SIG Sauer Academy

Breach Bang Clear Talks Citizenship Through Service, The Starship Troopers Way

Right up front I’ll tell you I love Heinlein. I haven’t read everything he wrote but I’ve done my fair share. ‘Starship Troopers’ is by far my favorite and I’ve read it over and over. At first reading, it was an amazing book for a young man and still holds up the older I get. One of the concepts set forth in the book is the idea that after a rather destructive world war, the Veterans set about putting society back together and decided that in order to vote, you’d have to have had some skin in the game. The idea is central to the book so naturally it made it into the movie by the same name. Unfortunately, the movie and its sequels, didn’t quite live up to the mentality, or the tech, of the book.

Okay, the movie is a fun romp, but only a Philistine prefers the movie over the book. At any rate, go check out the argument for, or is it against? earning the franchise through federal service.

Tags: , ,

22 Responses to “Breach Bang Clear Talks Citizenship Through Service, The Starship Troopers Way”

  1. IheartPTbelts says:

    bullpup mini-14s? It’s been years since I’ve watched that movie.

  2. Kirk says:

    I’m in agreement about the book, but the system that Heinlein laid out? Mmmmm… Not so much.

    The caricature that is made of the work usually has it as fascist; that only military service could earn one ones citizenship. That was not true, because Heinlein laid out very clearly that there were no restrictions on service–Show up as deaf, dumb, and blind as Helen Keller was, and they’d find you something to do–I believe that the allusion he made was something about caterpillar fuzz, or something.

    The root problem with the system is that Heinlein missed the essential and fundamental flaw inherent to it: The system was to be run by human beings.

    No matter how you cut it, no matter how enlightened you start things out, the end state is going to be a shit-show. Happened to the democracies of ancient Greece, happened to Republican Rome, and happened to every other system we’ve tried, so far. Fundamentally, human beings are incapable of running long-term governance without it devolving into gamed-out shitshows that have the weasels running the game. Only way to avoid it? Avoid having government of any real size, because no matter what you do, someone is going to expand it in the name of expediency in the face of emergencies. And, they’re always going to sell it to the public, because the public consists of human beings, who are essentially idiots when collected into large groups. Hell, when collected into small groups…

    • Richard W says:

      The Swiss have been practicing some form of direct democracy since the early Middle Ages and they seem to be doing ok.

      Some Swiss Canton still practice the Landsgemeinde, a gathering of all the citizens in the public square where you vote by raising your hands.

      Interestingly, until they allowed women to vote, the only proof of citizenship was to bring either a sword or a bayonet. This proved freeman allowed to bear arms and to vote.

      • Kirk says:

        I think the essential reason for the success of the Swiss system is that they’ve remained small enough to avoid the things that happen when your structure/system gets big enough to be remote from observation by the voters. Who the hell knows what’s happening with an Army Corps of Engineers project in Louisiana, or cares, when they’re a voter in Montana? Why should the Montana voter care what his representative does, in relation to that project in Louisiana?

        In a Swiss cantonment, the voters have intimate knowledge of what their politicians are up to, and the scope of what goes on across Switzerland as a whole is a lot more “knowable” than it is here in the US. People around where I live really don’t give a rat’s ass about securing the borders, ‘cos that gives us cheap labor to harvest crops with. They don’t see the grief that someone living along the Texas-Mexico border sees, so they don’t pressure their political representatives for action, and indeed, do the exact opposite.

        I think size and the scale of the thing are why the Swiss have been so successful.

    • bloke_from_ohio says:

      ^^ This is the too big to success principal.

  3. Richard W says:

    The Greek, Roman Republic and some Swiss Cantons believed that citizenship should be based upon your ability to defend the Polis/city state.

    That you were willing to stand “shield to shield” with your fellow citizens.

    A poor man who brought a battered shield, helmet and spear that he inherited from his father had as much rights as a rich man who has fine horses, beautiful armor and retainers.

    Finally, let’s not forget that the founding father feared a standing professional army and believed that the bedrock of our republic was the willingness of citizens to stand up in times of danger.

  4. Terry Baldwin says:

    My favorite book too.

    The author of the linked article does an excellent job of capturing one half of Heinlein’s premise. That is that citizenship should be EARNED by some form of reasonably arduous service.

    The other part of Heinlein’s argument is that voluntary service tests whether the individual VALUES citizenship enough to make the effort.

    In short, is the individual able to demonstrate the requisite civic virtue desirable in someone who assumes the responsibilities and the privileges of citizenship?

    I love the concept. But unfortunately IMO, Heinlein’s society wouldn’t last long. For it to work, citizenship would have to be as widely coveted as fame and fortune are now.

    And as the author noted, even military service doesn’t always reliably generate the kind of civic virtue Heinlein imagined his future society would readily aspire too.

    Too bad. TLB

    • Chris says:

      I would be happy if anyone who wanted to vote had to pass the same test that immigrants must pass to become citizens. I know that the SJWs would scream “POLL TEST!” and immediately brand me with the dreaded RACIST!!!! label, but there is something to be said for the notion that most of us are Americans by accident of our birth, while immigrants become Americans by choice. I think those of us who are born here should put some effort into being citizens (which is the crux of Heinlein’s idea).

