Category Archives: Nozick

The Tale of the Slave

by Robert Nozick, originally published in his Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974), pp. 290-92.


Consider the following sequence of cases, which we shall call the Tale of the Slave, and imagine it is about you.

1: There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master’s whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.

2: The master is kindlier and beats the slave only for stated infractions of his rules (not fulfilling the work quota, and so on). He gives the slave some free time.

3: The master has a group of slaves, and he decides how things are to be allocated among them on nice grounds, taking into account their needs, merit, and so on.

4: The master allows his slaves four days on their own and requires them to work only three days a week on his land. The rest of the time is their own. Read the rest of this entry