STARSHIP TROOPERS, 2021.

Splashed sensationally across the cover of my 2018 printing of STARSHIP TROOPERS 1is the descriptor “The Controversial Classic of Military Adventure.” It is an interesting claim as the novel only contains two scenes of battle. Of course, that is part of the controversy; the rest being the pages of world building and what many suspect is Heinlein’s own view of a perfect fascist future. The book describes a world where only veterans are full citizens and civilians may grow wealthy, but they will never have the vote, they will never have a voice in politics. Most civilians are okay with this which reflects the low turn-out rates traditional with US elections anyway. 

One difficulty that anyone trying to explore Heinlein’s political theory encounters quickly is that the work depends on a fictional history that seems to lead inevitably from the liberal democracy of the 20th Century to the militarized Terran Federation established a few centuries later. The events that bring about the Federation are all fiction and there is no reason to look at actual history and see parallels. 

Or rather, there was no such reason until a few summers ago. 

In the early pages, the novel describes a class called “History and Moral Philosophy” which we are advised every high school student must take but none are required to pass.2 In the novel, our narrator takes the class no fewer than three times: once in high school, once in basic training, and again in Officer Candidate School (OCS). The novel describes two battles and then presents lectures from this class three times. It is in these lectures that we learn the history of the Federation that began when the western democracies, Russia and the Anglo-American Alliance lost a war to the Chinese Hegemony. 

Or rather, it began in the wake of that loss when the liberal democracies began to harvest the future that their commitment to flawed moral systems had sewn. 

At the time STARSHIP TROOPERS was written, the liberal child rearing theories that argued children should never be spanked and that we could hug the evil out of criminals and murderers was just taking root. Heinlein could have had no idea that these ideas would manifest decades later in movements to “defund the police” and cities making the commitment to resist oppression by refusing to prosecute criminals who burned their cities down or merely broke into their cars. 

Nonetheless, his work of science fiction tells a story of “juvenile delinquents” who roamed the cities in gangs making things unsafe for common citizens3. These gangs were composed of young, rich kids, who perceived that the liberal philosophies adopted regarding discipline and patriotism had created a system where no hand would be lifted against them. Of course, their crimes were not rooted in a cause so noble as those that inspired the looting of Louis Vuitton stores4 and the riots throughout the Midwest which were described by a liberal media as “mostly peaceful” while standing in front of burning businesses5

In the novel, it was in Aberdeen, Scotland when the first resistance to such disorder was met by a veteran’s group6. They broke up a few riots and hanged a few people. In a time when the police were defunded or simply ordered to not act, common citizens soon came to rely on these veteran’s committees and these emergency measures became constitutional law. Heinlein does not go into much detail about this section of his artificial history. There was disorder and the old regimes failed and then fell. In his magnificent novel, KING OF DOGS7, Andrew Edwards describes what it might look like for a small town with resources in those days when a “Soviet Style collapse” has begun and local militias (and individuals) are struggling against corporate funded militias. 

There was some resistance to the veteran take-over in Heinlein’s fictional history. A “Revolt of the Scientists” is mentioned8 and it is briefly explained that it failed simply because scientists asserting the virtue of their failed paradigms are no match for armed, angry warmakers. Any success a cadre of scientist might make in applying technology to the problems of the day is meaningless if riots and protests (and simple bands of thugs) stand between that benefit and the average suburban family. In a day when we are constantly urged to “Trust the science” by people who know nothing of science, it is easy to imagine a sincere movement proposing that only Dr. Fauci can really save us. Without the bayonets of the state behind it, any such movement is destined to fail. 

Of course, the riots of 2020 were not put down by veterans.  

Those riots and their aftermath did, perhaps, expose many of the flaws in liberal thinking (not that conservative thinking is much better). Especially as those patterns of thought manifest in moral theory. There is a very strong urge among many liberals to appear moral, but also an effort to assert that morality is relative. The main thrust of liberal morality seems to be that no one has a duty beyond themselves and that any effort to discourage criminality or anti-social thinking is “oppression,” “fascism,” or “white supremacy” even when the “oppressor” is not White9

This thinking is balanced precariously on the theories of Marx and a vague assertion of “natural rights.” Much of the chaos is disguised as an attempt to secure the rights of life, liberty, and equal opportunity. Heinlein suggest that these values are absurd fictions. He begins, again in a lecture in H&MP class, with a discussion about value. Refuting the Marxist assertion that the value of something is based on the work put into it, he claims that value is no more than what someone wants. For example, rattan staves are of much more value to me than gold jewelry is. This becomes the basis for young, liberals wondering why their expensive degrees in the liberal arts (much of sociology, psychology, and philosophy)10 gather them no sincere respect and merely leave them in debt. Their education was precious to them and so they borrowed thousands, but it is worthless to most, so they have difficulty finding jobs to repay loans. 

Even so, we did not see a flood of veterans coming into the streets to put the riots down.  

What we did see was a flood of protests against law enforcement in general. “Defund the Police” became a cause and many cities and states slashed budgets, created policies designed to prevent apprehension or response to certain crimes. Police officers reacted by leaving their jobs in droves and crime rates went up in many major urban areas. 

The point here is not to take a few hours to disparage the left and “blue” cities but to suggest that one way to quickly have the police overwhelmed and the streets left in the hands of rioters would be to have significantly fewer police officers. Some power will fill that void, whether its criminal enterprises not wanting their own trades impacted (think about how certain interests used to be a major influence in Las Vegas and the positive impact that had on crime rates. The streets were much safer with the mob in town), or vigilantism, or private security. 

Heinlein’s veterans groups were a combination of those last two. There is a growing faction of veterans who would assure you that they will not allow their families to be endangered by violent criminals and they do not intend to be arrested afterwards either. 

I wonder if much of the “Boogaloo” fantasy comes about when more and more people realize their safety is in their own hands, they hope they will not also have to fight their own government as well. If that government collapses first, the individual will not have to stand up to the injustices aimed at him by a system he once swore to protect. 

It is too easy to cry out “Fascism!” and propose that it is good and noble to “punch a Nazi” when one claims every act is fascism and everyone who disagrees with the left is a Nazi. 

But looking at the demands made by many leftists concerning employment and college loan forgiveness (or free college) my first thoughts go to a model that looks like this: 

Citizenship and its duties are voluntary. 

Citizenship includes a period of time training in a trade of one’s own choosing and a guarantee of part-time employment in that trade. That part-time employment will provide ample time for networking into full time positions not created by the state. 

Citizenship includes tuition waivers at all state universities. 

Citizenship includes low-cost health insurance for the citizen and his dependents. 

Citizens are eligible for forgiveness of college loans taken out before citizenship was granted. 

As it happens, these are also the benefits for enlisting in the National Guard. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *