Brin on Heinlein on guns is dead wrong

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about Robert Heinlein, but not to their own facts. In a blog post on Heinlein’s novel Beyond This Horizon, David Brin advances a number of claims which are disputable, and one that is utterly bizarre. He alleges that the thought behind Heinlein’s famous quote “An armed society is a polite society” was not Heinlein’s but issued from John W. Campbell, the editor who with Heinlein invented science fiction as we know it.

This claim is not merely wrong, it attempts to traduce a core belief which Heinlein expressed in his fiction and his nonfiction and his personal letters throughout his life. We do not have to speculate about this; as I shall show, it is so amply documented that Brin’s claim passes from being merely tendentious to outright bizarre.

Brin’s error matters to me personally because, as much as I am anything else, I am one of Heinlein’s children. I have closely studied his works and his life, and that study has shaped me. What I have given to the world through my advocacy of open source is directly tied back to what the Old Man taught me about liberty, transparency, and moral courage. And I am never more Heinlein’s child than when I advocate for an armed (and polite) society.

Robert Heinlein was a complex man whose views evolved greatly over time. The Heinlein of 1942, who put into the mouth of one of his characters the line “Naturally food is free! What kind of people do you take us for?” was only five years on from having been enchanted by social credit theory, which underpins his “lost” novel For Us, The Living; in later years he was so embarrassed by this enthusiasm that he allowed that manuscript to molder in a drawer somewhere, and it was only published after his death.

Between 1942 and 1966 Heinlein’s politics evolved from New Deal left-liberalism towards what after 1971 would come to be called libertarianism. But that way of putting it is actually misleading, because Heinlein did not merely approach libertarianism, he played a significant part in defining it. His 1966 novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress was formative of the movement, with the “rational anarchist” Bernardo de la Paz becoming a role model for later libertarians. By 1978, we have direct evidence (from an interview in Samuel Edward Konkin’s New Libertarian magazine, among other sources) that Heinlein self-identified as a libertarian and regretted his earlier statism.

But if Heinlein’s overall politics changed considerably and wandered down some odd byways during his lifetime, his uncompromising support of civilian firearms rights was a constant on display throughout his life. Brin observes that was already true in 1942, but attempts to attribute this position to John W. Campbell. Multiple lines of evidence refute this claim.

I have read the volume of John W. Campbell’s collected letters published in 1985. John Campbell had a great many peculiarities and borderline obsessions – many of which he did push his stable of authors to write about – but there is no evidence in those letters that firearms rights was one of them. Nor is it one of the continuing themes in his provocative and sometimes cranky Analog editorials.

Now, based on what Campbell’s writings reveal about him, I would be astonished if his position on firearms rights was much different from Heinlein’s. Both partook of a strain of flinty, deeply American individualism that regarded the Second Amendment as a central article of the national covenant – a folk wisdom which was common across the American political spectrum until the late 1960s, and not before then associated specifically with libertarian or conservative politics as it later became. But for Campbell this does not seem ever to have became a foreground issue.

Heinlein, on the other hand, was a vocal and consistent advocate of civilian weapons ownership both during and after his association with Campbell. This is perhaps clearest in his 1949 novel Red Planet, written after their parting of the ways. In that novel, the bearing of personal weapons is explicitly connected to the assumption of adult responsibilities.

Red Planet is also interesting because, although we might consider the views of Heinlein’s characters an unreliable guide to Heinlein’s own, Heinlein’s letters about the novel reveal much more. His editor at Scribner attempted to delete the section of argument in which weapons-bearing is connected to adult responsibility; Heinlein rejected this, objecting that it eviscerated the book’s ethical core and making very clear that the views of the pro-gun mentor figures in the novel were his own.

Heinlein was to reiterate similar views not only in his later fiction but in the posthumous nonfiction collection Grumbles From The Grave – by which time they were no surprise to any Heinlein fan. And it would be difficult to overstate the influence they had on firearms-rights activists during the dark years between the Gun Control Act of 1968 and our vindication in the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller ruling.

Heinlein’s gift to firearms-rights activism during that bleak four decades was to be able to draw on the principled case for civilian firearms going back to the framers of the U.S. Constitution and English Republican sources and restate it in language appealing to the brightest children of post-WWII America. But he did more than that, because in Red Planet and elsewhere firearms rights were presented as an inextricable part of a philosophical whole, with the personal firearm both as instrument and defining symbol of personal liberty and responsibility.

My own essay on this topic, Ethics from the Barrel of a Gun: What Bearing Weapons Teaches About the Good Life, I freely acknowledge to be in significant part derived from arguments originated or transmitted by Heinlein. It was after reading him that I – and many other firearms-rights activists of my generation – delved backward into the roots of the constitutionalist/republican tradition and found there a splendid affirmation of the liberty Heinlein taught us to value.

(When time has given us perspective to write really good cultural histories of the 20th century, Heinlein is going to look implausibly gigantic. His achievements didn’t stop with co-inventing science fiction and all its consequences, framing post-1960s libertarianism, energizing the firearms-rights movement, or even merely inspiring me to become the kind of person who not only could write The Cathedral and the Bazaar but had to. No. Heinlein also invented much of the zeitgeist of the 1960s counterculture through his novel Stranger In A Strange Land; it has been aptly noted that he was the only human being ever to become a culture hero both to the hippies of Woodstock and the U.S. Marine Corps. I am told that to this day most Marine noncoms carry a well-thumbed copy of Starship Troopers in their rucksacks.)

I have been a fan of David Brin’s writing ever since the early 1980s; I honored him precisely because he played a key role in reviving the Campbellian/Heinleinian style of SF after the decay and pointlessness of the “New Wave” years. I know what Brin’s roots in the genre are; they go back to Heinlein just as surely as mine do, and he has no absolutely no excuse for not knowing better. The kindest possible interpretation is that he has deceived himself; but I cannot escape the queasy, unwelcome conclusion that he does know better. Brin’s essay stinks of politically-motivated lying.

This indictment of Brin matters precisely because of the vast scope of Heinlein’s influence. By attempting to retrospectively divorce Heinlein from firearms rights and libertarianism, Brin bids to make genre SF, the libertarian tradition entwined with it, and all the other social movements Heinlein influenced into something other than what they are. He is trying on an Orwellian distortion of the past in order to deform the future.

213 thoughts on “Brin on Heinlein on guns is dead wrong

  1. A recurring question I have about the second amendment is about the thought behind the amendment. This has a significant impact on the issue of gun rights to me. I think (and may be wrong about) the point of the second amendment is to allow the citizens to fight against a tyrannical government. With the hardware the military has access to, I’m not sure my ability to own pistols or rifles will enable me to effectively war against governmental entities. IF my thoughts are correct and I’m not allowed access to advanced weaponry or certain precursor chemicals, then I don’t really see the point of having guns from a 2nd amendment standpoint. The groups who argue for and against gun ownership don’t seem to see this perspective, generally. I could be listening to wrong bunch of yahoos though.

