Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Moon's a Harsh Mistress

An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.

— Robert A. Heinlein

We're coming up on the 100-year anniversary of science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, July 7, 2007. There's an interesting essay on (thank you, InstaPundit!) on the upcoming anniversary:
Almost half a century later, the book [Starship Troopers, of course] continues to outrage, shock--and awe. It still has critics, but also armies of admirers. As a coming-of-age story about duty, citizenship, and the role of the military in a free society, "Starship Troopers" certainly speaks to modern concerns. The U.S. armed services frequently put it on recommended-reading lists.

There's even a grassroots campaign to have a next-generation, Zumwalt-class destroyer named the USS Robert A. Heinlein.

Heinlein's influence reaches far beyond a single book, of course. He was the first sci-fi author to make the bestseller lists, the winner of multiple awards, and the inspiration for a legion of proteges and imitators whose own volumes now weigh down bookstore shelves. He was not the most accomplished literary stylist in his genre, but he spun a good yarn, grappled with big questions, and left an enduring imprint on a popular field. He was arguably the preeminent sci-fi author of the 20th century.
One of the key differences between him and the two men who might also compete for this title--Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke--is that whereas they were political liberals, Heinlein was a Man of the Right.
Interestingly enough, Brian Doherty's book on American libertarianism, Radicals for Capitalism, notes that most modern libertarian activitists list Heinlein as an early influence. I consider myself a libertarian activist who focuses on the gun issue, and, of course, much of my early thinking (such as it was) centered around Heinlein, Ayn Rand, and some crotchety bastard firebrand named Jeff Cooper.

Later I was priviledged to spend time with both Ayn Rand and Col. Cooper...and I can't tell you have lucky I am...but it has always pained me that I never got to sit down with many questions!

Back in high school, I sketched out the outlines of my haphazard career after reading (many times) the Heinlein short story "We Also Walk Dogs." And, of course, this quote:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

— Robert A. Heinlein


Anonymous said...

While I admire the work of Rand, Heinlein, and Cooper, the latest piece of propaganda from Michael Moore reminds me again that the socialists have won. People may praise liberty, but they prefer security in the form of a large welfare state doing everything for them. Libertarians can argue, cajole, and harangue on the issues but at the end of the day I am afraid we are the losers.

Social Security will not go away, more gun control is inevitable, and public education is here to stay, bigger and badder than ever. Meanwhile, Medicare and Medicaid will grow into Michael Moore's fantasy camp for a socialist takeover of the economy. It makes me think that the "failed states" of Africa have more going for them than the United States of America does.

Happy Fourth, everyone. The next sound you hear is "bullshit" sounding like a sneeze from the Founding Fathers.

Kevin said...

I point to three authors, or at least their characters, for my personal philosophy: R.A. Heinlein and his body of work, Robert B. Parker's Spenser, and John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee.

Unfortunately I am forced to agree with Trevor's conclusion: the socialists have won; people may praise liberty but prefer the promise of security - something that no one can guarantee. Reality is too uncomfortable for most people to deal with.

Not Available said...

"Never Give In, Never, Never, Never" - Winston Churchill

Anonymous said...

I heard a saying a few years back that was creditied to Joseph Stalin. I have never been able to verify that, but the words seem to ring true anyhow. The saying went: "Communism will eventually fall, but Capitalists will become Socialists and they won't even realize it." It seems that the words were prophetic indeed.
I'm also with Churchill, never give up! Things do swing from side to side. Only knowledge and truth prevail.
I also agree with the latter of Heinlein's quotes, but I'd add "....,know how everything works." to the list. Too many people talk as if they know, but they know not of what they speak. The more people such as that talk, the more people believe them and accept what they say as the truth. Nationalizing Health Care is a BIG one of those. (It's out of control BECAUSE it has been "socialized"!) We need to speak the real truths, which are quite different from beliefs. A rational man (and woman) will be able to tell the difference.
Capitalism is the only system that has survived and worked over time in free cultures. Socialism has ALWAYS failed. It depends on servitude and the associated violence of oppression, to be able to continue for as long as it can. Capitalism encourages peace and getting along with neighbors.
Keep your chins up and as my father taught me, "If you don't like it, you take charge and change it! Just remember all of the things you don't like, so you don't miss anything." So I did and I am.
Life Member