Libertarianism, and the classical liberalism from which it sprang, supports a strictly limited state, if indeed its adherents recognize the legitimacy of the state at all. The minimal state is a notion found within a particular variant of the limited-government variety of libertarianism. In the conception offered here, it was introduced by Robert Nozick, whose Anarchy, State, and Utopia is the most influential work supporting libertarianism by an American philosopher. Although Nozick criticized individualist anarchism, he did hold that the minimal state was the form of government that was morally justifiable.

Nozick's starting point is a society in which no government exists. In this situation, he maintained, people largely, although not entirely, respect the rights of others. Among these rights are self-ownership and the right to ...

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