The Libertarian Legacy Of Robert A. Heinlein

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a great piece about Robert A. Heinlein’s political legacy:

Heinlein’s political beliefs were moving more and more toward the libertarian side of the spectrum. He supported Barry Goldwater in 1964, and in 1966 he published what many considered his greatest book, “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” the tale of how penal colonists and their descendants on the Moon successfully revolt against their Earthly masters. The core of this book, which keeps it near the top of the libertarians’ reading lists, is the speech by an old professor, Bernardo de la Paz, to the rebels’ constitutional convention: “. . . like fire and fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. You now have your freedom–if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant.”The professor explains: “The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys. I was not joking when I told them to dig into their own pouches. It may not be possible to do away with government–sometimes I think that it is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive–and can you think of a better way than by requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby.” As they say on the Moon, “TANSTAAFL!”: “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch!”


In another hundred years, it will be interesting to see if the nuclear-powered spaceships and other technological marvels he predicted are with us. But nothing in his legacy will be more important than the spirit of liberty he championed and his belief that “this hairless embryo with the aching oversized brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes will endure. Will endure and spread out to the stars and beyond, carrying with him his honesty and his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage and his noble essential decency.”

Nicely put.