Economics, Hierarchy, and the Question of the State’s Inevitability

Originally Published on The Libertarian Christian Institute, Philosophy, The Parlor

Among Christian libertarians, as with other libertarians, there are differing views concerning the legitimacy, necessity, and inevitability of the state. For some, this is the worn-out debate between a view supporting statelessness (or ‘anarchism’) for a free society, and a view supporting a limited state (or ‘minarchism’) for a free society. Can libertarians, both anarchists and minarchists, cooperate in pursuit of a free society? I think they can. Nevertheless, there is genuine disagreement between these two views, and each view is worth considering.

In a series of articles, I’ll address several common objections I’ve found to be made from a minarchist view against anarchism. The first concerns law and order and the question of the state’s legitimacyThe second concerns human sinfulness and the question of the state’s necessity. The third concerns dominance hierarchy and the question of the state’s inevitability. The fourth concerns our (in)ability to imagine a free and stateless society, and also the question of the plausibility of statelessness.


The first two articles in this series are centered around the question of the state’s supposed legitimacy and necessity. I argued that the minarchist objections to anarchism, represented by John Locke’s and James Madison’s arguments in favor of having a state, actually turn out to be strong reasons against having a state and instead favor stateless civil governance.

A third common minarchist objection to anarchism is the assumption concerning the state’s supposed inevitability. One assumption made by some advocates of minarchism is that a state would inevitably emerge (economically) as a practical monopoly in an otherwise free market. Such a view is posited by Robert Nozick in his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Another assumption made by some advocates of minarchism concerning the state’s supposed inevitability is based upon what I’ll refer to as “social hierarchy.” This view is expressed by Russell Kirk’s “10 Conservative Principles” in his book The Politics of Prudence.

Do either economic or social considerations entail the inevitability of the state? Must the realities of market forces and/or social relations inevitably result in a monopolization of civil governance?

Economic inevitability?

Robert Nozick makes a case for a natural economic emergence of a state in this way:

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