  2. meat.paste, how can you make that argument after we’ve seen the “greatest military ever” fail so absolutely in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya? While it’s true that small groups can find themselves outgunned by the state, where and when large segments of the population are armed and pissed, the most powerful militaries are sent packing.

  3. @ Jess

    on the other hand, those 2 wars were lost at home. No one knows how a well equipped, motivated and tyrannical government would cope with a “problem” referenced by the 2nd Amendment on the home front.

  4. You are absolutely right. Brin is obviously wrong. I say this as someone who generally disagrees with your politics, but the connection between Heinlein and gun ownership is irrefutable. Heinlein clearly believed that adults should own and know how to use all manner of lethal weapons. To Heinlein it was obvious that while a single given person might never need a weapon within his/her lifetime, someone in every statistically significant group of people would be in a situation where only lethal and obvious force could save them. This authorial attitude is obvious in every work of his which addresses the issue in any way, shape or form, and it borders on lunacy to argue the point.

    That being said, whether Campbell convinced Heinlein of this point, or whether Heinlein came to his own conclusions is probably open to argument. It can’t be argued that however he came by it, Heinlein’s position was pro-gun rights from a very early point in his career, and that he consistently held this position until the day he died.

  5. In related news, my old alma mater, Central Connecticut State, was recently put on the map. It’s where your old friend, Michael Bellesiles, now works as a part-time history instructor.

    Figures. Connecticut.

    I share your suspicion that Brin is being deliberately intellectually dishonest. Am I correct in guessing that the similarities to the Bellesiles affair — the glaring absences of due diligence that suggest deliberate omission and distortion rather than mere ignorance — are the reasons for such suspicion?

    [I]t has been aptly noted that he was the only human being ever to become a culture hero both to the hippies of Woodstock and the U.S. Marine Corps. I am told that to this day most Marine noncoms carry a well-thumbed copy of Starship Troopers in their rucksacks.

    Not just a cultural hero; the powered armor concept and attendant strategy and tactics described in Starship Troopers inspired military leaders to reinvent the U.S. military from a conscript army into a voluntary, high-tech strike force. So RAH has arguably the most significant reinvention of warfighting since WWII to his credit, also. Hence why ST (alongside Ender’s Game) is so widely read amongst the armed forces. I bet that Hemingway and Mailer each get more ink devoted to them in 20c cultural histories, though.

  6. Jess,

    If the U.S. forces failed in Iraq, I don’t want to know what success might look like.

  7. Jess, meat.paste;

    Meat’s thought has often crossed my mind, though I am, and always will remain a staunch advocate of the 2nd. The principal behind it is critical. And there are arguments on whether the government should have a monopoly on such hardware.

    Jess,
    To your point, the military ran into problems because the U.S. government did not have the political will to fight the war the way it needs to be fought. Nor were they willing to accept the lessons of history regarding guerilla warfare or its effects when used by technologically, numerically, etc. inferior forces when utilized by the enemies of those countries. So, any internal confrontation in the US will be a guerilla war. Additionally, the majority of military people are rather conservative or of a conservative-libertarian stripe and this will further fracture the forces (where will their sympathies lie?)

    Getting our military to fire on our citizens will be a tough sell. If the government does not have the will to fight our avowed enemies on their own turf with the necessary methods, can you imagine their inability to wage war on their own citizens? What a terrible time that would be. On the other hand, perhaps certain elements currently in power would actually have LESS scruples annihilating “rebellious” citizens. As has been said, “never waste a catastrophe” (well that wasn’t what was actually said, but the same disgusting philosophy was behind it).

    Anyway, good food for conversation.

  8. Maybe it’s because I’m not American and so lack appropriate reverence for the wisdom of the founding fathers’ thoughts (and the drafters of subsequent amendments to a particular document) but talking about “gun rights” always seems a little off to me.

    Do guns have “rights”?

    If humans have “rights” to guns, are the advocates of private weapon ownership instead talking about human rights, or do they mean something else again?

  9. Regarding the Social Credit philo mentioned in the post, what Douglas said always entertains me: “Systems were made for men, and not men for systems.” And yet socially and politically, we are ever moving toward systematizing our societies. Not that that is possible so long as we remain primarily meat machines, but still…

  10. Tom,

    People speak of “property rights” when they mean “the rights of people to property”. That is the sense that is meant here.

  11. @razvan

    Anymore I find that “lost at home” static to be a copout. Our military, like most government agencies, is competent mostly at spending money. They will always imagine that more money could be spent; I hope they’ll never get to make that decision all by themselves. As a nation, we can decide that if $2T isn’t enough to transform hostile Arab societies into functioning democracies that don’t produce terrorists, well maybe we shouldn’t ask our military to attempt such transformations. If over 60,000 American lives aren’t enough to convince Vietnam to give capitalism a chance, maybe we should wait fifteen years for them to make that decision all by themselves. If over $200B a year isn’t enough to convince citizens not to take drugs by killing and arresting them, maybe we shouldn’t make that argument through killings and arrests. If the only way the NSA can keep us “safe” is to listen to our every phone call, maybe we don’t need to be that safe. If the only way our public employees can do their jobs is by harming the citizenry, we should find something else for them to do rather than making it easier for them to harm the citizenry.

    Although perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, and you’re really saying that a more tyrannical force than the USA military can keep an armed populace cowed. In the really hideous examples we have from the 20c, an important step in the process of tyranny seems to have been disarming the populace, even if it was armed when the oppressive state first arose. To take a more contemporary example, how well-armed are the outlying communities of Syria? It seems that they are having difficulty improving their government, but also it seems their government has successfully split the population into an “us” that lives around Damascus and likes the government and a “them” which is everyone else. This split will probably prolong the current regime, but that will be just as bad for the “us” as for the “them”.

  12. I have loved many of Brin’s works, probably more then Heinlien’s, although philosophically, I like Heinlein much better. I wish Brin would show up and defend himself. Something along the lines of “No, you’re right Eric, I was making this narrower / somewhat different point” would be nice.

    Yours,
    Tom DeGisi

  13. @esr: Well done, sir.

    @meat.paste: the Second Amendment does not guarantee that you’ll win. Only that the government can’t deny you the tools to try. But to further address your point, I think you are failing to understand the lessons of both 20th Century and 21st Century insurgency warfare.

  14. @meat.paste: the Second Amendment does not guarantee that you’ll win. Only that the government can’t deny you the tools to try. But to further address your point, I think you are failing to understand the lessons of both 20th Century and 21st Century insurgency warfare.

    Yup. meat.paste, see John Robb if you don’t understand this. Shortest story possible: The fuel of modern warfare is money. Don’t kill your enemy, bankrupt him. The match is as powerful as the gun, maybe moreso.

