Heinlein as Libertarian
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Author:  RobertJames [ Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein as Libertarian

This popped back up, and I just want to mention that I pegged RAH as a Jeffersonian Republican, and Ginny fully agreed.

Also, his historian brother's Ph.D. was on Jefferson's Sec-Treasury, Albert Gallatin.

Where RAH is coming out of is the Real Whig tradition (Engish writers opposing the growth of patronage and a Crown Party in early 1700s England, who opposed what they saw as corruption, and provided the American Revolutionaries with their basic conspiracy plot: 1) beware debt, because it places government in service to the rich; 2) which then leads to higher taxes, which are taken from the middle and lower classes, because the rich are not going to get taxed to pay back money to themselves; 3) watch for the growth of the bureaucracy, because it will be filled with nepotism and flunkies as favors to the rich; and 4) beware the standing army, because it will be used in times of peace to remove your freedoms and liberties and force you to conform to the payment of the debt, the rise in taxes, and the growth of government.

Hence, what drove the American Revolution was this paranoid fear of what they thought the British government was trying to do, rather than, perhaps, what it actually was doing.

Jefferson lived his whole life fighting the American Revolution -- and I think this is a fair description of RAH -- and Ginny, as well.

Jefferson's liberal party, which morphed over time into the Democrats, was opposed violently to debt, to large government, and to taxes; it was highly in favor of farmers, education, and a spread to new frontiers. There is more to cite, but that's a good start.

The Jeffersonians were the party of the frontier, of the movement west, of independent educated yeoman farmers (and think of how often that forms the backbone of Heinlein's applause).

As they were also the party of slavery, one also has to be worried about how this tradition cannot be applied blindly to RAH.

Rather, it is the reforming spirit of Jefferson which left the party as it solidified into the party of slaveowners and immigrants under Jackson and his successors.

I think we can trace that spirit through the Freesoilers, the early Republican party, the freethought tradition of people like Robert Ingersoll, and most importantly, the farmers' movements of the Grange and the Populists, which also inspired the Progressive movement.

It is the Progressive movement that is the "matrix" that forms RAH's lifelong desire to find solutions to problems through research, logic, pragmatism, and group effort. Woodrow Wilson was the president of his childhood (and Wilson's racism was not as widely known as it is now)' the dream of the League of Nations became RAH's commitment to one world government, until the first world trip disabused him of the idea that most of the world understood democratic traditions necessary for a successful world government.

His supposed movement from the left to the right is more that he was standing firm in this classic liberal position, while the rest of the country moved WAY to the left (and, I must say, WAY to the right). RAH was deeply concerned in maintaining the American character, as defined largely by the strains I've outlined above. In the thirties, the problem was economic, and so, the Republicans' refusal to consider new solutions, and their wholesale abandonment of the Progressive "we can solve any problem" mindset led him to FDR -- who was, very much, Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson's successor. At the end of the forties, the problem became that of nuclear war and the end of the earth; he supported Truman, and JFK, in their firm opposition, and raged at Eisenhower -- most publicly! -- in his supposed failure to prepare for facing the Soviets. His turn to AuH20 is only surprising in that we forget that Goldwater came AFTER the Patrick Henry campaign -- and that RAH firmly rejected the John Birchers as well (when they told him what he could or could not read....).

I have often thought that his books from the fifties on are an increasingly intensifying effort to sustain, defend, and project the American character he saw as under serious threat -- and that he turned to whoever would serve that purpose, as well as assaulting whatever strains of the current political situation threatened that character (Farnham's Freehold attacks the communist/nuclear threat, but it also rejects any concept of character or power based on skin color, black or white; Bill once told me he couldn't understand why RAH wrote Job, until I pointed out the rise of Falwell and the Moral Majority).

I get the feeling I need to write all this up; clearly, it's been too long since I published

Author:  JackKelly [ Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein as Libertarian

A very good job of linking Heinlein's influences together, Robert. It certainly makes sense, and helps to dispel the notion that Heinlein's political thinking changed radically over time. Thanks for that. I do hope you find an appropriate forum to expand on your thoughts.

