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Do We Need the State To Be Free?

Description and Exegesis

In the most basic understanding, freedom is a sacred and inalienable right that all human beings possess. Freedom is empowerment to manifest the will while respecting the law and the rights of others. John Locke, the 17th-century English philosopher, argues in his work “Two Treatises of Government” that all individuals are born with certain natural rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and property. According to Locke, the purpose of government is to protect these natural rights, and when a government fails to do so, its citizens have the right to overthrow it. One of the critical concepts in Locke’s political philosophy is the idea of the “social contract.” This is the idea that individuals give up some of their natural rights to a government to receive protection for their remaining rights. However, Locke argues that the government’s authority is not absolute and must always act in the people’s best interests. He argues that people have the right to rebel against a government that is not fulfilling its contractual obligations to protect their rights (Locke, 1988). Classical liberals believe that freedom is something that is existentially before the state. There is something called freedom, and the state can come along to either protect it or violate it. Classical liberals, like John Locke, believe that freedom is an inherent and natural aspect of human existence that precedes the state’s existence (Locke, 1988). They argue that individuals have natural rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property, that are not granted by the state but rather are inherent to the individual.

The state is to protect individuals’ natural rights rather than actively shape society or control the economy. Like classical liberals, libertarians argue that freedom is an inherent and natural aspect of human existence and that the role of government should be primarily to protect the natural rights of individuals, including the right to life, liberty, and property (Locke, 1988). One of the critical arguments of libertarianism is that individuals should be free to make their own choices and to live their own lives as they see fit, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others. This principle is often referred to as the “non-aggression principle,” It forms the basis of libertarianism’s opposition to government regulation and intervention in the economy and society.

The minimal state, also frequently referred to as the night watchman state, is favoured by adherents of the ideology known as minarchism. According to this point of view, the only way for a state to defend our rights to freedom is through the use of force. The state protects our freedom through the application of force in the form of the enforcement of property rights and contracts, the punishment of criminals, and the protection of the populace from external invaders. The state needs wealth to carry out these obligations, and as a result, it must tax its citizens to fund itself in some manner. At first glance, the imposition of this tax is an example of compulsion that restricts individual liberty. Taxes, on the other hand, can be considered justifiable as a means to an end as long as they are imposed solely to uphold rights.


Since we only have duties to respect one another’s freedom in a direct sense, and we are only obligated to a minimal state if we consent to it because it is more convenient than solving every conflict in an ad hoc manner. We are only obligated to a minimal state if we consent to it because it is more convenient than solving every conflict ourselves. For instance, consent theory is a political philosophy that argues that legitimate political authority can only be derived from the consent of the governed. It is an extension of the classical liberal idea that government should exist primarily to protect the natural rights of individuals and that individuals have the right to rebel against a government that fails to fulfill its obligations.

To maintain society and ensure the accountability of the government to its people, it must have a monopoly on taxation. This is because a government dependent on the governed’s consent must be able to fund itself without relying on the state’s coercive power. The government should not be able to tax the citizens without their consent; this way, it can ensure it is accountable to them and can guarantee the protection of their rights.

However, freedom, in the view of republicans, does not have a conceptual existence separate from that of the state. The fundamental idea of freedom cannot exist apart from the existence of a state. We can only be protected from the capricious will of another within the context of a state. These kinds of institutions are only present in the republic. Immanuel Kant’s Doctrine of Rights is an essential source for the idea that the state is incorporated within the concept of freedom. This idea comes from Immanuel Kant (Kellner, 2020). In that passage, he argues that freedom necessitates the right to own one’s property but that each individual’s specific property rights cannot be defined a priori (at the level of pure political theory) but must instead be established concretely. If they were to be formed concretely by any specific individual, it would imply that the freedom of other people is defined by the arbitrary will of that specific individual (Kellner, 2020). They would consequently have a field of non-interference, but at the same time, they would be subject to the will of another, which would make them unfree. He concludes that the task of establishing rights in a manner that does not leave us all subject to the wills of one another can only be done by a state on its own.

While writing on Political legitimacy, Pettit (2012) focused on the aspects of social justice. They suggest that this is justice in the nexus between people within a state, inclusive of such relations mediated by their belonging to groups and bodies of various kinds. The assertions, however, ignore the concern as to whether the operations of the states connote political legitimacy in imposing social order, despite what such order might turn out to be. It is one thing to argue that social order imposed by a state is, and quite another, to argue that the political imposition of that order is legitimate.

