Nozick in Casteland

Suppose an island exists in a state of nature, long cut off from the outside world. Social conditions in “Casteland” are built on an ancient religion mandating three social classes:

  • Chieftains: a hereditary male line. The eldest automatically becomes “The Chief,” the island’s sole (de facto) authority in social and religious disputes
  • Men: All adult non-Chieftan men. (Chieftans who aren't The Chief are treated like all other men.)
  • Women: All adult women

Now suppose that at a certain point, the development of a minimal state proceeds along the lines sketched in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Several men attempt startup protective associations, but in the end only the Chief’s survives, since all agree that he should administer the rules. And he does so with excellence, perfectly enforcing the rule of law and protecting Lockean rights.

Women in Casteland have the same legal rights as men, but in practice live as an underclass.

Any transactions—buying or selling goods, contracting their labor—not approved by husbands or fathers result in shunning. Shunned women endure isolation, ridicule, and are often (socially) forced into exile. Single women and widows can buy property, but due to bias among lenders and realtors, always end up in ghettos.

For women the only socially accepted work outside the home is 16-hour days making bricks in toxic mud pits. Beyond this they can't find employers who will hire them, or customers to whom they can sell goods or services.

Casteland women feel these social conditions harm them (the island has a strong tradition of feminism) but accept their lot nonetheless. The Chief says the gods have willed their sorrow.

One day, a woman throws down her mud trowel and says: “I demand laws requiring better working conditions and equal employment opportunities. And I demand a say in the rules governing both!” The women around her cheer!

The Chief says no.

“All of the major moral arguments for a more extensive or powerful state are inadequate,” he replies.1

The woman is shunned for impudence, and life in Casteland continues as normal.

What, to this woman, does Nozick say?

  1. See ASU 276

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