The Night Watchman State, also known as the minimal state or the minimal government, is a political philosophy that advocates for a government that only performs a few essential functions, such as protecting citizens from violence, theft, and fraud. This type of government is characterized by a limited scope of responsibilities and a minimal amount of intervention in the economy and society.
Closely associated with [Libertarianism](https://doctorparadox.net/libertarian-narcissism-right-wing-ideology/), the Night Watchman State is based on the idea of individualism and the belief that individuals should have the freedom to pursue their own interests without interference from the state. Proponents of the Night Watchman State argue that a minimal government is the best way to achieve [economic](https://doctorparadox.net/category/economics/) growth, promote individual freedom, and protect citizens' rights.
## Origins of the Night Watchman State
Several political philosophers are associated with the idea of the Night Watchman State, most prominently Robert Nozick. However, it was the classical liberal economist and philosopher [[Friedrich Hayek]] who popularized the term in his book "The Constitution of Liberty" (1960). In the book, Hayek argues that the state should be limited to a few basic functions, such as maintaining law and order, protecting [property rights](https://doctorparadox.net/property-vs-people/), and providing a legal system to enforce contracts. He believed that the market economy would be the most efficient way to allocate resources and promote individual freedom, and that excessive government intervention would lead to economic inefficiency and curtail individual liberty.
## Criticism of Night Watchman State minimalism
Critics of the Night Watchman State argue that it does not provide enough support for vulnerable members of society, such as the poor, the disabled, and the elderly. They also argue that a minimal government may not be able to effectively regulate markets, protect the environment, or ensure [[social justice]].
In my opinion, the inexorably growing complexity of the world requires a growing complexity of government and politics. I find the Libertarian idea of wildly unregulated [[free markets]] to be at odds with the Libertarian zeal for a tiny government that can only fail to protect the public from the incentivized predations of corporations and wealthy oligarchs as they "move fast and break things."
If free markets are to be wild and unfettered, [[negative externalities]] and existential risks will inevitably be unleashed on the general population -- and the only force with enough authority to check the power of extreme private wealth is government (aka public wealth). If government is not empowered to keep pace with the scale and gravity of the private sector, then no entity will be left on earth that can protect the public from the profit motives of capitalists who would de facto rule the globe, and no societal priorities other than those with a profit motive will have airtime.
Economic efficiency is a good goal. But it's not the only goal worth pursuing -- and it's often at odds with fairness, equality of opportunity, and justice. A healthy society needs to balance these goals if it expects to insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare -- and maintain the legitimacy of its government by honoring the social contract.