or do we need more? Nozick agrees with more, he wants to get to the minimal state which has a monopoly on the use of force. I think a different approach is the model that would work the best - the model of the naturally constructed democratic DPA which Nozick doesn't offer.

Nozick gives us a theory of how, from a state of nature, people might group together and deal with security. It starts at a personal level and then develops into groups and inevitably into a sort of business for security called the Protection Associations (PA). I will assume that these arguments are just and correct up to the PA's (Nozick, pgs. 10-14).

Nozick supposes that these PA's would have different geographical strong holds and compete for clients. When a dispute between PA's arrives he says they would either seek a higher authority (which wouldn't exist at the time and would involve both unifying to some degree to create it), or they would fight each other themselves leaving only one left standing. In all cases the subjects ('clients') would be under the same authority afterwards. This would happen much like our companies spread and at one point there would be only one agency, the Dominant Protection Association (DPA). This is a rough sketch of how Nozick gets to the DPA idea. Nozick wants to go on to the ultra-minimal state which solidifies the monopoly of force in its borders, and further onto the minimal state which compensates those who didn't want to join the ultra-minimal state (Nozick, pgs. 15-17).

Why not the DPA? Nozick proposes that the few people holding out for joining the DPA would be a problem to the clients of the DPA. The DPA would want to protect their clients by attempting to get all people (including those not clients) under the same rules for enforcement so the clients would be safer. Nozick proposes that the step from DPA to ultra-minimal state would be justified by setting the rules for everyone equally, "the de facto monopoly". He claims "the Dominant Protection Association judges its own procedures to be both reliable and fair, and believes this to be generally known, it will not allow anyone to defend against them (pg. 108)". The point, for Nozick, is total protection of personal and property rights from interference. He understands that one must be protected from harm in order to be free, and therefore agrees with creating a monopoly of the use of force, except in the case of personal self-defense (pgs. 108-113).

 He believes strongly in non-interference by anyone or any group into the affairs of the individual (pg. ix). But isn't the ultra-minimal state and minimal state interfering in the rights of the individuals who choose not to join the state and had it forced onto them? This is one argument against Nozick's state idea. One might say that if they break the rules they are opting out of their contract with the state and thus can get forced to do something (namely go to jail). This may well be true for the guilty, but what about the innocently charged? Nozick is adamantly opposed to intervention into the personal rights of individuals but he allows for the invasion of the life of an innocent person being charged by an angry neighbor or person in town that has a grudge with this person. The minimal state (and ultra-minimal state) would be obliged to protect the complainer's rights by investigating the incident. This would involve some sort of coercion to talk to the innocent person, you take them 'downtown' and if they don't want to you are now infringing on their rights of non-interference. What if the innocent person being investigated is missing an important deal at work that would make or break their career? The other option is to just believe the first person, but that would fail clearly by way of it not being just to those who are innocent or in a grudge etc… So this state would have to coerce its own individuals at some point in a dispute. This becomes a problem for Nozick if he claims interference is what he wants the state to protect. This is Nozick's reason for not going further from the minimal state, that it is not justified of any further action because it infringes on the rights of the citizens. But it could be said that perhaps even his minimal state does just that (pgs. 26-30).

Another problem with the state (either ultra-minimal or minimal) is that the people not joining don't want to join. This seems obvious, but if the state solidifies its ability to use force over the people that don't want to join, that is infringing on their rights, and giving them the protection of that very state is a slap in the face, even free of charge. Clearly if people aren't joining an agency with that kind of dominance at least one person doesn't agree with their methods (presumably Anarchists), not just the price. So what Nozick is offering is compensation via the very thing that person is disagreeing with. This seems counterproductive if one cares about non-interference (pgs. 54-58).

Why have a state at all? In the concept of the DPA one might have more choice to get out of the area of the DPA than the monopoly of force in the state designs. There might, and Nozick notes this point (pg. 54), be a separate territory for the individuals outside the DPA. They could promote their own laws and practices and the clients who tread on their ground might then be subject to those laws, like someone leaving America for another land. This choice might make both mutually better, in that, if a client doesn't like the way the DPA is treating them they could have an option of escape, or vice versa, if it is chaotic in the open territory one could chose then to pay into the DPA for protection. They might both, in the market style, compete for people. The DPA would be interested in the money coming in, and the open territory might want extra hands for protection from the DPA or their clients. Although this option still wouldn't get rid of the interference with DPA on its own clients it might improve the options at least. You would at least have the option to leave if you didn't like the states interference in your affairs. There is something inherently bad about monopolies that I don't think Nozick is seriously dealing with enough. He claims that the best way to develop a system is by the "invisible hand" model, but we have seen in the economy's of the world that monopolies are a big problem and were then regulated based on the problems of totalitarian-like control they had. This is his model for the state, and if he wanted the "invisible hand" like Adam Smith laid it out it would rest on competition, not a monopoly (pgs. 18-22).

