Social Theory and Practice

Volume 42, Issue 1, January 2016

Fabian Wendt
Pages 97-122

Political Authority and the Minimal State

Robert Nozick and Eric Mack have tried to show that a minimal state could be just. A minimal state, they claim, could help to protect people’s moral rights without violating moral rights itself. In this article, I will discuss two challenges for defenders of a minimal state. The first challenge is to show that the just minimal state does not violate moral rights when taxing people and when maintaining a monopoly on the use of force. I argue that this challenge can be met. The second challenge is to show that the just minimal state has political authority, including, most importantly, the moral power to impose duties on citizens. I argue that both Nozick and Mack lack the resources to meet that challenge, and that political authority cannot be deflated. This is an important problem, because a lack of political authority also undermines a state’s justness.