  15. Also, meat.paste, in the time of the Founders, it was not uncommon for individuals to own cannon, and privately-owned warships (and no, not pirate ships) were not unheard of. As much as this horrifies gun grabbers, I contend that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms of military utility. Yes, this means nukes, if you can get your hands on one.

    Eric, the only thing I find surprising about the statement that Marine noncoms carry Starship Troopers in their rucks is that they find room in there for anything that’s not directly connected with their survival and ability to do their job in the field.

  16. Not sure about rucksacks and noncoms (though many Marines are better educated and read than most outside the military typically assume), but I can state for an unequivocal fact that both during my childhood in the marines (anyone with a Marine father will get that immediately) and during my time in the Navy, Starship Troopers was on the Marine Corps commandants reading list for officers, and I repeatedly saw it on library shelves at various bases with Marine contingents, as well as at Quantico.

    As of the July 2011 list (http://www.marines.mil/unit/tecom/mcu/grc/library/Documents/MarineCorpsReadingList2011.pdf) it is still on there.

  17. “Don’t kill your enemy, bankrupt him.” Indeed. And WCC channels Sun Tzu above; if your enemy has no will to fight, then the war is over before it has begun. If the US had to wage war on its own citizenry, the war would begin with some random Representative hinting at it, and would end before the next Congresscritter could reach the floor to ostracize him.

    (I might argue that we don’t even need guns to repel tyranny, for that reason. They’re still very nice to have, though, and you never know when some know-it-all will decide to oppress an unarmed America because he can, and also happens to have the oratorical chops to sell it to his own military.)

    If things ever got to the point of US govt vs. US people, and the government actually managed to escape being auto-asphyxiated by its own entrails for proposing such a thing, it would be because enough of the military had enough internal emotional fortitude to carry it out. That would be a very different US military than today’s. It would likely fail even so. The point of citizen resistance isn’t to be able to kick your own government’s ass; it’s to make clear that it would spend more to oppress you than it would by leaving you free. (Granted, some governments take more convincing than others. But that’s an education problem.)

    I’d be more worried about US people vs. US people. As in, the Second American Civil War. If you got enough of the People themselves mad enough to wage war against the other half, and vice versa, there would be your terrible time. It’s the only way I know of that the US could break its previous casualty record. It’s amazing enough that the American Civil War killed more Americans than all other wars put together; what’s even more amazing to me is that, at the rate we’re going with military technology, that’ll be true forever.

  18. @Jay Maynard:

    > Yes, this means nukes, if you can get your hands on one.

    I have always thought that if any government agency had the right to regulate nukes in private hands, it ought to be the EPA :-)

  19. Anymore I find that “lost at home” static to be a copout. Our military, like most government agencies, is competent mostly at spending money. They will always imagine that more money could be spent; I hope they’ll never get to make that decision all by themselves. As a nation, we can decide that if $2T isn’t enough to transform hostile Arab societies into functioning democracies that don’t produce terrorists, well maybe we shouldn’t ask our military to attempt such transformations. If over 60,000 American lives aren’t enough to convince Vietnam to give capitalism a chance, maybe we should wait fifteen years for them to make that decision all by themselves. If over $200B a year isn’t enough to convince citizens not to take drugs by killing and arresting them, maybe we shouldn’t make that argument through killings and arrests. If the only way the NSA can keep us “safe” is to listen to our every phone call, maybe we don’t need to be that safe. If the only way our public employees can do their jobs is by harming the citizenry, we should find something else for them to do rather than making it easier for them to harm the citizenry.

    And the Democratic response is the same. “You want to cut spending? Fine. There go your cops and schools.”

    (I might argue that we don’t even need guns to repel tyranny, for that reason. They’re still very nice to have, though, and you never know when some know-it-all will decide to oppress an unarmed America because he can, and also happens to have the oratorical chops to sell it to his own military.)

    I’m beginning to understand why Obama struck fear in the hearts of diehard conservatives and libertarians — not doubt or concern but atavistic terror. Of course since he’s proven himself to be Bush 2, now I’m scared of the guy.

  20. …on a side note, while I dearly love many of Brin’s stories and mark them among my favorite, and have found many of his articles to be insightful and thought-provoking as well, I’ve developed a habit of taking him with a grain of salt when it comes to politics.

    He doesn’t tend to tell me anything I don’t know already that is negative about what republicans and fiscal conservatives are doing or their history of hypocricy when they forget their campaign promises – I’m specifically thinking a very recent article on the debt ceiling where he accurately points out it is NOT going to be carmageddon – yet cannot seem to remember who had control of congress for the largest spending hikes.

  21. meat.paste: please don’t insult our troops by assuming they will side with the government. Most of them are loyal to the country not the government.

  22. Patrick Maupin:

    I have always thought that if any government agency had the right to regulate nukes in private hands, it ought to be the EPA :-)

    I’d love to see the environmental impact statement for one of those….

  23. It’s amazing enough that the American Civil War killed more Americans than all other wars put together; what’s even more amazing to me is that, at the rate we’re going with military technology, that’ll be true forever.

    Oh come now. The peak-oil, peak-phosphorus, and peak-heavy-metals chickens haven’t come home to roost yet.

  24. @ Paul Brinkley, RE: July 18th, 2011 at 6:54 pm:

    I actually agree with you regarding your opinions on possibilities for internal warfare. I have spent some time thinking about this and I can imagine conflict breaking out on socio-political lines with an element of class-warfare coloring the stage. With the advent of the internet, the average person has no need and therefore does not feel compelled to seek out other opinions outside of their own, they can live in their own little worlds, surrounding themselves with self-affirming and reinforcing belief structures. I believe that political and ideological negative emotional states are on the rise in our populace, partly fueled by these walls, and damn do you see it come out in these difficult times and during election cycles.

    The government was willing to hire private military services against its own people (or I should say to help enforce the law to be polite about it) during Katrina. Racial issues are giving way to a more class-based friction. The Black Panthers were allowed leeway for intimidation during the last presidential election (yes I know in one case, but this is the Internet-era – once case has an impact). People feel increasingly powerless to affect change in government. The two-party cartel seems more and more similar to each other every day, now even to those who haven’t always paid attention to such things. Americans are increasingly taking a view that there is indeed a caste system of corporations and politicians developing and controlling things here. The economy is teetering. Our place in the world is diminishing. We are engaged in perpetual warfare and the so-called anti-war liberal leaders are adding more fronts for us to fight on, even giving congress the finger when called on it. And citizens who support laws and regulations “for our own health and safety” are now seeing the effects of their willingness to legislate our freedoms away. And now in increasing numbers, Americans see where this is heading, they see the bigger picture. Anger, frustration, violence are the bedfellows and results of all these little intersecting lines that will eventually culminate in something. Will it come down to the worst? Who knows, there are a million things that can turn the tide, internal warfare cannot be dismissed as a possibility.

