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tofu
2005-Mar-02, 04:51 PM
I'm not really a Heinlein fan (after reading Stranger in a Strange Land, I think he's kind of a weird guy). But Starship Troopers was on TV the other day and it got me thinking about his ideas on government. It's been quite a few years since I read the book, but here's what I took from it:

1. The central idea is that you're not likely to put much value on a civil right that's just given to you because you were lucky enough to be born. Therefore, the most important civil right, the right to participate in government, should *not* be given - it should be earned.

2. In the Starship Troopers society, every person has every other civil right and freedom - that would include freedom of speech and religion, the right to protest, the right to own property, etc. It is exactly like modern western democracies with this one exception: you have to earn the right to vote by performing some service to your country.

3. Every person has a right to serve. No one can be turned away because of, for example, physical handicap. if you're in the advanced stages of leukemia and you're a double amputee confined to a wheelchair, you still have the right to serve. Maybe they'll stick you in an outpost in Siberia and have you take voltage readings from a bank of batteries for two years. Whatever it is, they have to find something for you to do because it is your right to serve. Furthermore, it is your right to quit at any time (unless you're under enemy fire obviously). You just say, "I want to out" and they let you go, no questions asked. This makes it absolutely impossible to have a draft.

4. The result of this system is that the people who can vote greatly value it. It is a precious right to them, and they use it wisely. They wouldn't let politicians get away with lying to them or stealing from them. The people who don't take it seriously, and who would vote based on the attractiveness of a politician or based on something they saw on MTV, are removed from the system - but not oppressed or otherwise denied access to society.

Some people say that it's a fascist government, and the movie certainly portrayed it that way, but I don't think so. I would point out that Rico's father was independently wealthy, and he achieved that without having to serve in the military. More importantly, he and others openly criticized the government and the military, something you can't usually do in a fascist society. All in all, I'd say that civilians were generally happy with their lives.

Some people say that the government was war-like. That may well be true, but as I pointed out above, it's impossible to have a draft under this system. They'll have to be more careful with their wars than any modern Earth-government because they can only be war-like so long as they don't get all of the volunteers killed off. If a country like the US really got itself into trouble, there would be a draft. In Starship Troopers, they'd have to just stop fighting.

In discussing this with a friend of mine, he said that in fact civilians do not have all the same rights as citizens. He pointed out that a chick in the movie said she was in the military so that she could have kids. Actually, that's not exactly what she said. She said it was "easier to get a license" that way. Look, population control is something we are going to have to deal with if we want our civilization to survive. The planet cannot sustain a population of 50 billion people. Like it or not, in the future, you will have to get a license or otherwise some type of permission to have children. Still, I suppose that if I was designing the system, I'd make it more like the one depicted in Ring World, than Starship Troopers.

But anyway, I know we'll never have a government organized this way, but I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on it. To me it sounds like kind of a good idea.

Spacewriter
2005-Mar-02, 06:51 PM
I always kind of liked Clarke's approach to the presidency: anybody who REALLY wants it is automatically out of the running!

trob
2005-Mar-02, 07:33 PM
1. The central idea is that you're not likely to put much value on a civil right that's just given to you because you were lucky enough to be born. Therefore, the most important civil right, the right to participate in government, should *not* be given - it should be earned.

Then it stops being a right and becomes instead a privilege!!! In this case a special privilege enjoyed by the worrior caste...hence fascism.


The word comes from fascio (plural: fasci), which may mean "bundle", as in a political or militant group
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism


Generally speaking a right corresponds with a complementary obligation that others have on the same object or realm; for instance if someone has a right on a thing, simultaneously another party or parties have an obligation to do something (or to abstain from doing something) in order to respect that right or to give concrete execution to that right http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rights



Privilege...A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste. [...]
Such an advantage, immunity, or right held as a prerogative of status or rank, and exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=2&q=privilege

Its all a question of definitions...

All the best
Trob :D

Krel
2005-Mar-02, 07:43 PM
tofu, Heinlein did get a bit strange near the end, but do not mistake the politics in Heinlein's book to that movie, They are very different. The people that did the movie hated the politics of the book and Heinlein, and freely admitted that they were out to 'subvert them'. Their words given in a panel at the 96 World Con.

In the book you could not vote until you were out of the military, and it was not a military government. This site does a good job of compairing the two. http://www.kentaurus.com/troopers.htm

David.

Normandy6644
2005-Mar-02, 07:49 PM
tofu, Heinlein did get a bit strange near the end, but do not mistake the politics in Heinlein's book to that movie, They are very different. The people that did the movie hated the politics of the book and Heinlein, and freely admitted that they were out to 'subvert them'. Their words given in a panel at the 96 World Con.

In the book you could not vote until you were out of the military, and it was not a military government. This site does a good job of compairing the two. http://www.kentaurus.com/troopers.htm

David.

Wow, great site. Thanks!!

I enjoyed the movie and the book independently, and because they were so different I never try to compare them by saying which I thought was better.

