Anarchy, State, and Utopia was published in 1974 by Robert Nozick and within its pages Nozick outlines his view on how a state should operate, arguing in favor of a minimal state, limited in its operation to the function of protection, namely protecting its citizens from unlawful force, fraud and theft. 

Nozick was a proponent of the theory of libertarianism, arguing that the role of the state should be limited to a very core set of areas, essentially to police protection, national defense and administrating the courts of law. All other areas of a state's responsibilities, such as education and welfare, should instead be managed by private institutions operating in a free market economy. This principle falls under Nozick’s ‘theory of justice in distribution,’ which promotes a reliance on private charity, rather than state interference. While other proponents of libertarianism argue for it in the grounds of market competition and the inherent inefficiencies of government, Nozick, while acknowledging these factors, was more concerned with the moral implications. For him the greatest benefit of such an environment is that it respects an individual's rights. 

Nozick titles such a state as a minimal state, arguing that a state can only be morally justified if it operates in this way, protecting individuals through the use of the police, the courts and the military only, with “any state more extensive [violating] people’s rights.” His minimal state cannot regulate the behavior of its citizens when it comes to what they eat, drink, etc., as this interferes with their right to self-ownership. The state also has no right to anything its citizen's have acquired through their own labour, or impose any form of social insurance to pay for schemes such as public education.

Nozick describes individuals as 'self-owners,' meaning that an individual owns themselves, as in their body, mind, abilities, and their labour, which flows on to include the fruits of their labour and the exercise of their abilities. For Nozick as each individual is in full ownership of their person, the principle of slavery, whose relevance will be described below, is illegitimate.

From these principles Nozick goes on to draw the conclusion that taxation of a redistributive nature is morally illegitimate. He argues that the way in which states currently tax; by taxing individuals to fund the various programs of a "bureaucratic welfare state," is morally wrong and amounts to an equivalent of forced labour. This occurs as a certain amount of an individual's earnings, or 'labour time' is forcibly removed from their possession under the guise of taxation, meaning a portion of the time worked by a person is in effect involuntary work for the state. Principles of taxation for him offended the very value of liberty. He infers this to equate to every citizen of the state owning a part of every other individual, thus partial slavery, and in direct opposition to his principle of self-ownership.