    But maybe it won’t come down to a war amongst ourselves. Rome provided numerous distractions, citizens engaged in them incessantly. Wars were prosecuted elsewhere, on distant battlefields. Distractions. No need for a calamitous civil war in Rome, no one noticed or had the will the halt the tide of ineffectiveness that allowed the Germanics to rain down destruction on the empire. Perhaps we will rot from within before large-scale warfare has the opportunity to change the trend.

  25. @Jeff Read:

    It’s hard for me to work out a scenario where peak-something leads to an American civil war. War with some other country, possibly, but civil… maybe I’m just not looking at it the right way.

    Or perhaps you mean war with another country over peak-something will break the ACW’s casualty record? Maybe. The plausible scenario to me here is war with China or Russia or both over some resource-rich craphole, blooming into full-scale conventional. FWIW, my skepticism on that front is in peak-anything actually happening.

    (Speaking of not looking at it the right way – apparently the US has incurred more death than in its civil war in all other wars put together, since 2000, according to Wikipedia. Just barely; it was closer than I thought.)

  26. Or maybe our technology will aloow for a faster transhuman eveloution that will completley change the fundamental rules we play under by our very natures in this world. But I doubt that. Conflict, consumption, transformation, etc. seem to be be the building-blocks of this transactional universe we live in.

  27. Anyone who wonders why the Second Amendment – even with a per-weapon disparity with the military – is important, is encouraged to read up on The Bonus Army, which marched on Washington DC to get Congress to honor commitments made to WWI veterans during a deep financial crisis.

    The Bonus Army was armed well enough, and organized well enough, that sending US troops against it would have been unacceptably bloody.

    Remember that war is the resumption of political aims by different means; the Bonus Army could have been exterminated to a man, but doing so would have been bloody and it would have been public. Had they not had the firearms to at least threaten “Do this and pay a horrible price,” it is unlikely that they would have achieved their goals.

  28. @WCC: Funny, I came to the opposite conclusion about the internet effect: it made such bubbles less possible. I think we were in bubbles all along, and the internet made them easier to see. It might make a skirmish more likely (“Oh hell, I’m surrounded by CRAZIES!!”), but as long as one side of any of the most well-known lines is significantly less likely to own firearms, I don’t see it being much of a fight.

    Your middle paragraph is impressive, yet seems to miss one can of fuel: the media fanning the flames. They lovvvve a good fight; fights draw eyeballs, which draw ad revenue. They’ll air the hell out of a battle on American soil up to the point where they think it’s damaging their advertisers’ ability to pay.

    Your last paragraph has you now channeling Huxley. :-) Definitely a plausible path by my reckoning as well. Twitter Revolutions happen in the Arab world because they’re suddenly seeing a lot of other places have it better. Americans, not so much; we still have plenty to eat, watch, and play, and the plumbing still works.

  29. @ Paul Brinkley:

    I accept your premise in paragraph one, but submit that it only gives people a greater range of bubbles to choose from. Once they’ve chosen their bubble(s) they never have to deviate from them. And I submit that the average American will not. People do not like having their assumptions, beliefs, and sacred cows questioned. They don’t read the comments section ;-) Fewer still (and this is all peoples throughout all of history) actively seek to challenge everything they think they know and believe. Part of why I derive so much pleasure from reading this blog is because it seems to attract many who are not content to rest on their laurels, who enjoy the debate, and who hold the best of the scientific ideals (in my opinion anyway) which is this: by all means, you must prove me wrong, so that I might come closer to the truth!

    Indeed sir, I did miss a major can of fuel in paragraph 2. The media. You are so right about that. The media also assists me though in my “bubbles” theory, albeit before the internet, you could always choose which channel to watch, which authors to read, which newspaper to buy, which tribal leaders to kill, ad nauseum.

    You certainly have a knack for spotting the writers who have influenced me. I will also offer that I have been many places in this world and have seen many things, though I am young (I guess) – I’m 30. I am a martial artist (western and eastern), soldier, sailor, technologist (programming, AI, space), private military contractor (I guess you might say mercenary, though I’d disagree), writer, amateur scientist (physics is my passion). I serve in the Air Force Auxiliary (Heinlein inspired me to fly), and Coast Guard Auxiliary (as a sailor and diver). I am in training for Navy special warfare (ending my days as a PMC). I read everything from A tale of Two Cities to Lord of the Rings to the great philosophers, to Feynman and Dawkins to almost anything that comes within reach ;-) Okay I gave you a personal biography, sorry. I guess I am an opinionated asshole, but I’m trying to say that many of my opinions are not merely philosophical. I have seen a lot in this world and I am determined to learn from history and spotting trends and patterns is a side hobby ;-)

  30. @WCC, Paul Brinkley:

    I was actually thinking about the echo chamber effect this morning, in the context of google+. To the extent that people are interested in cocooning themselves in an echo chamber (and, let’s face it — obviously some people are very interested in that), I think that google+ circles might make this much easier to do. People can find like-minded people, vet them, and invite them into ever-tighter circles.

  31. Another civil war in the USA would be lopsided, as one side would dramatically out gun the other side.

    If things break down along political lines, the liberals don’t have a chance. Republicans and libertarians have far higher rates of firearms ownership than democrats.

    However, I seriously doubt the USA will experience a civil war like the Yugoslavian war. Disparate ethnic groups are too spread out to form a cohesive resistance.

    What I believe will happen is along the lines of the Russian/Argentinian currency defaults, where the newly-poor-formerly-lower-middle-class population went on a massive crime spree, unhindered (and sometimes encouraged) by the overwhelmed and/or corrupt government.

  32. @ Jeff Read

    I don’t disagree – but it seems sometimes to be assumed that “gun rights” have attached to them some special qualities that distinguish them from a “right to own property” – indeed this is detectable behind hand-wavy arguments pointing to the 2nd Amendment.

  33. Brin seems to be imposing his own worldview on Heinlein’s work overall, not just as to firearms ownership. Even in his most state-centric work from the pre-war years, Heinlein’s characters (and certainly his protagonists) seem to me to be infused with a core ethic of personal responsibility – and what they accomplish, even if it’s to the betterment of the state, is more often in spite of, as opposed to to with the support of, the state. The only criticism that seems valid is that Heinlein had a little more faith in the overall competency of the state in those days. We note that he seems to have learned better…

  34. I thought Heinlein said all wars were the result of population pressure. Well, specifically, Friday did, but I consider it didactic.

    If that’s the case, what happens when RISUG or a comparable alternative arrives? RISUG (a safe, cheap, reliable male birth control) could be on the market any year now. What happens when the alpha thugs can get a vas injection for ten bucks that will render them reversibly infertile for ten years? What happens when the beta drones can also know for a fact that the pregnancy isn’t their responsibility?

  35. Eric: thank you for dealing with this issue. I was a bit embarassed by the way I brought it up, and I’m sorry for that, but thanks.

