Robert Nozick, R.I.P.

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On Jan. 23, Robert Nozick died of stomach cancer. He was 63. With the publication of Anarchy, State, and Utopia in 1974, Nozick singlehandedly made libertarian philosophy respectable among philosophers. His book also provided the most widely read alternative to John Rawls’ influential rationale for the welfare state.

Although Nozick involved himself briefly in the libertarian movement, he never seemed very comfortable there. His subsequent philosophical writing covered a wide range of subjects far afield from political theory. “I didn’t want to spend my life writing The Son of Anarchy, State, and Utopia,” he explained.

In 1987, he sued his landlord for a refund of past rent, on grounds that his landlord had violated local rent control regulations. Many people considered this an obvious violation of the ethical theory of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, and his popularity among libertarians declined. But he remained an enormously influential philosopher.

In a future issue, Liberty will publish a re-evaluation of Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

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