Skip to comments.All I Ever Really Needed To Know About Citizenship, I Learned From Starship Troopers
Posted on 04/09/2010 6:49:45 PM PDT by Publius772000
Ask most people about Starship Troopers, and, if they recognize the name at all, theyll link it to the over-hyped 1997 film directed by Paul Verhoeven. This is unfortunate, as the film did no justice to the Heinlein text. My first acquaintance with the book came in 2003 when I found a 1959 copy in a flea market in Indian Springs, GA for the tidy sum of $5.
Id never read the book before buying that copy, but I consumed it in a day. The writing was aimed at a young adult audience, but its themes resonate today, regardless of age.
The book, like the film, focuses on the exploits of Juan Johnnie Rico, a young high school graduate who decides to gain his citizenship through Federal Service. Heinleins post-20th century world is governed by a military republic where citizenship is attained through some form of service, primarily in the armed forces. Rico finds himself funneled into the Mobile Infantry, where he is trained to be a cap (capsule) trooper. During his training, the Earth enters a war against the bugs and the skinnies, two alien races. The book chronicles Ricos journey from his entrance into Federal Service through his rigorous training and his time in officers school. Unlike the film, much of the book is set in Ricos various classes throughout his training, most notably his courses on History and Moral Philosophy, which discussed the reasons behind conflict in general and the organization of the government in Ricos time.
Heinleins book, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960, was both praised and criticized by the science fiction community. Some argued that Heinlein, who was a 1929 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was recruiting for the military...
(Excerpt) Read more at theconstitutionalalamo.com ...
When I first read ST, I loved it so much that my wife wanted to read it to see what the fuss was about. She did, and it became one of her favorites as well. I think you’re right about it being an obvious “guy” book, as we see the value in the kinds of friendships discussed, but my wife loved it for the same reason she loved Atlas Shrugged... the sense of duty and fairness that is woven throughout, and the ability to compare our society with the one created by Heinlein. Especially considering our current political and social culture, I think women would enjoy the themes as well as men do. One of the best passages in the book, especially for my wife and me, being teachers, is the section in which the idea of juvenile delinquency is discussed. Heinlein even painted the late 20th century as a time of teenage lawlessness and school violence. School violence!! He wrote about it in 1959.
read the book. no one was a slave. soldiers could quit right before going into combat, if they wished.
Here is a link to a fascinating 12 page article about Troopers and citizenship.
parsy, who says did you guys know there was a SS Troopers III out? Its on HBO and Encore some.
Ban plate tectonics, now!
Tue. Being a soldier was an honor, not an obligation.
>>> I’m trying to get into Time Enough for Love, but just can’t get there
“Time Enough For Love” was the final episode of the Future History timeline. I don’t think you can appreciate how it ties together the series and loose ends until you have read the prior stories of the series, many written in the 1940s.
Most of these are collected in “The Past Through Tomorrow”, including the initial introduction of Lazarus Long.
The first movie was watchable. So was the third. The second one, however was about as excrable and S T U P I D as anything I have ever seen, and had absolutely nothing to do with the original story. I kept watching because I thought there was going to be a pony in there somewhere, but it turned out to be one of the WORST movies I have ever seen.
>>> Being a government slave for a while will sure be a great benefit to liberty.
As Heinlein explains it in the novel, it is the farthest thing from slavery. It simply requires people to accept responsibility for themselves before they may exert authority over others.
In the time prior to the start of the novel there had been world war leading to total civil breakdown. Local vigilante groups of veterans took charge and restored order. This developed into a general system of government. In a discussion during an Officers Candidate School class, the system is explained thus:
The sovereign franchise has been bestowed by all sorts of rules place of birth, family of birth, race, sex, property, education, age, religion, et cetera. All these systems worked and none of them well. All were regarded as tyrannical by many, all eventually collapsed or were overthrown.
Now here are we with still another system . . . and our system works quite well. Many complain but none rebel; personal freedom for all is greatest in history, laws are few, taxes are low, living standards are as high as productivity permits, crime is at its lowest ebb. Why? Not because our voters are smarter than other people; weve disposed of that argument.
Mr. Tammany can you tell us why our system works better than any used by our ancestors?