Social justice does not entail political legitimacy, by the above account, nor does political legitimacy entail social justice. Taking the second dissociation prior, a state might be entirely legitimate, by whatever criterion, yet fails to advance the cause of social justice very well. It might be supportive of misconceived and ill-willed policies. Supposing this was the conception in Rousseau’s mind upon acknowledging the possibility that the legitimate regime-in his terms, the regime seeking to enact the general will- may eventually stray and lose focus. This is a conception that matches the argument in this paper that freedom may not necessarily be predicated on the existence of a state but rather a manifestation of what people always will as good. Still, by itself, it does not always see it.

For the second dissociation, it is also apparent that the just society does not meet the legitimate requirements. The conventional paradigm of the illegitimate regime is under the control of a despot or a foreign power. But still, a benevolent despotism is imaginable, or enlightenment colonialism, which connotes that the people’s relations with each other are ordered socially justly. It’s possible that the order doesn’t have all of the complete safeguards typically associated with justice, especially from a republican point of view. It’s possible that the will at its very origins doesn’t have the dependability—the resistance to dictatorial or colonial discretion—that the Roman Digest of law necessitates when quoting Ulpian. This is what’s meant by “reliability.” While you’re there, you may have noticed that it says that “justice is the firm and abiding will to render unto every one his right” (Watson 1985: Book I, Part 1, para. 10).

The above remarks are the predicate to the conceptual divergence between social justice demands and political legitimacy, not suggesting that they can come apart very profoundly in practice. It is not probable that people who fared severely in justice terms could do much about constraining the state to satisfy legitimacy. And it is not probable that the unconstrained state would do much to establish justice amongst its citizenry. However, the fact that political legitimacy can come apart in any quantity from social justice means that there is a distinct demand made and that things must start over again in thinking about what it needs.

Critical Analysis

The idea that liberal or libertarian viewpoints provide an alternative to progressive or egalitarian objectives is widely accepted within political discourse. In the realm of politics, classical liberalism and libertarianism frequently shape the policies of parties on the center-right and the far-right (Rothbard, 1978). This is because classical liberalism and libertarianism advocate for a hands-off approach, also known as laissez-faire, and oppose any efforts to redistribute wealth, including welfare programs and progressive taxation (Rothbard, 1978). This stems from a conviction in the significance of individual liberty and the necessity of safeguarding it against undue intrusion, most notably from the state.

However, it is essential to remember that there is a fine line between undervaluing and overvaluing the influence of libertarianism and classical liberalism (Rothbard, 1978). This balance must be struck (Rothbard, 1978). For instance, President Trump’s intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act was motivated by a libertarian ideology, which maintains that people should only be obliged to get insurance if they voluntarily do so and can pay for it. Trump’s plan was inspired by this idea (Rothbard, 1978). The political consensus and the outcomes of policy decisions have shifted over the last few decades toward a more laissez-faire and less interventionist attitude. The term “neoliberal era” has been used to refer to this period, which began in the late 1970s and ended with the election of Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States (Rothbard, 1978). However, there are concerns over whether or not traditional liberalism and libertarianism are compatible with the values that underpin contemporary democracies.

For instance, Amartya Sen awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, has argued that classical liberalism and libertarianism may conflict with certain fundamental democratic principles (Rothbard, 1978). One such principle is the principle of unanimity, also known as the Pareto Principle, which states that policy A should be adopted if everyone in society prefers policy A to policy B. Sen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work. A person is entitled to exercise their right to veto a choice made by society to change available options if doing so will negatively impact them and no one else (Rothbard, 1978). This is the central tenet of the idea. This is in stark opposition to the liberal ethical perspective that other people take.

Robert Nozick was familiar with these debates as a result of his interactions with Murray Rothbard because individualist anarchists were the ones who developed the concept of market anarchy in the first place. He devoted the first section of his work to presenting an argument for the anarchist premises that support a minimal state (Nozick,1994). Nozick proposed that if one of the companies that provided security and arbitration in a market that was anarchical happened to become a monopoly as a result of market forces, then that company would be able to impose its authority on everyone who lived within its territory without infringing on anyone’s rights (Nozick,1994). Argues that the dynamics of a market for security services can develop in a way that would (1) lead to a de facto monopoly of such services and that, in such an event, that de facto monopoly would be entitled to use force to maintain its monopoly, thereby making it a state (Nozick,1994). The argument is based on the assumption that the dynamics of a market for security services can develop in a way that would (1) lead to a de facto monopoly entitled to use force to maintain its monopoly, making it a state.

