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"Ayn Rand is a bloody socialist compared to me"

Posted by freedomforall 1 month, 3 weeks ago to Philosophy
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A discussion of the work of the author who said that his work was "an invitation to think-not to believe."
SOURCE URL: http://reason.com/archives/2007/07/09/robert-heinlein-at-100/print


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  • Posted by  $  Temlakos 1 month, 2 weeks ago
    The only sense in which Heinlein correctly described his difference with Rand, is this:

    Heinlein was, as he described himself, a rational anarchist. He didn't believe that the management of force was any different from any other good or service. Therefore he believed people retained the absolute right to manage force themselves. Society then became an uneasy mutual non-aggression treaty. See The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for a full description.
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    • Posted by jconne 1 month, 2 weeks ago
      That quote makes his position distinct from Objectivism quite clear - like founding Libertarians, anarchists. Oops.
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      • Posted by  $  Temlakos 1 month, 2 weeks ago
        Agreed. But Heinlein exaggerated when he said Ayn Rand was "a bloody socialist" compared to him. In the end it all came down to the management of force, and whether force in retaliation - as distinct from force in self-defense - was the right of the individual, or the prerogative of the community. She would certainly agree with him that the community need not inspect all goods sold within it. The individual could do that himself, or hire someone to do it. But consider what happens when the clients of two security services have a dispute. As Rand lays it out in "The Nature of Government," such a situation could rapidly degenerate into gang warfare.
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        • Posted by jconne 1 month, 2 weeks ago
          AKA - feudalism! There needs to be one law of the land and one primary enforcer of objective law.

          You can hire your own security guards or body guards, but you and they are accountable under the law.
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          • Posted by jdg 1 month, 2 weeks ago
            Here I must take Heinlein's side. There does need to be just one supreme law, and an overall governing structure stable enough to avoid constant wars (though there is plenty of room for some kind of federalism under that one supreme law). But I would much rather see occasional wars to restore the objective law when government has started abusing its prerogatives, than the kind of stable tyranny you find running China for most of its history.
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            • Posted by ewv 1 month, 2 weeks ago
              Yes, the principle of limited government is neither anarchism nor Chinese dictatorship, which are a false alternative with much in common with each other: arbitrary force.
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              • Posted by jdg 1 month, 2 weeks ago
                I am not proposing anarchism or anything like it -- just that the government works for us, and from time to time needs to be shut down against its will and replaced, because the rest of the time it is always accumulating power and never giving any back. And that competing "police" are not a problem as long as they're willing to follow the one ultimate law.
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                • Posted by ewv 1 month, 2 weeks ago
                  Security guards, body guards, and local and state government aren't a problem as long as they remain within Constitutional limits and proper applicable law protecting the rights of the individual. But in this culture they don't, and there is no short term way to change that.

                  If people understood enough and had enough integrity there wouldn't be any need to 'shut it down'. When they don't there is no way to do it -- if they won't vote ethically on the right principles then why would they revolt for anything but more chaos?

                  This isn't a matter of government actions widely recognized as corrupt, it's much more fundamental. There are occasional minor corrections when it gets bad enough, but they are zig-zags on a fundamentally downward course because people don't know what else to do. The politics follows bad philosophical premises.
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          • Posted by  $  Temlakos 1 month, 2 weeks ago
            And that is what Heinlein failed to recognize. One law, and one enforcer, uniquely authorized to exert force in retaliation.
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            • Posted by 1 month, 2 weeks ago
              Unfortunately, history has shown that no implementation of this prevents corruption of the enforcer. Power has always corrupted the one with the power to enforce.
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              • Posted by ewv 1 month, 2 weeks ago
                That is not true. The kind of government we get depends on the dominant philosophy of the nation. That some government workers will likely be open to corruption is not different than the likelihood of any crime.
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          • Posted by freetrader 4 days, 21 hours ago
            this is just monopoly and (forced) "altruism". that you owe others what is needed if it is for protection. You don't owe anyone anything and any rational ethics system is going to recognize that. essentially even "basic" services are just socialism under another name if they are forced contributed to by a state instead of voluntary (I'd argue this is the definition of the state).

            Governments exist because they are practical solutions to mutual protection, not because they need force to make people belong
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    • Posted by Rex_Little 1 month, 2 weeks ago
      One of Heinlein's heroic characters (Professor Bernardo de la Paz of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) described himself as a rational anarchist, but to my knowledge Heinlein never revealed himself as such.

      (When Prof first spoke of his political views, someone asked him "Randite?" He replied, "I can live with a Randite.")
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      • Posted by jdg 1 month, 2 weeks ago
        It's fairly well known in the libertarian movement that Prof de la Paz was really the late pacifist-libertarian Robert LeFevre, whom Heinlein knew well.