I dont know where Clyde Tammany got his name; Id take him for a Hindu. He answered, Uh, Id venture to guess that its because the electors are a small group who know that the decisions are up to them . . . so they study the issues.
No guessing, please; this is exact science. And your guess is wrong. The ruling nobles of many another system were a small group fully aware of their grave power. Furthermore, our franchised citizens are not everywhere a small fraction; you know or should know that the percentage of citizens among adults ranges from over eighty per cent on Iskander to less than three per cent in some Terran nations yet government is much the same everywhere.
Nor are the voters picked men; they bring no special wisdom, talent, or training to their sovereign tasks. So what difference is there between our voters and wielders of franchise in the past? We have had enough guesses; Ill state the obvious: Under our system every voter and officeholder is a man who has demonstrated through voluntary and difficult service that he places the welfare of the group ahead of personal advantage.
And that is the one practical difference.
He may fail in wisdom, he may lapse in civic virtue. But his average performance is enormously better than that of any other class of rulers in history.
Major Reid paused to touch the face of an old-fashioned watch, reading its hands. The period is almost over and we have yet to determine the moral reason for our success in governing ourselves. Now continued success is never a matter of chance. Bear in mind that this is science, not wishful thinking; the universe is what it is, not what we want it to be. To vote is to wield authority; it is the supreme authority from which all other authority derives such as mine to make your lives miserable once a day.
Force, if you will! the franchise is force, naked and raw, the Power of the Rods and the Ax. Whether it is exerted by ten men or by ten billion, political authority is force.
But this universe consists of paired dualities. What is the converse of authority? Mr. Rico.
He had picked one I could answer. Responsibility, sir.
Applause. Both for practical reasons and for mathematically verifiable moral reasons, authority and responsibility must be equal, else a balancing takes place as surely as current `flows between points of unequal
potential. To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy. The unlimited democracies were unstable because their citizens were not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority . . . other than through the tragic logic of history. The unique `poll tax that we must pay was unheard of. No attempt was made to determine whether a voter was socially responsible to the extent of his literally unlimited authority. If he voted the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead and responsibility was then forced on him willy-nilly and destroyed both him and his foundationless temple.
Superficially, our system is only slightly different; we have democracy unlimited by race, color, creed, birth, wealth, sex, or conviction, and anyone may win sovereign power by a usually short and not too arduous term of service nothing more than a light workout to our cave-man ancestors. But that slight difference is one between a system that works, since it is constructed to match the facts, and one that is inherently unstable. Since sovereign franchise is the ultimate in human authority, we insure that all who wield it accept the ultimate in social responsibility we require each person who wishes to exert control over the state to wager his own life and lose it, if need be to save the life of the state. The maximum responsibility a human can accept is thus equated to the ultimate authority a human can exert. Yin and yang, perfect and equal.
Thanks for posting my 2nd or 3rd favorite lesson from the book... I think the lecture on value is my favorite, followed closely by this and the juvenile delinquency discussion.
No, because you’d realize that the book stated that if you wanted the right to vote and run for office, you had to show that you believed in and supported your nation - through ‘federal service’.
Citizenship was automatic, voting was not.
Then you might be interested in this article.
There are a lot of posters in it that think the idea of unpaid internships to be wonderful.
The other fitting quip: “Starship Troopers 90210”
Denise should’ve been in that shower scene. We wuz robbed !
No vote, no taxes
I realize this argument has been going on for a few hours now, but we keep coming back to the same point. Obviously, we are not necessarily advocating a system like that in Heinlein’s book. What we are all desiring is that our electorate be more conscious and responsible. Why do you think the progressives are always attempting to push us closer and closer to a democracy and away from a Republic?
But, since we are discussing this particular text, and you seem to have such an aversion to this theme of citizenship through service, let me again remind you of the basic premise. People were not civilians unless they chose to be. Citizenship could be attained. The right to vote could be attained. If you disliked paying taxes without having a say in it, you would have the right to gain your franchise. The law, in the book, stated that if you couldn’t make the grade for the military but insisted on doing your part, they would assign you to some sort of menial or clerical work, and you’d still attain your franchise. The point is you had a choice. What you continue to label as slavery or despotism is neither. As one of the other posters said, even hardened soldiers had the option of quitting, even seconds before a drop into combat. There was no force used, no coercion. No soldier wanted a man next to him that didn’t want to be there.
