Bill of Rights Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 443, November 11, 2007

"A pack of blatant, glaring, ridiculous liars"

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Starship Troopers Revisited
by A.X. Perez

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Robert A. Heinlein is considered one of the patron saints of Libertarian thought. His The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress created the phrase "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" (TANSTAAFL) which is a bedrock of libertarian economic thought. However, he is also the author of Starship Troopers, which has been condemned for being militaristic and fascist. So how does this reconcile wjth Heinlein's libertarian philosophy? The answer is to admit that yup, it is militaristic, but no. it isn't fascistic.

Unless you believe choosing or supporting a military career makes you a fascist, which even the left leaning Spider Robinson disavows, there is no proof to this statement. Indeed, growing up in a town whose main industries were Ft. Bliss, Beaumont Army Hospital, and Biggs Field, I observed that a higher percentage of career military personnel than civilian seem to support libertarian values, perhaps because they believe in the Constitution they swore to defend.

The other evidence that ST is fascistic is that the right to vote and hold office was limited to persons who had paid a "poll tax" of at least two years of life threatening public service. Not military service, Heinlein specified that even during war time most persons completing their Federal service would do so in a civilian capacity.

Anyone who has watched military dictators convince themselves that only the military deserves power and civilian politicians are a bunch of crooks to be deposed can understand why one is tempted to see this viewpoint as fascist. However actually reading ST instead of looking for excuses to trash it sees that this question is addressed,

The protagonist's father threatens to use his right of freedom of the press to protest the use of schools as a recruiting ground for future military. This indicates a society that still values the American Bill of Rights. Not Fascism

Secondly, persons may not vote or hold office until they have completed their Federal Service. This is not the military running things. This is not Fascism.

In the society posited by Starship Troopers the franchise ( Right to vote and hold office) is restricted to persons who by their actions have demonstrated that they value the rights of the other members of their society enough to be willing to die to defend them if necessary and to spend at least two years of their life engaged in this enterprise. This is not Fascism.

Starship Troopers is arguably Heinlein's preachiest novel. This is because it is a rite of passage novel in which Johnny Rico progresses from a snot nose rich kid who "wouldn't recognize civic virtue if it bit you in the ass" (to quote the movie version of ST which is vastly inferior to the book) to an adult who values his fellow man's rights enough to voluntarily risk dying to defend them. Surprise, this includes a lot of internal debate in which Heinlein clearly demonstrates why ST is not a fascist book and instead is one in which the values held by a libertarian who chooses to serve his fellows through the state are spelled out.

Starship Troopers is not a fascist novel, instead it is an argument that only those who have demonstrated their love of and willingness to defend their brethren and sistern's liberty should be trusted with political power. Golly, gee How dare Heinlein argue that?


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