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Heinlein and the Founding Fathers 
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Heinlein Nexus

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Post Heinlein and the Founding Fathers
I have long argued that Heinlein's political thinking was highly influenced by the Founding Fathers, not the least of which is his extensive similarities to Jefferson's classical liberalism (excepting Jefferson's hostility to the military).

But I ran across this quote from John Adams in my new AP history text, and it seemed so strikingly familiar to Heinlein's warnings about democracy from the fifties on that I have to wonder if this isn't something he read himself when he was younger. Adams was afraid that the democracy which Pennsylvania had installed as its state government during the Revolution was highly dangerous, not the least of which was the unicameral legislature, and lack of an executive branch: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself."

Adams was afraid that "If you give [democrats] the command or preponderance in the....legislature, they will vote all property out of the hands of the aristocrats."

I recall Heinlein's fear that the US had discovered it could vote for anything it wanted to in the fifties, and the resulting argument in Starship Troopers about how democracies would consume themselves.


Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:46 am
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PITA Bred
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Post Re: Heinlein and the Founding Fathers
RobertJames wrote:
Adams was afraid that "If you give [democrats] the command or preponderance in the....legislature, they will vote all property out of the hands of the aristocrats."

Except that they haven't yet, in some 230 years. Punitive income tax came and went in a matter of a few decades. Estate taxes flop around but are still a factor only for a tiny percentage. I don't think there's ever been a case of a large landholder being forced to give away land and holdings, certain anti-trust cases to the contrary (and few barons lost money even on those divestments).

The current state of California is perhaps the worst case. In attempting to vote ourselves into a better future - with environmental and economic protections galore - we've completely hamstrung ourselves economically and socially. I'm not sure how we'll get it straightened out; although NY in the 1980s is a model, their recovery was wrought with balls of steel, not yoga balls. :P

(Although the present situation has a golden lining: LEAVE, YOU WHINING BASTARDS, LEAVE! A full discussion of what I think of California immigrants who bitch bitterly about this rule or that one, talk about the balmy, rule- and tax-free heaven of North Carolina or Texas or Alabama or whatever, but will not leave because there's no jobs baik hohm and they haven't made their pension yet here more properly belongs over in the Speakeasy.)

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Fri Oct 09, 2009 10:34 am
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Heinlein Nexus

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Post Re: Heinlein and the Founding Fathers
Jim, I didn't say he was RIGHT to have those fears...only that the causation between Adams and Heinlein may exist.


Fri Oct 09, 2009 10:39 am
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PITA Bred
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Post Re: Heinlein and the Founding Fathers
Ah, true. Pardon the digression; I am hip-deep in an arena filled with people bitching about sensible but individually inconvenient California regulations. If one more person tells me about how Nort' Cahlanha doesn't have such requirements... :evil:

I don't think any argument can be made against your basic contention. Heinlein's political viewpoints go back to the earliest roots of democracy, American style and don't seem to have much influence from later interpretations. Admirable, perhaps, but questionable as to practicality.


Fri Oct 09, 2009 10:48 am
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: Heinlein and the Founding Fathers
JamesGifford wrote:
Ah, true. Pardon the digression; I am hip-deep in an arena filled with people bitching about sensible but individually inconvenient California regulations. If one more person tells me about how Nort' Cahlanha doesn't have such requirements... :evil:

I don't think any argument can be made against your basic contention. Heinlein's political viewpoints go back to the earliest roots of democracy, American style and don't seem to have much influence from later interpretations. Admirable, perhaps, but questionable as to practicality.

What? No yeoman engineers leaning on their slipsticks in the north 40 in your view?

I am deeply suspicious of anything Adams has to say about the democrats of his day. If Jefferson was cracked on the subject of democracy, Adams went along but he never really, in his heart of hearts, believed in it, in my estimation. I think he thought of republicanism in America as a kind of miraculous dancing bear.