So, if you lived in that system and wanted to have a say in the taxes you pay, you would sign up and forever hold valuable the franchise you held when you finished your service. If not, you would live, work, and pay taxes for the workings of the government, all the while knowing that it was your choice to remain a civilian.
In 2010 America, I’d love to refuse to pay my taxes as well, especially since a person who pays none (and yet likely gets a “refund”) has as much say as I do. So how much more worthwhile is your vote in our reality, seeing as how nearly half the population pays nothing and yet can dictate who will set tax policies on you?
Citizenship could be attained from who?
The Right to vote can be attained from who?
That is a very powerful central government it sounds like. The power to bestow who is a citizen and who is not, who an vote and who can not.
If the choice was that or libertarianism, I’d go with the weird libertarians.
If I have no say in the government then I should not pay taxes to that government.
I’d rather have NO government at all.
Let me put it this way, how high would the tax rate be if only government employees could vote?
It sounded like a good idea at the time.
We had all seen how the system back on Earth was screwed up where those who paid no taxes were outvoting those who did.
We thought we would fix that on our new colony. After some furious debate the new Constitution was made the law of the land. It stated that citizenship was gained through federal service.
It seemed simple at the time.
Somehow as soon as it was enacted all government employees were deemed to be doing their Federal Service. Government employees have a vested interest in a larger, more expensive, more powerful government. It was the first inkling I had that we had been had.
I spent three years in a frozen wasteland, in crowded wasteland setting fire to icy water tanks so we could flush the toilets to get my right to vote. Tens of thousands of us did, I saw men learn to follow orders and see the government as their masters. I didnt like that.
As soon as my duties were completed I returned to Home City to find that the government had created dozens of new projects, even art projects that counted as federal service. They had figured out a way that pretty much everyone had the right to vote no matter how little effort they put in. All of these programs emphasized fealty to the state.
It was the State Party that dominated the television and radio broadcasts, apparently many of the channels available were operated through some Federal Service program.
Government expands. That is what it does with the littlest bits of power.
Somehow the government had grown to enormous proportions, those in these various federal service programs and employed by the state almost outnumbered the rest of us.
Sadly the state also operated most of the schools and media outlets. Their propaganda encouraged many who should have been with us to vote for them.
So the State Party won the elections on the platform of expanding government and expanding Federal Service. The Liberty Party leaders looked dismayed as if they hadnt known for years that they had been had. The Liberty Party shook up its leadership as the new government raised taxes on those without the right to vote. They said the Constitutional limit on taxation did not apply to those people, or private business, or private property.
Somehow we ended up with something worse than we had fled from.
Loved this book. My favorite is “Time Enough for Love” and I find myself often thinking of one or another of Lazarus Long’s maxims for a happy life as I go about my day.
Government employees didn’t vote. You were not given your franchise until you were finished with service. Soldiers weren’t allowed to vote while in service because they would, obviously, vote down any proposition that sent them into harm’s way. How high will our tax rate go now that those who don’t pay it vote?
I prefer the title “Paul Verhoeven’s bug hunt movie for which ultra cautious lawyers told him he should option the title of Heinlein’s 1959 novel”, myself
See that's where you're wrong. Only retired government employees can vote. While you are working for the government you have less say in your working conditionas that a civilian does.
Gotcha. I’ll have to read more. Thanks!
Congratulations! I’d like to know you.
And of course...
...no taxes, no vote.
There was no forced servitude to the state. Are you sure you read this book?
Do you attend science fiction conventions? This year I'll be at MARCON and at CONTEXT (both in Columbus, OH); at NASFIC (Raleigh, NC); and at ARCHON (St. Louis).
It’s a great book, I must have worn out 4 copies over the decades. Give it a shot.
If you liked Troopers, try Space Cadet and Farmer in the Sky.
I like the book for what it is, as explained in the article.
I like the movie for what it is as well. A campy funny action flick w/ very little to do with the book beyond the basic story framework. I thought it was hilarious.
Anyone who went to that movie expecting a proper rendition of the book would likewise complain that a 5”x7” photo doesn’t properly display the panorama of the sky (N S S award).
You may as well say you don’t like rocks because they are not soft.
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