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Minarchism is a libertarian political philosophy which advocates for the state to exist solely to provide a very small number of services. A popular model of the state proposed by minarchists is known as the night-watchman state, in which the only governmental functions are to protect citizens from aggression, theft, breach of contract and fraud as defined by property laws, limiting it to three institutions: the military, the police and courts. The word "minarchist" was coined by Samuel Edward Konkin III in 1980,[1] it differs from anarchism in that it is not completely based on voluntary association. "Minarchy" is a contraction of "minimum" and -archy. Arche (/ˈɑːrki/; Ancient Greek: ἀρχή) is a Greek word which came to mean "first place, power", "method of government", "empire, realm", "authorities" (in plural: ἀρχαί), "command".[2]


Minarchists argue that it is malum in se for a government to interfere in transactions between people by taxing for services not directly related to the protection of citizens.[citation needed]

Some minarchists argue that a state is inevitable,[3] thus believing anarchy to be futile. Minarchists justify the necessity of the state on the grounds that private defence agencies and courts could be biased by unevenly representing the interests of higher paying clients.[4] Robert Nozick, who publicized the idea of a minimal state in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, argued that a night-watchman state provides a framework that allows for any political system that respects fundamental individual rights, and therefore morally justifies the existence of a state.[5][6]


Proponents of an economically interventionist state argue it is best to evaluate the merits of government intervention on a case-by-case basis in order to address recessions (see Keynesian economics) or existential threats[7].

Social liberals and social democrats argue that a government should be able to appropriate private wealth in order to better reach a society-wide optimum (as opposed to each actor sub-optimizing for themselves). This may include ensuring care for disadvantaged or dependent people such as the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled, immigrants, the homeless and the poor.[citation needed]

Social conservatives argue that the state should maintain a moral outlook and legislate against behavior commonly regarded as culturally destructive or immoral, proposing that the state cannot survive if its citizens do not have civic virtue[citation needed]

Left-libertarians, such as libertarian socialists and anarchists, argue that the inherent inequalities within a society under a minarchist system would further be exacerbated by the accumulation of private wealth by the already wealthy and private landowners and thus argue that a properly functioning libertarian system needs common ownership and worker collectives.[citation needed]

Deontological anarcho-capitalists argue that states or governments are malum in se and violate the non-aggression principle by their very existence, contending that private markets should supply all goods and services, including all legal and protective services as well as the means of exchange. Consequentialist anarcho-capitalists criticize all state or state-sanctioned monopolies, citing them as corrupt and inefficient for eliminating or artificially restricting competition through laws and regulations.[citation needed]

Minarchist projects[edit]

There have been initiatives to create minarchist states.

  • In 2001, Jason Sorens, an American Ph.D in political science and economics, founded the Free State Project, a plan of mass migration to the state of New Hampshire in order to establish there an independent government founded on libertarian principles.[8] One of the project's initial goals was to collect a petition with 20,000 signers declaring their intent to move to the state; this was achieved in February 2016.[9]
  • In 2015, Czech politician and libertarian activist Vít Jedlička proclaimed the Free Republic of Liberland on a disputed area between Serbia and Croatia on the margin of the Danube river.[10] The project aims to establish Liberland as a libertarian micronation with voluntary taxation in the region;[11] in the first week following the creation of Liberland's official website, over 200,000 people applied for citizenship.[12]

See also[edit]

Minarchist or similar models and concepts:

  • Night-watchman state – a model of minarchy which recognizes only police, courts, and national defense forces as legitimate provisions of government[citation needed]
  • Small government – a government intended to intervene little on peoples' economic and individual activities
  • Limited government – a government whose actions are limited by its law

Related or encompassing philosophies:

Contrasting terms and ideologies:

  • Big government – a government with a large bureaucracy that intervenes in many sectors of civil society, perceived as inefficient, corrupt and lacking in transparency
  • Statism – general support for large-scale state intervention and highly centralized government authority, coined by Ayn Rand
  • Economic interventionism – state intervention into economic affairs, either to generate demand for particular goods and services, nationalize industry, reshape the wealth distribution and combat material inequalities attributed to market freedom, restrict private sector competition, or promote domestic over foreign trade (see protectionism)
  • Nanny state – a pejorative term for an overprotective, overinvolved and paternalistic welfare state
  • Paternalism – the belief that a state (or other organization) ought to make decisions on behalf of individuals who are presumed to be unable or unwilling to do so
  • Social engineering – the concept of a state or other politically powerful group attempting to modify social behavior and manipulate culture, especially through legislation
  • Welfare state – a state which aims to promote the well-being of its least fortunate or lowest-earning citizens with a system of means-based payments or credits and regulatory controls


  1. ^ Samuel Edward Konkin III, New Libertarian Manifesto, 1980, p. 9.
  2. ^ ἀρχή, A Greek-English Lexicon
  3. ^ Emmett, Ross B. (2011-08-12). Frank H. Knight in Iowa City, 1919–1928. Emerald Group Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78052-008-7. 
  4. ^ Holcombe, Randall G. http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_08_3_holcombe.pdf. "Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable". 
  5. ^ Nozick, Robert (1974). Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-09720-3. 
  6. ^ Gordon, David (2008). "Minimal State". In Hamowy, Ronald. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute. pp. 332–34. doi:10.4135/9781412965811.n204. ISBN 978-1412965804. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024. 
  7. ^ "The Means to Prosperity, by John Maynard Keynes". www.gutenberg.ca. Retrieved 2018-01-23. 
  8. ^ Belluck, Pam (October 27, 2003). "Libertarians Pursue New Political Goal: State of Their Own". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Membership Statistics". Free State Project. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  10. ^ Nolan, Daniel (25 April 2015). "Welcome to Liberland: Europe's Newest State". Vice News. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  11. ^ Stroukal, Dominik (18 April 2015). "Několik nestrukturovaných poznámek k Liberlandu" (in Czech). Ludwig von Mises Institut – Česko & Slovensko. Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Nolan, Daniel (24 April 2015). "Liberland: hundreds of thousands apply to live in world's newest 'country'". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2015. In the week since Liberland announced its creation and invited prospective residents to join the project, they have received about 200,000 citizenship applications – one every three seconds – from almost every country in the world.