Disinfo Agent
2005-Mar-02, 08:25 PM
I always kind of liked Clarke's approach to the presidency: anybody who REALLY wants it is automatically out of the running!
But can you be sure if they really want it? :wink:

Van Rijn
2005-Mar-02, 08:29 PM
Quick notes on "Starship Troopers":

People regularly make the mistake of assuming that only military service was available. Not true. You could serve in non-military government functions (regular civil service) and would earn the right to vote.

Also, while the focus of the story was on a trooper's life, it wasn't meant to imply that the society as a whole was extensively militaristic (if anything, there was a relatively small military force). For all that, Heinlein specifically stated he intended it to be be a controversial story, though perhaps not for the reasons people often assume.

As other's have pointed out, the movie was a completely different animal. It is very different from Heinlein's story.

Eta C
2005-Mar-02, 08:32 PM
Clarke's other idea (both are from Imperial Earth by the way) is that the President is selected by lottery from the best available candidates. Anyone who evinces a desire for the job is automatically disqualified. He has one of the characters quote a columnist as saying "We want a President who has to be dragged into the White House kicking and screaming so that once they're there they will do the best possible job so as to get time off for good behavior."

Ilya
2005-Mar-02, 09:45 PM
But anyway, I know we'll never have a government organized this way,

Do not be so sure. Both Romans and Athenians (and probably some other Greek city-states) had essentially that system -- one earned citizenship by serving in the military. And I am sure some people currently influential in Washington, such as Victor Davis Hanson (http://victorhanson.com/), would LOVE to have something like that.

Disinfo Agent
2005-Mar-02, 09:56 PM
Do not be so sure. Both Romans and Athenians (and probably some other Greek city-states) had essentially that system -- one earned citizenship by serving in the military.
Were some Athenians and some Romans prohibited from serving in the military, then?
Because I know that not all of them were granted citizenship...

tofu
2005-Mar-02, 10:00 PM
This site does a good job of compairing the two. http://www.kentaurus.com/troopers.htm


Thanks for the link. That was a good read.

Van Rijn
2005-Mar-02, 10:25 PM
That site does a good job, but repeats the incorrect "military service" line. It is clear in the book that you don't need to serve in the military to earn the right to vote. For those in the military, they can only vote after they retire. Not so clear in the book are the percentages, but Heinlein is quoted as saying 95% of the government jobs were non military. The survival rate for non military jobs would also be much higher, so most voters would not have served in the military.

Ilya
2005-Mar-02, 10:44 PM
Do not be so sure. Both Romans and Athenians (and probably some other Greek city-states) had essentially that system -- one earned citizenship by serving in the military.
Were some Athenians and some Romans prohibited from serving in the military, then?
Because I know that not all of them were granted citizenship...

At the peak of Roman Empire, noncitizens -- that is, conquered people and their descendants, -- outnumbered citizens 15 to 1. A barbarian could join a Legion and become a citizen upon discharge, but first, they did not take just anyone and second, you really had to serve out your term with honor. In both Rome and Athens a citizen's son* automatically had a citizenship, but had an option to give it up if he did not want to serve when called up. Few chose to do that though, because being a citizen entitled one to substantial benefits, such as full protection of law, not available otherwise. Not to mention the social opprobrium of being branded a coward.

* women were never citizens

Disinfo Agent
2005-Mar-02, 10:54 PM
Nor were slaves and foreigners.

mike alexander
2005-Mar-03, 12:48 AM
Starship Troopers was written, by Heinlein's own comment, as an exploration of why people fight, and how they become convinced that it is correct to sometimes do so (ignore that futzy film; it has nothing to do with the book).

As he says in the book, the government he makes up is there because it 'jest happened'. He explicitly says that it is not necessarily better.

It's amazing that this book still generates so much heat. And that it is assumed that the opinions expressed by the characters are an accurate reflection of the beliefs of the writer. As Sipder Robinson once noted, Heinlein wrote approvingly of all sorts of people and governments. If there is a consistent theme in his work, it seems to me to be one of approval of taking responsibility for one's actions.

Since I grew up reading the later juveniles as they came out, I was a bit jolted by Stranger in a Strange Land myself. It was a long time before I realized that the whole thing is a satire (The title gives it away, but then, I'm kinda slow). I mean, the Fosterites? A religious service whose core is a striptease with a snake, followed by big-screen football? A 'crucifixion' interrupted by advertisements?

Jpax2003
2005-Mar-03, 02:05 AM
1. The central idea is that you're not likely to put much value on a civil right that's just given to you because you were lucky enough to be born. Therefore, the most important civil right, the right to participate in government, should *not* be given - it should be earned.

Then it stops being a right at becomes instead at privilege!!! In this case a special privilege enjoyed by the worrior caste...hence fascism.