        LeFevre's most-quoted position was that people have a right to own property "but not a right to any particular property!" If any attempt was ever made either to explain or to rationalize this obvious contradiction, I haven't heard of it. LeFevre had his followers but I would not call any of them true libertarians.
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  • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 1 month, 2 weeks ago
    I read a lot of Heinlein after Ayn Rand. He was not an Objectivist, but he was truly an objectivist, a rational-empiricist who applied the scientific method intuitively to his life and his world. Time and again, I found his insights and outlooks helpful, not so much for the answers, as for the questions.

    For myself, I contrast Starship Troopers with The Man Who Sold the Moon. But wherever you open any one of his books, you find something to think about. At least, I have.
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  • Posted by philosophercat 1 month, 2 weeks ago
    Rand like Locke realized that one must produce to survive but since men have free will and can choose to be evil some will steal rather than produce. Limited Government is the least cost system of property protection that lets the producer keep working rather than sitting with a shotgun on his wood pile. Anarchists want to sit on their woodpiles with automatic weapons and socialists want to steal the wood piles from them. I yearn for a moral civilization after the Objectivist moral revolution when I can work and keep the fruits of my labor without sitting on a pile of empty shell casings surrounded by the bodies of socialists and anarchists: they stink..
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  • Posted by Lucky 1 month, 3 weeks ago
    This article makes me nostalgic. I am a great fan of Heinlein having read Stranger in 1970.
    I read Upton Sinclair earlier than that.

    "Ayn Rand is a bloody socialist compared to me"
    I thought that was our freedomforall speaking!
    But Heinlein was not an Objectivist or libertarian or authoritarian or anything
    As writer Doherty says in the Reason article
    'the best way to understand Heinlein in toto is as a full-service iconoclast,
    the unique individual who decides that things do not have to be, and won't continue, as they are.'

    I like this observation from from George Bernard Shaw (!) that Heinlein adored:
    that only a barbarian "believes that the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature."

    This is a good thought-
    he gave us "an invitation to think - not to believe."
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  • Posted by Ed75 1 month, 2 weeks ago
    Heinlein wrote many interesting stories. One of my favorites is "Time Enough for Love". Lots of thought provoking stuff in it.
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  • Posted by ewv 1 month, 2 weeks ago
    One can enjoy aspects of Heinlein's fiction, but Ayn Rand was the diametric opposite of socialism in all fundamentals: There is no such thing as some degree that is less socialist than she was. A-philosophical libertarians often confuse a vague psychological, hedonistic "libertarianism" with fundamental opposition to socialism. They are not less socialistic than Ayn Rand. Especially when they wander into anarchism their elements of subjectivism have more in common with collectivism, not less.
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    • Posted by freetrader 4 days, 21 hours ago
      neither Ayn Rand receiving social security or Alan Greenspan being the head of the largest fiat money producing organization at one time make them shining examples of being 100% non socialists.

      There is a vast difference between things you read in books or the people who write them and the way things actual are in reality.
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      • Posted by ewv 4 days, 4 hours ago
        Ayn Rand paid enormous taxes all her life and had every right to get back what she could. It was not a "vast difference" of hypocrisy. She wrote about this principle in "The Question of Scholarships".

        Alan Greenspan began his work in the Ford administration to make a difference for the better, not to help or exploit 'socialism'. He seems to have continued with that attitude in trying to at least minimize regulation, though his reasoning and actions became increasingly dubious. He still admired Ayn Rand but clearly was not an Objectivist.
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  • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 1 month, 2 weeks ago
    I just spent the weekend at Armadillocon, my first real science fiction convention. This being Austin, it was a very literary event, all about writing and selling. Heinlein is still held in high regard for his style, plot, characterizations, themes, and challenging ideas.
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  • Posted by  $  Olduglycarl 1 month, 2 weeks ago
    Thanks Freedom,..Have seen the films but didn't know the man...shame though, he thought moral ethics and behaviors to be bourgeoisie and something to be avoided after all, it's what made America good and great.
    A lesson we must re-learn and embrace but this time...in a conscious way instead of a mystical way...in other words, we should treat ourselves as grown ups and not flawed pagan children; even though, most of the world still acts that way.
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    • Posted by 1 month, 2 weeks ago
      I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at RAH's treatment of moral ethics and behavior. If you read his books you will be greatly entertained and inspired by his celebration of individual liberty, productivity, and the spirit of respectful exploration. There is much to be gained from Heinlein's books if you have the time. Your public library probably has some of his books. His earlier works are more adventure and less morality play, and display remarkable imagination and foresight.
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      • Posted by  $  winterwind 1 month, 2 weeks ago
        When advising people to/on reading Heinlein, it's important to differentiate between his early "young adult" fiction and his later, post Strangers, work. Of course I advise people to read his whole body of work, but his YA pieces make it easier to find the philosophical points. As an example, try the 2nd version of Red Planet. He was required to take out all of the pro-gun material in the first one, to get it published. The second one is much richer.
        It also occurs to me that YA Heinlein is, among many other things, a primer on how to live, while his later work is more about living your life. hmm...
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    • Posted by jdg 1 month, 2 weeks ago
      Heinlein disclaimed most of the moral views espoused by his characters. For a discussion of what he really believed, read his Expanded Universe.
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