  36. I think Jeff Read and Jess both have a piece of the truth on Iraq: we did win in Iraq, but it was much harder than anticipated due to local resistance. The insurgents were *much* tougher than the Iraqi Army. And that was with the US military united in opposition to them, which would not be the case if it was their relatives who were revolting.

  37. “He is trying on an Orwellian distortion of the past in order to deform the future.”

    Not only is that brilliant writing, but it hits at a core dysfunction in current cultural evolution. The two competing behaviors are clarity versus disinformation. Early in our species development, communication was comparatively slow and clarity conferred an evolutionary advantage to a group’s survival probability, e.g. a shout of warning when danger was near. We now live in a world of hyper-fast communication in which information overload can work against clarity. A small, but growing, segment of the population is experimenting with disinformation as a means of achieving parochial advantage. Interestingly, science fiction gives us many fictional examples of how this may play out over time. Brin should know better than to play with fire.

  38. @Tom
    The Supreme Court has stated that the 2nd Amendment means individual ownership, self defense, access to modern weapons, and that it trumps state laws.

    Most, if not all, firearms owners tend to attach more meaning than that to “gun rights”, but so far, that is the extent of the court rulings.

  39. @Acksiom:

    Then we will more quickly evolutionarily select for intense religious conservatism, which is what we are selecting for currently.

  40. As far as the war in Iraq goes, there’s an argument that it would have gone much better had the US citizenry been resolute in winning there. Suggested benefits included better funding, faster resolution due to swift enemy capitulation, improved diplomatic position relative to Iran and North Korea, and fewer troops lost to morale and depression. To the extent we had the likes of Sen. Reid proclaiming the war lost, yes, there was a loss before victory.

    Regardless, the insurgency DID prove an ability to survive beneath the American war machine, and I think it would have proven it even under a committed USA, even if it folded faster. It’s fair to say that it would have had 2-5% chance of long term survival in that case, instead of the 30-50% chance it had with half the nation trying to drag us in the opposite direction. Which suggests our chances if we were in their position. I agree with Ken; they were tougher than the organized military. (I almost typed “militia” first, heh.)

  41. @TomA: and people like George Lakoff seem hell-bent to emphasize disinformation all the more, under the guise of “framing”. (No doubt he sees it as necessary to “save the greater truth”.)

  42. meat.paste,

    Even if the ability to resist the government cannot be achieved by private arms ownership, self-defense against non-state actors can. The English Bill of Rights (1689) explicitly established that people “may have arms for their defence”, and Blackstone (a Tory) made it clear in his Commentaries that part of the right to arms was the right to arms for personal defense. The human right to self-defense is so fundamental to the Anglo-American legal-philosophical tradition in the 17th and 18th Centuries that even Hobbes, who favored absolute monarchy and utterly denied the right to rebel against a tyrant, held in Leviathan that the right to self-defense could not be delegated to the sovereign, but was retained by all persons regardless.

  43. Life imitating art; H. Beam Piper’s ‘A Planet for Texans’ as future history.

    For those who have not read the novel, that society has legally defined
    ‘Practicing Politicians’ as game animals, and it is always open season;
    as the story opens, one learns that ‘Aus’ Maverick has been killed for
    proposing an income tax.

  44. One scary scenario that’s been bothering me is what will happen when one of these mostly black “Flash crowds” mess around with some well armed whites – or Korean, or Vietnamese shopkeepers, homeowners or citizens in general. So far they seem to be happening only in dis-armed areas, but this could change and then we’ve got a race war on our hands that the current administration would love to use as an excuse to dis-arm all of us.
    The fact that the media is totally in the bag means that most Americans really don’t have a clue as to what is going on, and things like facebook and google whatever seem like divisive rather than unifying forces. The “United we stand” bit is circling the drain as unions, cops, government and media all act like tribes rather than citizens. This all seems extremely dangerous.

  45. Eric, as an SF writer who roots his own writing solidly in the soil tilled so well by Heinlein, do let me add to the pantheon of SF/guns/liberty another set of works by a Grandmaster who, if not of Heinlein’s stature, at least need not fear entering a room with him: A.E. Van Vogt and his wonderful “Weapon Shops” books.

  46. Re: personal nukes. This weekend I read Podkayne of Mars again after 42 years . Poddy’s brother ends up setting off a personal nuke on Venus.

  47. One thing most people don’t quite get is that STARSHIP TROOPERS is as much a libertarian novel as THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the action and the cool technical gizmos that you miss the fact that the book is basically a polemic against a conscript military–with arguments against penal incarceration thrown in as a side dish.

    Basically, he was showing a possible path between the Scylla of conscription–which, if you recall, was the law of the time *even in peacetime,* and which he openly abhorred–and the Charybdis of preemptive surrender.

  48. Doc Merlin, do you have documentation that the genetic causes of intensely religious/conservative behavior are strong enough to compensate for the environmental changes I pointed out, or the cultural memetics of such communities likewise?

    You also appear to be assuming that some other alternative doesn’t arrive, such as robotic caregiving (i.e., Hogan’s “Voyage From Yesteryear”).

    Heh, I even just found a mainstream cite by accident: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3343667/Robot-nannies-threat-to-child-care.html .

    No, if the socons inherit the earth, it will most likely happen because the 1st world has moved offplanet, and they’ve been left squatting in the 3rd-world equivalent.

  49. Dear Armed and Dangerous: Brin has not proven his case, but you haven’t disproven it either. You have read Campbell’s 1986 volume of letters, but don’t appear to know that a second volume was published in 1993. This volume would be interesting to examine because it has Campbell’s correspondence with another ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION author A.E. van Vogt. van Vogt is important for his three short novels on The WEAPON SHOPS OF ISHER. The ethos behind van Vogt’s stories is summed up by the fictional Weapons Shop motto: “The right to buy weapons is the right to be free.” This pithy aphorism easily matches anything Heinlein came up with. It is important because the first two Weapons Shop stories were published in 1941-42, in Campbell’s magazine. In those years, you could have gotten quite an argument about who was the more influential writer, Heinlein or van Vogt. The second volume of Campbell’s letters also shows the great influence he had on van Vogt in those days. Look at this link to see evidence of a strong right to buy firearms fiction that was uninfluenced by Heinlein, but likely influenced by Campbell.

    I don’t doubt that Heinlein after World War II say, was a staunch libertarian, contributing as much to libertarian thought as he got. But Heinlein was prone to mythmaking about how great he was, and mean about giving credit to others. The letters Heinlein wrote to Campbell just before and after Pearl Harbor, published in GRUMBLES FROM THE GRAVE, should make any Heinlein admirer squirm. In his very different way, Heinlein was as megalomaniac and bullying as his fellow pulp writer, Ron Hubbard. What saves Heinlein is that Heinlein’s thinking was miles closer to reality than Hubbard’s was, and could stand more of the mythmaking Heinlein did about himself.

