01 July 2007

Robert A. Heinlein and the Right

As is probably fitting for the author of "Starship Troopers" and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" Robert Heinlein has earned this retrospective from John J. Miller, a reporter for National Review magazine. Elliot and I had a brief discussion about Heinlein* - some of The Claw's readers characterized him as "a dirty old man," which is ironic considering his appeal to the Right.

Anyway, here is a taste of what Miller has to say:

Heinlein certainly wasn't a conservative traditionalist. His most popular book, in terms of copies sold, was "Stranger in a Strange Land"--a paean to sexual liberation and an attack on organized religion. Published in 1961, it resonated with hippies. Yet the author remained aloof from the counterculture: In 1964, he and his wife Virginia were enthusiastically for Barry Goldwater. A few years later, according to "Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader's Companion," he signed a magazine ad that supported U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.

In his recent book "Radicals for Capitalism," Brian Doherty observes that "a youthful love for Heinlein's tales of rugged individualists often lies in the past of dedicated libertarian activists"--a statement that's possible in large measure because of the 1966 novel that many regard as Heinlein's greatest: "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress."

The story takes place mostly within a lunar colony, where the residents grow restless under a command-and-control economy imposed by the Lunar Authority, a government that operates for the benefit of Earthlings.

"Here in Luna we're rich. Three million hardworking, smart, skilled people, enough water, plenty of everything, endless power, endless cubic," says one of the moon-dwelling Loonies. "What we don't have is a free market. We must get rid of the Authority!" A few pages later: "It strikes me as the most basic human right, the right to bargain in a free marketplace."

It's an interesting, though oddly incomplete, profile. Not surprisingly he devotes a lot of space to "Starship Troopers."

UPDATE: just realized this is a shortened version of the full article, which explains why it seems incomplete.

*I don't have the energy to search for the link. Sorry.

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At 03 July, 2007 18:41, Blogger Elliot said...

It probably says something about my curmudgeonly, apolitical personality, but I can't stand Heinlein's pontifications and I don't see why anyone likes his work. "Blah blah blah free market libertarianism this, blah blah sexual libertinism that, blah blah blah strength to power, settle things with your fists." Well, I'm glad he had it all figured out, and I'm also glad he's dead so I don't have to listen to him anymore. Even John C. Wright, who shares Heinlein's libertarian views had to shake his head at some of it when he was reviewing Heinlein's works over at his blog. Give me Theodore Sturgeon or R.A. Lafferty any day.

At 04 July, 2007 02:07, Blogger jack perry said...

I liked Starship Troopers, and the Puppet Masters, and... uhm, an few of his short stories. Most of the rest of it is fun to read, but is trash.

At 04 July, 2007 14:59, Blogger Clemens said...

My interest in Heinlein ran out somewhere about year 22 of my life. Both of you have about covered why. His free market libertarianism would probably make every product and food in America the equal of the recently imported Chinese goods we are still busy taking off the shelves.

But I digress.


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