Essential Nozick: Democracy is not sufficient for freedom
Welcome to the essential ideas of Robert Nozick.
One of Nozick's many contributions to
our understanding of free societies relates to his work on democracies.
Nozick explained that democracy alone doesn't guarantee that people's rights will be protected
because, even in a democracy, the individual is still potentially subjected to the decisions of
a majority of voters. And voters can still choose to restrict people's economic and civil freedoms.
Let's explore this idea by going back in time when many countries were ruled by monarchs…
Some of which decreed that women couldn't hold property and were owned by their fathers or
husbands. Other monarchs discriminated against visible minorities by limiting the work they
could do – and in some cases going so far as to allow slavery. And still other kings
and queens prohibited certain religious groups from owning land or businesses.
We can all agree these monarchs were violating the rights of people.
If we look to modern societies, however, we also
observe democracies in which people's rights are violated in similar ways.
A number of democratic countries have recent histories of discriminating against women,
visible minorities, religious groups, and others. Nozick explained that these discriminatory acts
by democracies should be no less acceptable than when they were done by unelected monarchs.
This is why Nozick stressed the singular role for the state in protecting all people's rights.
For more information on Robert Nozick, visit EssentialNozick.org, and to learn about
more essential scholars, visit EssentialScholars.org