The word comes from fascio (plural: fasci), which may mean "bundle", as in a political or militant group
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism


Generally speaking a right corresponds with a complementary obligation that others have on the same object or realm; for instance if someone has a right on a thing, simultaneously another party or parties have an obligation to do something (or to abstain from doing something) in order to respect that right or to give concrete execution to that right http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rights



Privilege...A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste. [...]
Such an advantage, immunity, or right held as a prerogative of status or rank, and exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=2&q=privilege

Its all a question of definitions...

All the best
Trob :DThere was a big debate here several months ago about the meaning of fascism. I think it turned out that americans define it one way while europeans think of it another way. I think europeans see it as a bottom-up militant citizenry rather than the american idea of a top-down political military.

Whether or not Starship Troopers describes a fascist government is debatable. Moreover, its not clear if you think that's good, bad, or otherwise. When it comes down to the form of government, Heinlein makes the best statement when he writes that the reason they keep that form of government is because it works.

trob
2005-Mar-03, 06:37 AM
Whether or not Starship Troopers describes a fascist government is debatable. Moreover, its not clear if you think that's good, bad, or otherwise 8-[

BAD [-X ....I'm not a fascist thank you very much LOL :D
My conception of politics is dominated by the Aristotelian conception of moderation.

In fact Im not much for universal political ideologies (socialism, liberalism ect) of any sought, because I have my doubts about their ability to solve the complex problems that face a globalised world.
No recipie can be given to solve all the problems of the world a priori. You can't even give methodologies to solve the problems of the world apriori .

What we need is solid goals under the constraint of mutual respect and adopt approaches that unify these goals with viable and well reasoned sollutions. In addition we need review proceses so that we learn from our mistakes and hold people accountable for malinent and such.

I'm a lover not a killer - I want a republic of looooooove man

All the best
Trob :D

Staiduk
2005-Mar-03, 03:41 PM
I always liked Starship Troopers myself, both the book and the movie.
Oh; the movie was a silly, brainless piece of crap, no question but it was fun to watch. :D



It's amazing that this book still generates so much heat. And that it is assumed that the opinions expressed by the characters are an accurate reflection of the beliefs of the writer. As Sipder Robinson once noted, Heinlein wrote approvingly of all sorts of people and governments. If there is a consistent theme in his work, it seems to me to be one of approval of taking responsibility for one's actions.

Excellently written! Actually, it's not surprising at all it still creates controversy. The book itself is timeless; a hallmark of great writing. And you're right, people tend to confuse the theories in the book as the writer's own - often I suspect because often writers use their books nowadays to forward their own ideas. But with Heinlein at least, you see several forms of society, each wildly different from the others. For instance, the anarchy of the first part of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, the stable facism - if you will - of troopers, the wild disorganization of the Future History, etc.
However, overall the underlying theme - as Mike points out - is responsibility. (Prof's comments in which he describes himself as a 'rational anarchist' in Harsh Mistress is an excellent commentary on this.) He believes - I think, or at least he writes - that whatever the form of society or government, it can only really function unless people take responsibility for their own actions and place the interests of the 'state' ahead of their own.
:)

Cheers!

Disinfo Agent
2005-Mar-03, 04:10 PM
There was a big debate here several months ago about the meaning of fascism. I think it turned out that americans define it one way while europeans think of it another way.
Maybe that's got something to do with the fact that Europeans have experienced fascism more closely than Americans.

Doodler
2005-Mar-03, 04:33 PM
There was a big debate here several months ago about the meaning of fascism. I think it turned out that americans define it one way while europeans think of it another way.
Maybe that's got something to do with the fact that Europeans have experienced fascism more closely than Americans.

Maybe so, but the US perspective on politics is pretty different from Europe's. Americans take the concept of power to the people as a given, its what we founded this country on, where Europe is mostly overthrown or marginalized monarchies. The US is typically VERY suspicious of cults of personality in politics, even though we're as prone to them as anyone else (Senator McCarthy, anyone?). To Europeans, the idea of one person as the fulcrum of government may be more the culturally ingrained norm where Americans tend to put such persons under a microscope waiting for them to slip.

Disinfo Agent
2005-Mar-03, 04:50 PM
Maybe so, but the US perspective on politics is pretty different from Europe's.
I can agree with this, but not with the rest of what you say...


Americans take the concept of power to the people as a given, its what we founded this country on, where Europe is mostly overthrown or marginalized monarchies.
That's not a very flattering description of the republics and the (quite democratic) constitutional monarchies that currently exist in Europe. :)
I don't personally believe that what a country was when it was founded, many centuries ago, has much bearing on what it is today, from a political perspective.


The US is typically VERY suspicious of cults of personality in politics, even though we're as prone to them as anyone else (Senator McCarthy, anyone?). To Europeans, the idea of one person as the fulcrum of government may be more the culturally ingrained norm where Americans tend to put such persons under a microscope waiting for them to slip.
I think that European mentalities have changed a lot since the end of World War II and the fall of Communism (and Fascism) -- and perhaps because of those events. Cult of personality is no longer welcome. It is in fact regarded with great suspicion, I believe.