Friday, 14 August 2009

Shooting at the choir

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein.

Starship Troopers asserts the heretical idea that the use of political power can cause people harm. Harm is bad and perhaps, therefore, the use of political power should be made better.

Political power might be made better: less tyrannical or short-sighted or spendthrift or miserly or bellicose or arbitrary if those who wielded it had been obliged to prove by some test in advance of governing that they possess some level of social and personal responsibility.

If the volunteers show themselves to be prepared to take personal risks – including death or injury – to preserve the body politic, then we might justly consider they are potentially more responsible than others who don’t do so.

Volunteering for military service can indicate some level of social and personal responsibility and some level of risk.

Therefore, perhaps the decision to undertake voluntary military service should be used as the chief test to qualify to vote or for standing for office.

In Starship Troopers’ future Earth and its space colonies, only discharged veterans of a minimum of two years’ military service [or honourably invalided out] can vote or stand for office.

Above all it’s an exciting military science fiction novel – one of Heinlein’s so-called ‘juveniles’ – and it still stands up both as science fiction and as a war story today – decades after its publication.

But Heinlein is triumphantly right-headed in it, and his characters discuss, explain, and exemplify, amongst other things, the out-dated and unegalitarian concept of virtue: a sense of political involvement and competence which is legitimate becasue of cost at which that involvement has been bought.

Government is force – ‘ the rods and the axes’, and for all the limits on it; the conventions and limitations and however closely it might try to parallel public morality, when it comes down to it the difference between doing what the government tells you to do and doing what you want or feel duty-bound to do is that the government can justly use force against you if you disobey. So to use the power of that coercion – you must balance the power with responsibility.

Heinlein wrote all kinds of true and un-Leftie things, and though I now disagree that all co-operation with the State is through fear and compulsion, he makes a strong case for a democratic republic whose enfranchised citizens have earned their power. The Left in most of its forms spits feathers to this day at the book. The very notion that society and government aren't or shouldn't be: a costless give-away game show with the State as compère starting up the conveyor belt with its set of winesglasses, cuddly toy, towel; or a shopping channel with an infinite credit limit on your card is blasphemous to most. And of course they responded with fair-minded logical disagreement and closely-argued refutations...Ah, you spotted my deliberate mistake, huh? Okay, I confess: they defamed Heinlein personally from the start and continue to misrepresent his arguments even now.

And he throws some magnificent grenades at the Left-liberal wishful thinking - and all in his familiar relaxed, easy prose style.

Oh, and naked force and the threat of force has solved more major international problems in history than any other factor.

Oh, and an executed murderer can never, ever repeat his crime.

Oh, and irresponsible government always leads to disaster.

Oh, and the labour theory of value is worthless.

Oh, and human beings aren’t suited to communism.

Oh, and if ‘women and children first’ isn’t the overriding motive of a system of government, then that government will fail when its population fails.

Oh, and if you don’t have any force to use; if you lay down your arms, then somebody else or something else will move in as soon as it can and displace you and the universe won’t even notice you’ve gone away.

Liberals hate Starship Troopers.

Socialists hate Starship Troopers.

Communists hate Starship Troopers.

Anarchists hate Starship Troopers.

I love Starship Troopers.

Amazon. eBay.


Pavlov's Cat said...

He also said that "An armed society is a polite society"

Something I would tend to agree with.

LL said...

"Earning the right to govern" though hazardous duty that requires a display of courage, honor to one's fellow citizen soldiers and commitment to the public is something the left bristles at.

However, there is something to be said for warrior presidents vs peaceniks.

JuliaM said...

Loved the classroom scene in that with Michael Ironside as the veteran lecturer they are destined to meet again:

"Jean Rasczak: All right, let's sum up. This year in history, we talked about the failure of democracy. How the social scientists of the 21st Century brought our world to the brink of chaos. We talked about the veterans, how they took control and imposed the stability that has lasted for generations since. We talked about the rights and privileges between those who served in the armed forces and those who haven't, therefore called citizens and civilians.

[to a student]

Jean Rasczak: You. Why are only citizens allowed to vote?

Student: It's a reward. Something the federation gives you for doing federal service.

Jean Rasczak: No. Something given has no basis in value. When you vote, you are exercising political authority, you're using force. And force my friends is violence. The supreme authority from which all other authorities are derived. "


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