A common dispute among libertarians concerns whether justice requires the nation-state or whether justice prohibits it. Minimal-state libertarians (minarchists) argue that justice generally requires a nation-state in order to ensure the provision of minimal services like defense, etc., whereas market anarchist libertarians typically argue that the state is prohibited by justice because it unjustly claims a monopoly right of provision for at least some significant set of goods and services.
Now, minarchists rarely deny that a market anarchist order could never be justified. Further, while many market anarchists think that states are always morally impermissible, they acknowledge the conceptual possibility that a community of people could actually consent to nation-state arrangements. So bear these qualifications in mind.
Given this, here is my question: Why don’t more libertarians hold that the nation-state is permitted but not required by justice? On this view (quick: someone make up the relevant prefix for “archy”), states are generally just but so are anarchic arrangements. That is, either limited nation-states or market anarchist political orders could prove morally legitimate.
To my knowledge, libertarians rarely explore this area of conceptual space. Why is this?
Well, the view may initially seem contradictory. How could justice fail to require one arrangement or the other? Isn’t justice a matter of what we most owe one another? So how could justice permit two conflicting arrangements?
I’m not moved by this worry – justice is a lofty and indeterminate ideal and so probably is multiply realizable in different institutional forms. That is, unless you define justice in terms of a strict interpretation of the non-aggression principle, in which case market anarchism probably is entailed by justice. But the non-aggression principle rests on the self-ownership principle that most moral philosopher libertarians reject as a foundation for libertarianism.
If I had to guess, I would say that the autarchist view remains unexplored due the structure of popular libertarian political theory. On familiar utilitarian views, we owe one another the best institutional arrangements we can bring about, and a description of “the best” seems to prima facie require one arrangement or the other (assuming the content of utility can rank order the two types of arrangement).
On familiar self-ownership deontological views, the justice of the state comes down to a determine debate about whether the state can arise in a way that doesn’t violate individual rights, refrains on the old Nozick–Rothbard debates. Roughly speaking, these debates have two sides – those who follow Nozick in thinking that states will almost always arise under anarchic conditions such that states are typically the best expressions of justice, and those who follow Rothbard in thinking that states can never arise without violating principles of self-ownership/non-aggresion.
But even these theories are flexible. You might think that maximizing utility sometimes requires abolishing states and sometimes requires constructing them. Similarly, you might think that states will arise without violating rights under some common conditions but not other common conditions.
So I am left a bit puzzled. Why has this position remained relatively unexplored?