    Sincerely yours
    Gregory Koster

  50. “Brin’s essay stinks of politically-motivated lying.”

    In the only two times I have been to Brin’s site, I have become certain that whenever he has an opportunity to propagandize the sinister, he so completely abandons reason he becomes unable to see his own lack of intellectual honesty or rigor. Value him for what he does that is beneficial, combat him in all else, he cannot help himself.

  51. meat.paste Says:
    July 18th, 2011 at 4:58 pm
    “A recurring question I have about the second amendment is about the thought behind the amendment. This has a significant impact on the issue of gun rights to me. I think (and may be wrong about) the point of the second amendment is to allow the citizens to fight against a tyrannical government. With the hardware the military has access to, I’m not sure my ability to own pistols or rifles will enable me to effectively war against governmental entities. …”

    I think the answer to that can be found in a study of the FP-45 Liberator pistol, a very cheaply made singleshot handgun that was supplied to resistance forces in occupied territories during WWII. It was never intended that resistance forces would fight occupying armies with the Liberator. Rather, members of the resistance would use these guns to kill occupiers and *take their guns*, gaining access to the sophisticated weapons and equipment needed.

    Then too, bear in mind that a tyrannical government relies on a lot of unarmed drones to do their bidding. You need not tackle the oppressor’s crack infantry directly. It’s enough to take out their support troops — the guys who cook their meals, change their beds, and drive their fuel trucks. There’s no need to strike fear in their elite troops if you can strike fear in their bureaucrats. That’s the essence of asymmetric warfare.

  52. Acksiom,

    Doc Merlin, do you have documentation that the genetic causes of intensely religious/conservative behavior are strong enough to compensate for the environmental changes I pointed out, or the cultural memetics of such communities likewise?

    This sounds like you have little experience with “socon” communities. I assure you, any notional genetic predisposition toward conservatism is dwarfed by the massive effect of the social environment, which ALSO predisposes toward conservatism.

    Social conservatives attach positive value to having children. Some communities, such as Orthodox Jews, average more than 4 children per couple and have extremely robust educational apparatuses. Compare the politics of the typical non-Orthodox Jew, and the birthrate of same (which is below replacement level). Then do the math.

    If foolproof male contraception is available, the more socially liberal segment of the populace will use it disproportionately; this is a safe prediction, given that their birthrates are already relatively low. In two generations, social conservatives will rule all democratic states.

  53. @meat.paste: “the point of the second amendment is to allow the citizens to fight against a tyrannical government. With the hardware the military has access to, I’m not sure my ability to own pistols or rifles will enable me to effectively war against governmental entities.”

    This is a conundrum only if you assume that the government-written laws restricting you from owning the same weapons the military uses are consonant with the Second Amendment. Once you realize they are an obvious violation of it (can you say conflict of interest?), logic is restored to the argument.

  54. On the citizens vs gov’t idea, one example which is not thrown around nearly so much is that of the Israelis vs the British in post-WWII Palestine. I think that’s a better example than Iraq/Afghanistan, at least for developed countries. The Irgun and Palmach made Palestine ungovernable, even with hundreds of thousands of British soldiers in country. They precipitated the Brit pullout, and generally made them look stupid and ineffective with miniscule numbers compared to the British forces in country. Why couldn’t the same thing happen today? Irregulars vs regulars is not nearly as much of a foregone conclusion as people tend to assume.

  55. The US military as currently constituted takes an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemy’s foreign and domestic. Any order to attack US citizens would be an illegal order and result in the removal from office of the individual or group issuing said order. The US military may not enforce civil laws. In time this could change or political police forces could be organized and deployed by a party in power as has happened in Europe on many occasions. An armed civilian population is a serious threat to such political forces.

  56. The plausible scenario to me here is war with China or Russia or both over some resource-rich craphole, blooming into full-scale conventional.

    No such war would stay conventional. As soon as one side becomes convinced that it will lose, nuclear weapons will be used.

    There is a reason no two nuclear powers have ever fought a conventional war, except by proxy. “Containment” is impossible, and everyone knows it.

    Nuclear weapons are, therefore, peace multipliers, to the extent that they make even conventional war between nuclear powers less likely.

    –Shannon

  57. On the subject of Heinlein, but not gun control: Is there any chance you might freshen the quotes file that gives the Heinlein quotes at the top of the page? I think I’ve seen every one of the current ones dozens of times.

  58. @WCC: “With the advent of the internet, the average person has no need and therefore does not feel compelled to seek out other opinions outside of their own, they can live in their own little worlds, surrounding themselves with self-affirming and reinforcing belief structures.”

    It’s worse than that. Check out the book “The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-minded Americans is Tearing Us Apart” by Bill Bishop. The premise is that Americans are choosing to live in communities with others who think like themselves, and this process is so nearly complete that they never hear competing viewpoints. A person who moves into the “wrong” community can quickly find himself ostracized. Of course, the balkanization of the media has contributed to this as well.

  59. “But maybe it won’t come down to a war amongst ourselves. Rome provided numerous distractions, citizens engaged in them incessantly. Wars were prosecuted elsewhere, on distant battlefields. Distractions. No need for a calamitous civil war in Rome…”

    Um, I think you need to read your Roman history. Hint: read up on the fall of the Republic, not just the Empire. Key names to look for: Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Julius Caesar…

  60. The Bonus Army, which marched on Washington DC to get Congress to honor commitments made to WWI veterans during a deep financial crisis.

    The Bonus Army was armed well enough, and organized well enough, that sending US troops against it would have been unacceptably bloody.

    This also demonstrates one of the main reasons why the military isn’t a guaranteed government win in a free society.

    Imagine if you will an alternate world where there was a madman in office who said “damn the blood. Open fire”.
    How many soldiers do you imagine would have opened fire on men who had every likelihood of being their friends and mentors.

    It’s pretty pulpy SF… but Insurrection by David Weber and Steve White also talks about this.

  61. “What I believe will happen is along the lines of the Russian/Argentinian currency defaults, where the newly-poor-formerly-lower-middle-class population went on a massive crime spree, unhindered (and sometimes encouraged) by the overwhelmed and/or corrupt government.”

    There are different ways this can play out. Some are political rather than violent.

    Check out the book “Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State” by Gotz Aly.

    The so-called National Socialists really were socialists; the name is not just an oxymoron, as I always thought (given the Nazi hatred of the Left). They channeled significant amounts of resources through different channels, generally targeting the working class with benefits.

    This ranged from supports for the families of those in uniform (support extensive enough that military wives typically did not work for pay, even those married to enlisted men) to pension support for the aged, to strongly encouragement to the troops to purchase luxury items in the occupied countries and ship them home. The result was that average Germans didn’t suffer in the late 30’s and early 40’s, instead successfully exporting all the suffering to European Jews (whose possessions were seized by the Nazi state and distributed to Germans), wealthy Germans (corporate taxes reached astronomical heights, and renters were heavily favored over landlords), and citizens of occupied nations (through carefully-controlled exchange rates between the mark and the occupied nation’s currency).

