On Robert Heinlein’s sympathy for fascism

“Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”

Robert A. Heinlein – Starship Troopers (1959)

Somebody recently had a go at me for expressing my admiration for the writings of Robert A. Heinlein (who I consider to be one of the most rational and hilarious sci-fi writers of the 20th century) because he “sympathised with fascism”. 

Honestly, if you can’t sympathise with fascism at all you probably don’t know what it is, or you’ve been indoctrinated into conflating the term with moralistic notions. All of history has been human tyranny. Some tyranny works, some doesn’t. Some is murderous to outsiders, some is subversive to its own people. Even liberty has proven to be destructive and unsustainable in some ways. There are plenty of good things to say about fascism, and you throw out the baby with the bathwater at your peril. I mean, sanctimonious moral posturing aside, how well is the West doing under universal suffrage? Looked like it could have been good, but it’s in tremendous decay now. Can we regain our liberties as a people in the long-run without significant sacrifices in the shorter-term? Will pleading and begging and trying to convince the polity through strong arguments actually bring the libertarian cause to victory?

“The instinct to survive is human nature itself, and every aspect of our personalities derives from it. Anything that conflicts with the survival instinct acts sooner or later to eliminate the individual and thereby fails to show up in future generations. . . . A scientifically verifiable theory of morals must be rooted in the individual’s instinct to survive–and nowhere else!–and must correctly describe the hierarchy of survival, note the motivations at each level, and resolve all conflicts.
We have such a theory now; we can solve any moral problem, on any level. Self-interest, love of family, duty to country, responsibility toward the human race . . . .
The basis of all morality is duty, a concept with the same relation to group that self-interest has to individual.” 

Robert A. Heinlein – Starship Troopers (1959)

We will return to aristocracy, and hierarchical top-down rule by sovereigns. Nothing lasts forever, but that will be the model for the 21st century, and when we get there, we’ll probably all find that it’s better for the nation(s) than the slow decay of democracy. I’m not saying it’s perfect or absolutely stable. But compared to what? Give me a Christian monarch over the tyranny of the (increasingly parasitic) majority, any day.

People who say “fascism is evil” (and similar moronic conflations) are usually just trying to cover for their own ignorance, cowardice, or the evil they hide in their own closets. 

Robert Heinlein was a great writer BECAUSE he was rational enough to sympathise with fascism.

I’ll leave you today with an excerpt from the screenplay by Edward Neumeier for the 1997 film of Starship Troopers. It’s another good example of the rational separation of moralism (rhetoric/emotional arguments from authority) from empiricism (what actually happens, how things actually work, despite our feelings about them and our wishes).


 is beautiful, just 18, and quite pleased with herself  because
 Johnny Rico is clearly infatuated with her.

 The end of another school year, and for 
 me no doubt another failure...
 Rico, pay attention !

 The teacher JEAN RASCZAK, 38, a rugged veteran who proudly displays his missing hand, scowls at Johnny, bemused.

 Sorry, Mr. Rasczak.

 But as soon as Rasczak turns back to the class, Johnny begins to sketch a cartoon on his desk's touch screen.

 Here in History and Moral Philosophy
 we've explored the decline of 
 Democracy when social scientists brought
 the world to the brink of chaos, and how the 
 veterans took control and imposed a stability 
 that has lasted for generations since...
 You know these facts but have I taught you
 anything of value ? You.
 Why are only citizens allowed to vote ?

 Rasczak points at LANNY, 17, with his stump.

 It's a reward... what the Federation gives you
 for doing Federal Service.

 Rasczak is crestfallen, makes a big show of patience.

 No. Something given has no value!
 Haven't I taught you dimwits anything?
 I guess they ought to revoke my 
 teaching credential...

 Laughter. Johnny's cartoon, meanwhile, is taking shape: Johnny and Carmen flying round planet Venus in a space ship.

 When you vote, you're exercising political
 authority. You're using force. And force, my
 friends, is violence, the supreme authority
 from which all other authority derives.

 CARL JENKINS, 18, a superintelligent geek, jumps in.

 Gee, we always thought you were the
 supreme authority, Mr. Rasczak.

 Laughter. Rasczak grins.

 In my classroom, you bet. Whether it's 
 exerted by ten or ten billion, political 
 authority is violence by degree. The 
 people we call citizens have earned
 the right to wield it.

 DIZZY FLORES, 18, athletic, pretty, no nonsense, chimes in.

 My mother always says that violence
 never solves anything.

 Really ? I wonder what the city fathers of
 Hiroshima would have to say about that.

 Rasczak points at Carmen.

 They probably wouldn't say anything.
 Hiroshima was destroyed.

Johnny presses "SEND" on his desk, and the cartoon appears across the way on Carmen's screen.

 Correct. Naked force has settled more
 issues in history than any other factor.
 The contrary opinion 'violence never
 solves anything' is wishful thinking
 at its worst.

While Rasczak looks away, Carmen throws Johnny her wonderful smile, and Johnny's gone, checked out, flying round Venus.

 People who forget that always pay...
 They pay with their lives and their

 Dizzy notices the dreamy look on Johnny's face.
 So does Rasczak. He points at him with his stump,
 snaps Johnny to.

 You. Tell me the moral difference,
 if any, between the citizen and the civilian ?

 The difference lies in the field of civic
 virtue. A citizen accepts personal
 responsibility for the safety of the body politic,
 of which he is a member, defending it,
 if need be, with his life.
 The civilian does not.

 The exact words of the text. But do
 you understand it ?
 Do you believe it ?

 Uh, I don't know.

 Of course you don't. I doubt if any 
 of you here would recognize 'civic virtue'
 if it bit you in the ass.

 A bell rings. Rasczak shrugs, indifferent.

 Well, that's it. Have a nice life.

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