      • Major Smoof says:

        I’m 100% on board with this. There are so many other mandatory exams in society (at least in Canada). Driving, firearms license, hunting, boating, etc.

        My mother (a Yankee) had to take her citizenship exam and while helping her study I then realized I better understood the American system of government than I did our constitutional monarchy. And this from a grateful son on whom a ridiculous amount of money was spent in private education.

        Regardless of race, I think we can agree most would fail outright. Heaven forbid ALL citizens have to buy a book (not unlike the book one buys before a driver’s exam), study it and answer questions that demand application rather than regurgitation. Notwithstanding the fact that constitutional interpretation (especially for you guys) can be a contentions matter, there are nonetheless bedrock principles that are vaguely understood by many, but then conveniently trotted out to support one view or another, often incorrectly.

        • Strike-Hold says:

          I agree with both of you.

          I have Canadian citizenship by birth – American citizenship by choice (and I became an American citizen during my enlistment in the US Army). I often find that as a result of this (as well as from having had a keen interest in history and politics from an early age and doing a lot of independent study) that I usually know far more about how the US system works, and why it was set up the way that is, then the average ‘real’ American.

          I believe that not only should some form of national service (humanitarian, civil or military) be required, but that you should also have to pass a citizenship test and provide proof of ID in order to be able to vote. Along with that, we also should have centrally funded election campaigns and publicly-funded, non-partisan information sources in order to be accurately (or at least objectively) informed about the issues and candidates being voted on. There should also be term limits placed on politicians – and no one should be allowed to run unopposed.

  5. Greg says:

    Lets never talk about the movie sequels.

  6. PTMCCAIN says:

    The book is very different than the movie…so, don’t be surprised if/when you read it.

  7. Strike-Hold says:

    With Hollywood’s current penchant for re-makes / re-boots, it would be great if somebody did a re-make / re-boot of ST that’s closer to the book.

    • Ab5olut3zero says:

      The fans are afraid another sequel/reboot would somehow be worse, but with great visuals…

  8. CRBLR says:

    Paul Verhoeven truly one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. His subtlety knows no bounds.
    “I’d buy that for a dollar!”

  9. AbnMedOps says:

    Good timing for this article, Eric. I just returned from the 74th WorldCon, and had the pleasure of speaking with a number of people who personally knew Heinlein. Even got to hear Jerry Pournelle go off on a tangent about Heinlein leading a him and his USAF colleague on a grand tour of “every strip joint in Las Vegas!” Fun stuff!

  10. Big Daddy says:

    A lot of this would not be a problem if the school systems in the USA would actually teach American history correctly. But our school system is a dumping ground because of the poor pay.

    You get what you pay for and a bunch of 20 something year old teachers who themselves are children or some tenured ex-commie or hippie ultra liberal who lives in a fantasy world with a class of over 30 misbehaved entitled brats is a disaster. Like the idiots here in Texas that don’t want people with carry permits having guns in their classes, morons.

    It’s not about proving it in terms of their citizenship qualifications, think of it more about educating and teaching. Things like discipline, critical thinking, honestly, integrity and doing good deeds as well as knowing what a great concept this country was founded on. That would go a long way to creating a majority of good citizens.

    People that are willing to work for their wages and demand their freedom not look for free stuff and sell themselves and their votes to the highest bidder, people like Sanders and Clinton. Places like the boy scouts in the past helped promote good citizenship.

    Parents who do not teach their children at home how to be good human beings because they are on their phone or facebook and do not take the time. They let their children play video games all day instead of reading a book and do not discipline them at all, I’ve seen it and these kids are ruined by the time they’re 8 years old.

  11. Seamus says:

    Short of a second American Revolution in which the insurgency (i.e. disgruntled vets) wins, I don’t think that will happen. That said I wholly agree with Heinlein here and loved the book. The concept of Universal Suffrage is ludicrous. Skin in the game is the only way. I am not in support of a racists police state that was depicted in the movie and to a lesser degree in the book, but a nation based on merit and an earned vote is much more appealing to me.

    Hell to be honest I would make the “citizens” (the guys who have earned the privilege to vote,) have harsher punishments for breaking the law in an effort to ensure that those in a position to power have a greater responsibility to be responsible.

    • Jon says:

      How do you get that the state was racist in either the book or the movie? Considering in the book, he’s Filipino, and spoke tagalog at home. Nor in the book was it truly a police state… It seemed like people could do whatever, and they took their lumps if it was against the law. At least it seemed like the punishment, being corporal, was done and over relatively quickly. Not like today where people can be put in jail for something as simple as smoking weed, or fined for speeding based on arbitrary speed limits that have not been updated based on today’s technology.

    • SSD says:

      The movie is not the book and the book was anything but racist.

  12. fact275 says:

    While Heinlein doesn’t go into much detail about it, I think it’s stated or inferred that the West LOSES the WWIII against the “Chinese Hegemony” or whatever it was called. The resulting chaos gave the vets the opportunity to reshape society. Thus, the society in the book only came about after a massive calamity.