Author:  FredReynolds [ Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein as Libertarian

Might be helpful: on the semantic shift of the term "liberal" (from Jeffersonian classical liberalism to Wilsonian progressivism), see The Decline of American Liberalism. In my mind this jibes with Dr. James analysis above, and helps a great deal in understanding how Heinlein, like Mencken and many others, was perceived to shift position while actually standing firm.

Author:  RobertJames [ Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein as Libertarian

Perhaps not so surprisingly, that book is on my desk this morning....I keep meaning to read it....:)

Author:  RobertJames [ Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein as Libertarian

My conservative department chair dumped this article on my desk this morning, which led me to read it again.

There are some breathtakingly bad assumptions at the end of this; RAH specifically denied LeFevre was the model, and Ginny did not form the model for RAH's later beliefs. Like many, Riggenbach takes Asimov at his word. Sadly, the more I learn about Asimov, the more I realize how little he really understood nuance and human nature. And Asimov's politics were so engrained into him he never questioned any of his beliefs on that scale -- a liberal he was from day 1 to the end. While RAH did shift on a few positions, due to new information, Asimov was a New Deal liberal in almost all his public pronouncements. Leaving out, of course, his early flirtations, along with Pohl, of his Marxism....

Asimov also seems to have completely skewed our impression of Campbell as a guide; Campbell jokes in a letter that only Asimov ever took his guidance so thoroughly. Campbell offered ideas, and critical feedback; only with Asimov were the suggestions and training so thoroughly imbibed....


Author:  BillMullins [ Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein as Libertarian

Is Riggenbach correct in saying that Asimov new Heinlein from the mid-30's onward? I'd be truly surprised to find out that they had any relationship at all before Heinlein published "Life-Line" Did they ever meet face to face before they both showed up working for the Navy in Philly during WWII?

Author:  BillPatterson [ Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein as Libertarian

BillMullins wrote:
Is Riggenbach correct in saying that Asimov new Heinlein from the mid-30's onward? I'd be truly surprised to find out that they had any relationship at all before Heinlein published "Life-Line" Did they ever meet face to face before they both showed up working for the Navy in Philly during WWII?

So far as I know their first contact of any kind was a series of fan letters from Asimov to Heinlein starting late in 1939.

They met for the first of many times in May-June 1940 when Heinlein was in New York. That particular meeting was only briefly memorialized in Asimov's desk diary. He was going to pick up an illustration for one of his stories and RAH (and probably Leslyn) happened to be in Campbell's office at the time.

Asimov tells of a meeting deliberately arranged at Campbell's house in New Jersey in spring 1942, where he got drung for the first time courtesy RAH and his favorite Cuba Libres. Apparently this was the occasion when he was inspected and passed for recommendation for the AML to pick up Asimov for its Chemistry section -- in order to keep "that young idiot" from enlistingn in the army. As RAH said succinctly : "Masters in chemistry are not cannon fodder"

Author:  RobertJames [ Thu Jun 03, 2010 6:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein as Libertarian

I love that story about RAH slipping Asimov rum in his coke -- Asimov's character was such that RAH said something along the lines of "No wonder he doesn't shuts him up!"

Author:  FredReynolds [ Thu Jun 03, 2010 1:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein as Libertarian

RobertJames wrote:
RAH specifically denied LeFevre was the model...

This is interesting. I asked LeFevre; he responded that RAH had told him that de la Paz was based "one-quarter on me, three-quarters on a handful of very obscure Russian anarchists." I'm not doubting that Bob (LeFevre) could embellish a story ;) .

Where did RAH make the denial?

Author:  RobertJames [ Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Heinlein as Libertarian

By deny, I mean the idea that he was the sole model. IIRC, there are letters at the time which discuss the issue; RAH may well have told him that.

I will have to take a look at the correspondence.

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