Heinlein wrote the novel to be the part of the juvenile series of science fiction novels published by Scribners and as a response to pro-Soviet peace activism. In the novel a young man grows from a naive high school student to a junior officer in the army. The narrative of the novel also serves as the framework for a series of lectures about the nature of man, morals, war, and government. The most controversial concept in the novel is that not everyone should be allowed to vote. In the place of universal suffrage Heinlein proposed the idea that the legal status of Citizen, who is a member of the sovereign class of the nation with the authority to vote, has to be earned. Then as now there were people who clearly didn’t understand the concept of government. Then as now there were those who sought to exploit the ignorance of the mere voter in order to obtain political power. And worse to obtain power without restraint. Heinlein had proposed the idea of earning the sovereign franchise as a filtering mechanism to prevent obvious fools--such as peace activists--from influencing government.
The idea of the restricted franchise is not new. In the Polis of Athens the franchise was restricted to property owning members of
the tribe but there was no legal restraint on the state. As history had
shown this led to dysfunctions such as legal murder of Socrates.
It was not enough to restrict the powers of government but to restrict
who could actually participate in the process of governing. In effect
to idiot-proof the system.
So is it actually necessary to fully implement the system that Heinlein proposed?
The fact is that all forms of authority are based on knowledge and
political authority is no exception. But in the present system political authority is granted to any warm
body without regard to their the actual state of knowledge. As a result
some warm bodies have traded their votes for a material object such as
an IPad or a wad of cash. Or worse they have traded their votes for the
warm and fuzzy feeling of having been compassionate.
The result is out present state of our nation. Those who lack knowledge
or simple concern for consequences should not have authority over
another person, let alone the fate of a nation.
My solution to the problem is simply proper education in the obligations of citizenship.
The course would be similar to a driver education course as presently
taught. The first part of the class covers The Constitution, the proper
functions of each branch of government, the function of each clause and
amendment, the duties of the citizen as a member of the sovereign authority of the
nation, and what is expected to happen when the Federal Government enters the failure mode.
The second part of the course covers the function and use of the
instrument of political authority, the personal weapon. This covers
rifle marksmanship and maintenance. Also covered is the basic
organization and tactics of the citizen militia unit.
While the citizenship course will not be mandatory, completion and a
passing grade will be required to exercise the authority to vote.