    For example, one corporation in 1942-3 was assessed tax liability of 55% corporate tax plus 30 percent commercial-profit tax and 13% excise tax. 55 + 30 +13 = 98% tax rate. Another example: property owners (landlords) were required to pre-pay 10 years of property tax in 1942 as a single lump sum, and since all properties were rent-controlled they had no way to pass on any of these costs.

    If you have any concerns about how far entitlements can go, take a close, hard look at this book.

  62. Stepping back from the argument a bit, I note that the pro-Brin faction wants to argue whether or not military policy is good or bad, or gun control is good or bad, or Iraq or Afghanistan is a success or a failure.

    This is a deliberate attempt to sidestep the question at hand.

    Is Brin a liar, or a fool?

    My vote is that he is a liar. Perhaps attempting to rewrite history to fit something that he wants to believe in. Perhaps he is trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance between his admiration of Heinlein and his (Brin’s) fear of weapons. Regardless of his motives, he is factually incorrect, and stubbornly, willfully so. He is therefore deliberately writing lies to advance his political agenda, and entitled to no respect from me.

  63. Tom,

    The reason for the “specialness” of Amendment II in American political theory is rooted in the basic fact that if your person is threatened, you effectively have no other rights. So think of it as a right not to be made defenseless; in a world where guns exist, the ability to own and use a gun becomes a necessary component of effective self-defense.

  64. Thank you, Mastiff, but your mere airy hand-waving assurances are not documentation, and I actually do have plenty of experience with socon communities.

    That experience is why I ask what I do the way I do, and based on that experience, you are improperly attributing the characteristics of an extremely small subsection of the socon kinships to a much larger population than is accurate.

    Also, you’re ever-so-conveniently ignoring my point about potential alternatives to the standard resource-transfer system from men to women to children — you know, the one those socon customs exist to control ITFP. To say nothing about immigration, male reproductive tourism, or — to expand on my original point — the effects on socon communities of an effectively Copernican revolution in reproductive autonomy. . .including even the minute number of the extreme ones you describe.

    Because as far as I know, no human society has ever had to adapt to a ubiquitous male veto power on reproduction, and I know better than to just cavalierly ignore the possible consequences of such a radical alteration of the current social powe
    r structure.

  65. FWIW, I remember the modern drive to disarm the citizenry as being a follow-on to the assassination of John Kennedy. Whether the latter event was deliberately seized upon as a stalking horse for an ideological drive is probably a matter of conjecture for future historians to argue over. But the timing was: before was JFK killed, anybody could buy guns and ammo practically anywhere — including through the mail; afterwards, not so much. And the ratchet got ever tighter from there.

    Which might explain why the supposedly “liberal” component in our political dialectic is so firmly against the exercise of this particular civil right. It took away their Camelot.

    M

  66. >Is there any chance you might freshen the quotes file that gives the Heinlein quotes at the top of the page?

    The quotes file is built into a WordPress applet. I’d have to reverse-engineer a bunch of PHP to do that, so it’s not likely to happen soon.

  67. >And citizens who support laws and regulations “for our own health and safety” are now seeing the effects of their willingness to legislate our freedoms away. And now in increasing numbers, Americans see where this is heading, they see the bigger picture. Anger, frustration, violence are the bedfellows and results of all these little intersecting lines that will eventually culminate in something.

    Unfortunately, only a small proportion actually make the connection between growing regulation and our other problems (like unemployment, for one example). A large majority still are calling for more regulation.

  68. >I thought Heinlein said all wars were the result of population pressure. Well, specifically, Friday did, but I consider it didactic.

    He also said it, but also elaborated it more to include effects of trade routes and such on population pressure, in Starship Troopers. Note thought that “population pressure” is only moderately related to actual population or even population density. Given comfortable and private housing and adequate other needs and desires, population densities could rise over large parts of the world, to European and northeastern US densities, without negative effects.

  69. I’m not surprised.

    In the eighties I too loved Brin’s revival of classic 20th century science fiction. However, three years ago I ventured onto Brin’s blog, intrigued by a SETI thread, and discovered that Brin was essentially leading Two Minute Hates in a Daily Kos-style echo chamber. Other points of view were not tolerated but vituperated.

    I was shocked. I know that authors are often not quite the great people we imagine from their works, but from The Uplift Wars etc. I did expect someone more civil and open-minded than the Brin I encountered in 2008.

    I doubt Brin has changed much since then. I wouldn’t consider him rational or reliable on any subject near the red-blue faultline in current politics.

  70. Meat.paste, re: “IF my thoughts are correct and I’m not allowed access to advanced weaponry or certain precursor chemicals, then I don’t really see the point of having guns from a 2nd amendment standpoint.” MP, of course the founders could not have completely foreseen the developments in weaponry since their time. If they had been able to know of things like tanks and automatic weapons and military aircraft, it is plausible that they would have insisted that the people be allowed to own these also. Libertarian author and noted prepper James Rawles concludes his novel “Patriots,” with something like that thought. Yes, Uncle Sam has all of the advanced weapons – but bear in mind that nation-state militaries have had a terrible record handling insurgencies, guerilla wars, and similar non-state forms of warfare. Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan all confirm this reality, to name a few examples. The difficulty the Germans encountered in holding occupied Europe caused them to deploy millions of men “pacifying” occupied nations from Greece to Norway, and even then, they still couldn’t defeat the resistance movements that sprang up. The point of guerilla war is to avoid pitched engagements against better-equipped, formally-trained military forces – instead, you seek to be everywhere and nowhere, to strike where you are least expected and melt away into nothingness before uniformed personnel can arrive. One of the originators of this form of warfare, at least in modern times, was Mao Zedong, who used guerilla warfare successfully to conquer China for the communists. From there, it was copied by the NVA and Viet Cong, and thence into the middle east and across the former imperial possessions of Europe – in Africa, Asia and South America. You are correct to be concerned that small arms alone will be insufficient to gain victory against a tyrannical govt. – but not perhaps for the reasons you think. Would-be tyrants, both here and abroad, know that everyday Americans are armed to the teeth. They probably won’t try a frontal assault, however. The cagey move is to attack us someplace we don’t expect it, i.e., by non-kinetic means. Topple our economy, attack our currency, corrupt our institutions and the law, flood us with illegal immigrants – these are all forms of warfare under the fourth-generation warfare paradigm. You may not think of illegal immigrants or currency manipulations as weapons, but properly employed, they can be. One last note: the second amendment is critical not only because of what it actually provides, i.e. the right to bear arms, but for what it says implicitly – that we the people are not subjects, but citizens and free men. The second amendment fosters the anti-totalitarian mindset, which is one reason would-be tyrants have tried so hard to topple it.

