Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Starship Troopers

STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert A. Heinlein (1959)

This is the subject of a paper I should have written in high school. Although if I had submitted it to the English teacher who taught the class on Science Fiction I very likely would have been crucified had I done so at the time.

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.

Although the descent into statism can be dated back to the expansion of the franchise it was the common acceptance of the notion of the unrestrained state that has brought about the current crisis.

Heinlein had an interesting notion but it was ultimately wrong.

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