So why even have a Dominant Protection Association? Why not have more than a few options that compete over your business? Nozick argues that they would quarrel over clients' disputes and one would inevitably defeat the other, or they would combine to create a larger one that could deal with more clients. What he fails to consider here is that the rotation of methodology for business (like Cell-phone companies right now) is what keeps many companies in the same market without losing all of their business. One company (A) would have certain rules and another (B) would have theirs, but if one (A) was losing their business to another (B) that had a certain rule that was different, the group losing business (A) would probably change or adapt to a different method in order to keep their business. For example, when ending your contract with a cell-phone company the best deal is usually to switch companies because they offer free phones or a discount for signing their contract. This is not unfounded since this is constant in our economy, and we are talking about businesses of security at this point, not a state. Nozick assumes a warring state of affairs between these groups and that is possible, but not necessary. It could be, and I believe would be, much more like our economy, since we are talking about monetary exchanges from client to Association. These groups, again, might have similar problems with enforcement and coercion of the innocent, but this system would allow the innocent to switch if it became a problem for them. I could see an issue with people switching after committing a crime in one group and going to another, but that could only last so long before they were caught. They would all have a record of this person and they would strip him/her of protection once they found out.

What if there was another way? One idea, which would also arise from nature, is that when the PA's are jockeying for business one decides to offer an equal say in the laws and practices of the agency to every member, a democratic protection association? If this was to arise, and I think this is fairly easy to see occurring, it might tempt many to join that PA. This, being that it involves everyone, might very well become the DPA instead of the hierarchically controlled DPA of Nozick. Nozick doesn't offer this option in his book, and I think that is a big loss to his argument. The idea that the subject would have a say in the matter would increase the probability that those holding out would then join the DPA; it would also become a self-contained system that wouldn't need a competition element to check it, assuming it had checks and balances like America's system (it doesn't have to be American democracy to work of course). It would then unify the rules, like Nozick had hoped for the minimal state, and have a monopoly over the force inside its borders. It would have a problem with the non-interference again but this time the subjects would have the ability to change the laws or make areas that had different laws for the security of people, who might disagree with the population, they would be consenting to their own rules. This would give the DPA leverage to get the independents in and then become the monopoly, which Nozick's DPA wouldn't have. Nozick's DPA idea would have a set of laws decided on by a group of people that run the DPA like a business (a system that most resembles a totalitarian or monarchy government) and wouldn't be able to offer the independents anything but free service they didn't want in the first place. The Democratic DPA would have room to move, since they are now part of the government, and room to offer something they might actually want. This seems much more reasonable than the DPA Nozick proposes. Nozick fears that this democracy might tax its clients for the help of the less fortunate and therefore doesn't want to go down that road, but if that's what people want to do, then why would they chose his system in the state of nature? Why, when it seems reasonable, would people opt out of controlling their government?

It seems fairly clear to me that my suggestion is, at least, as likely to happen from the "invisible hand" model as Nozick's.  It would be just one turn of events from his process and would be no less justified in happening as his "de facto monopoly" for its clients and non-clients. I think Nozick's DPA idea was set up to fail on purpose so he could get to the state by the jump in the force monopoly, and didn't offer an alternative that might solve the problems of his DPA system. The issue for him is interference by a group into the lives of the people, but if the government is the people (really) then how would it be against their rights any more than the "invisible hand" model he proposes? No one would be in charge, everyone would be. The tyranny of the majority would coincide to the tyranny of the rulers of the PDA or state and I would say they negate each other on being a problem. This wouldn't change any of the problems with Nozick's idea if no one wanted the things he dislikes, and if they do want them, then why is Nozick justified in telling us what we want? I am an individual that can decide for myself what I want, and I will protect that, and with my system, can do something about it.

Nozick, Robert Anarchy, State, and Utopia 1974

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