In Force and Freedom: Kant’s Legal and Political Philosophy by Mandle (2010), the state has the capacity that no private person could have. For instance, not only can they undertake the collection of taxes and imprison wrongdoers, they equally have the capacity and monopoly of imposing binding resolutions on private disputes, can constrain agents on the grounds of public health, and equally manage and regulate myriad aspects of life. But the libertarians and anarchists insist that the state’s power can do these things but only under fundamental restrictions. Before any concerns as to what variables properly restrain the exercise of the very powers, however, is the most fundamental question of the justification of the very powers: how can an institution, whose offices are full of ordinary fallible human beings, have the entitlement of doing things to the people, or even place on them some demands, that none of the very same human beings are entitled to do or even demand on their own,

As Kant argues, favourable fundamental laws are contingent and chosen by the person unleashing or giving them. However, the concern arises as to how an individual can change the normative situation of others, consistent with all others’ entitlement to be independent of the choice of another. It is the fundamental concern of political authority (Ebels-Duggan, 2011). Kant is not adhering to Hobbes or Locke in emphasizing the empirical defects of the state of nature, like self-preference and limited knowledge. His arguments are termed a priori because they are all internal to the concepts of acquired rights. His presentation of the state of nature is akin to a pure system of private rights, embodying only the moral principles governing interaction between private persons. Comprehended only as a system of private rights without public law, his assertions regarding the state of nature are morally deficient, particularly from the standpoint of rights. But it is so in three distinct ways. First, the postulation of pragmatic reason regarding rights indicates that the acquired rights are morally necessary appendages of freedom (Ebels-Duggan, 2011). However, Kant’s arguments will suggest the impossibility of acquiring a right to anything in a state of nature. The second deficiency is the assertion that rights are necessarily enforceable- that it is a title to coerce while the acquired rights cannot be enforced in the state of nature (Ripstein, 2010). Third, as the concepts of a system of equal freedom, the application of private rights to particulars are only determined based on the standards that are non-unilateral exercises of the judgment of one of the parties to a dispute. All these defects in the state of nature herald a conceptual deficit concerning the internal requirements of a system of rights.

The resistance to any aggression against the property rights of people in their persons and in the material items they have willingly acquired is the central tenet and line of thinking that libertarians adhere to. This is considered to be the essential aspect of libertarianism. Other than the more excellent organization and centralized mobilization of resources that are imposable by the state’s rulers, one of the reasons that state aggression is thought to be more essential than private aggression is because it is considered more direct. However, there is a concern that there is no check on the state’s deprivation. This check is relatively meaningless when people have to worry about the Mafia or muggers, but it is a worry nonetheless. But to protect ourselves against private criminals, people often turn to the state and its police, but the question still lingers as to who is capable of guarding the people against the state itself; that is why freedom must be sacred and existentially placed before the state.

In summary, classical liberalism is top-notch in this subject of freedom because we can be accessible even without a state but to ensure the proper guarding of this freedom. Classical liberalism holds that individual freedom is the highest value and that the state’s role should be limited to protecting this freedom. This means that individuals should be free to make their own choices and pursue their own goals without interference from the state, as long as they do not harm others. To ensure that this freedom is adequately guarded, classical liberals advocate for limited government, individual rights, and the rule of law. This perspective holds that society will be more prosperous, peaceful, and just by minimizing the state’s power and allowing individuals to make their own choices. Therefore, classical liberalism is the epitome of excellence in freedom since it promotes the highest levels of individual liberty and the least amount of government intervention, making it possible for individuals to live their lives to the best extent possible. Freedom is an inalienable and unalienable right that should be possessed by every human being, separate from the rights enforced by the state. It is a form of personal empowerment to exhibit one’s will while simultaneously respecting the law and the rights of others.


Kellner, A. J. (2020). States of nature in Immanuel Kant’s doctrine of right. Political Research Quarterly, 73(3), 727-739.

Locke, J. (1988). Second treatise. Two treatises of government, 141.

Nozick, R. (1994). Invisible-hand explanations. The American Economic Review, 84(2), 314-318.

Rothbard, M. N. (1978). For a new liberty: The libertarian manifesto. Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Pettit, P. (2012). On the people’s terms: a republican theory and model of democracy. Cambridge University Press.

Mandle, J. (2010). Force and Freedom: Kant’s Legal and Political Philosophy. Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review/Revue canadienne de philosophie49(3), 479-487.

Waldron, J. (1993). Liberal Rights: collected papers 1981-1991. Cambridge University Press.

Ebels-Duggan, K. (2011). Arthur Ripstein Force and Freedom: Kant’s Legal and Political Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 2009. Pp. xiii+ 399. Canadian journal of philosophy41(4), 549-573.

Ripstein, A. (2010). Force and freedom. In Force and Freedom. Harvard University Press.

Nozick, R. (2004). The entitlement theory. Anarchy, State, Utopia, 150-178.


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