From Locke on into the 19th century, one of the principal problems of political philosophy was how to prevent or slow the natural evolution Aristotle had defined for democracy into timocracy (mob rule). This is what Adams is referring to. It wasn't clear until well into the 1880's that the American solution -- which is to decentralize power and keep it permanently spread around, layer on layer, qualifications to hierarchy, and ultimately the individual's power to make effective resistance -- was a minimum solution to the problem Locke and the early liberals were looking for.


Fri Oct 09, 2009 4:19 pm
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Heinlein Nexus

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Post Re: Heinlein and the Founding Fathers
Adams and Jefferson rarely agreed on anything, once they were in power.

But Adams had a deep and abiding belief in republics, but only when they were based on the separation of powers, and checks and balances. His books became one of the primary influences on the rewriting of state constitutions away from the overly democratic first tries, and the Constitutional Convention was highly influenced by his thinking as well, even though he was not there.

Adams believed that the House had a place, but that it had to be reined in by an upper house full of the rich, and an executive with veto power (he was the main reason governors were eventually granted that right, and why presidents got it too).

McCullough's book on Adams is woefully inadequate; whereas his book on Truman was masterful, in the Adams, he simply doesn't know enough colonial history to understand the contexts of Adams' life and career.


Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:08 am
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Post Re: Heinlein and the Founding Fathers
RobertJames wrote:
Adams and Jefferson rarely agreed on anything, once they were in power.

But Adams had a deep and abiding belief in republics, but only when they were based on the separation of powers, and checks and balances. His books became one of the primary influences on the rewriting of state constitutions away from the overly democratic first tries, and the Constitutional Convention was highly influenced by his thinking as well, even though he was not there.

Adams believed that the House had a place, but that it had to be reined in by an upper house full of the rich, and an executive with veto power (he was the main reason governors were eventually granted that right, and why presidents got it too).

McCullough's book on Adams is woefully inadequate; whereas his book on Truman was masterful, in the Adams, he simply doesn't know enough colonial history to understand the contexts of Adams' life and career.

You may color me Jeffersonian, for I'm not entirely convinced, on the whole, that the Adamsian influence was entirely a good thing. Adams represented the "conservative" side of eighteenth century liberalism, and the strongest argument English and American liberals had to offer was that the landholding aristocracy had the greatest stake in the success of his society and would therefore act "wisely" to strengthen it. In actual practice, though, this means in America exactly the same thing it means in England -- me and my family and the status quo we're profiting by, to whatever extent we're able to hang on to it.

While I would not go so far as Jefferson's duodeceniary revolutions -- abolishing all contracts every 20 years -- I think Jefferson on the whole was more right than not.


Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:16 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein and the Founding Fathers
Of course, our 230 year Republic is a brief flash in the pan historically speaking.

The Roman Republic, if I recall lasted about 200 years, too, before it became the Empire.

And Ben Franklin was the one who answered the man who asked "Dr. Franklin what kind of government have you given us?" (referring to the Consititutional Convention, which was a CLOSED Session) with "We have given you a Republic, IF YOU CAN KEEP IT."


Mon Apr 25, 2011 6:31 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein and the Founding Fathers
I would truely like to think we have got a model that will make democracy work "forever", but NOTHING lasts forever, though we keep hoping.

I remember the absolute shock when I came across the little side mention in Double Star about brainwahsing.... something like "the Communists invented it ... and when there were no more Communists the Bands of Brothers polished it up because you can't have sweet Brotherhood if a subborn man wants to keep his secrets...". This was around 1960 and the Red Menace was moving closer and closer, with Cuba being the latest conquest 90 miles south of Florida, and the IDEA that Communism could simply collapse, or otherwise end, was just aa mind boggling to a boy raised in the 1950s as the idea of a kid resenting sending his ear rings home from boot cam because such jewelry "wasn't allowed" in uniform (ST).

Bob ALWAYS loved pulling our chains, especially when he buried it in the tiny details of the story, not the main part!


Mon Apr 25, 2011 6:41 pm
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