    In the event that TSHTF, and shooting starts between our populace and the military or the police, or both – there will soon enough be arms of all sorts switching hands. Look at Libya – the rebels there procured heavy weapons by capturing them, getting them from govt. forces that switched sides, or similar. The same would happen if a civil war breaks out…. that is the lesson of history.

  71. Exactly,

    I’ve been reading Heinlein since I was a freshman in high school and the themes of an armed society is simply too involved in Heinlein’s work to be something pressed from another. Raymond is completely right, either Brin is lying to himself or is trying to distort the past for some self-serving reason.

  72. Is it too much to ask that an SF author have a demonstrated ability to think?

    Jay M.: I’d like to think so. SF authors are not poets or high literary types, nor are they fantasy writers. It seems to me that SF authors ought to muster some degree of open-mindedness and critical thinking.

    David Brin is a Caltech grad among other things. I understand that he has strong political convictions. So do I. But to go over the top into “Anyone who disagrees with me is a psychopath or a monster” territory and accuse me of treason, is something else.

    http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2008/07/win-over-those-conservatives-who-still.html?showComment=1217180880000#c9003297387282977102

  73. @meat.paste: The preferred instrument of repression by tyrannical governments is not the military, but the police and the secret police (thus the term “police state”). Those are the forces that an armed citizenry needs to match or out-gun.

    In fact, the police forces in the US look to me an awful lot like the “standing armies” that the Founders considered so dangerous. They’re uniformed forces armed with weapons that are generally restricted or prohibited to ordinary private citizens. Worse, they often think of themselves as not-civilians – civilians are the Other to them. They’re “troops, or ships of war” that the States supposedly can’t keep without special permission from Congress.

    Now if the police were strictly limited to owning and carrying the sorts of weapons available to ordinary citizens, they’d be part of the militia, rather than a more dangerous sort of paramilitary group. In fact, that’s what I see as the purpose of the militia clause in the 2nd Amendment: Not to guarantee that the militia are armed, but to guarantee that the armed are a militia – that the various armed government agencies qualify as militias wrt only having those types of weapons commonly and legally available to ordinary private citizens.

    (I’d like to see someone do a John-Lott-style study to see if there is a correlation between “shall issue” ccw and various proxies for police brutality and misconduct. My theory predicts that “more guns” correlates with “less police misconduct.”)

  74. > in a world where guns exist, the ability to own and use a gun becomes a necessary component of effective self-defense.

    And in a world where guns don’t exist, effective self-defense is still a problem for the physically weak and those unable to afford lots of training time with muscle-powered weapons. This results in a tendency toward a lord-and-peasant social pattern, and toward treating women as childlike beings in need of a man’s protection & rule. Thus the saw: “God made man, but Col. Colt made men equal.”

  75. Recall that Heinlein’s first “job” was naval officer, in charge of a battleship turret holding two (three?) big-bore cannons. Also recall that he was a good enough marksman with small arms that the Navy ordered him to compete in military shooting matches. (It was during one such match, in the Panama Canal Zone, that he first had the idea for the waterbed.) He was clearly comfortable around guns (to say the least) by his early twenties.

  76. > He was clearly comfortable around guns (to say the least) by his early twenties.

    That raises an interesting question to which I haven’t the slightest answer but about which I’ve wondered for some time: What is the psychological mechanism that makes unabashed gun grabbers so proud of the fact that they’ve never even held a firearm? Is this some sort of odd manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect?

  77. David Brin is a Caltech grad among other things. I understand that he has strong political convictions. So do I. But to go over the top into “Anyone who disagrees with me is a psychopath or a monster” territory and accuse me of treason, is something else.

    http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2008/07/win-over-those-conservatives-who-still.html?showComment=1217180880000#c9003297387282977102

    Ugh. That’s ugly. I hadn’t even seen that post as I rarely visited his site once I got an idea of how blinkered he was over politics. Glad I had not, as it reaffirms what both Tom Perkins and I have said. And yet again he misses the obvious in a blinkered and blindered view of the facts.

  78. Ken B –

    I think that you need to read a little bit more about the Bonus Army. Troops and tanks led by MacArthur (and including Patton), WERE sent against the Bonus Army. They didn’t fire a shot, but were able to break up the demonstration. Additionally, the Bonus Army DIDN’T ‘achieve their goals’.

  79. Brin really lost me when he supported making the Fairness Doctrine into a law. In general, he seems to support censorship. That decided me against ever buying his books. I’ll be damned if I’ll pay for the free press of someone who doesn’t support my free speech.

  80. Cathay wrote: The so-called National Socialists really were socialists; the name is not just an oxymoron, as I always thought (given the Nazi hatred of the Left).

    National Socialists did not hate “the Left”. They hated all competing ideologies in general and the Bolshevik/Communists in particular. It was the Communist propaganda tool of redefining all opponents into “the Right”, a propaganda practice that was spread so successfully that the false meme is now ubiquitous.

  81. That raises an interesting question to which I haven’t the slightest answer but about which I’ve wondered for some time: What is the psychological mechanism that makes unabashed gun grabbers so proud of the fact that they’ve never even held a firearm? Is this some sort of odd manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect?

    No, it’s a loud proclamation of the fact that despite being Americans, they abhor violence. See, to much of the rest of the world we’ve got it exactly bass-ackwards: Europeans loathe violence and glorify sex, whereas we loathe sex and glorify violence. Of course, European tribalism which explodes into fisticuffs if you’re lucky and terrorism or warfare if you’re not is sort of swept under the rug.

    This becomes important when you realize that there do in fact exist unarmed, polite societies: modern Japan being an example. Crime rates are VERY low and you can walk the streets alone at night with no fear. But unarmed polite societies have a few things in common: they are relatively homogeneous (again, the hot points for violence are at tribal boundaries) and they tend to have a deeply ingrained cultural taboo against violence. They also tend to be a bit restrictive for American tastes.

    Your average liberal is going to want to re-make America in the mold of one of these unarmed polite societies. And he’s going to want to start with the low-hanging fruit: the violence taboo. And because calling out hypocrisy is a liberal’s favorite pastime, he is going to make a big thing about how he abhors and avoids violence and instruments of violence. Hence the “I’ve never touched a gun” boast.

  82. A hint of Brin’s personal feelings (I’m tempted to say illusions but it may be simple if wilful ignorance) can be noted from a column he wrote for Science Fiction Chronicle in the early ’90’s.

    Brin suggested that as a thought experiment and an effort at self-fulfilling prophecy someone ought to write an SF story introducing the untried by his lights experiment of licensing fire arms owners explicitly after the manner of driver’s licenses.

    At the time, and for some time past, this was a suggested compromise to sidestep the hot button issue of gun registration by registering owners.

    Mr. Brin explicitly thought this to be a good idea and also untried. Mr. Brin was obviously completely ignorant of the Illinois experience with the Firearms Owners Identification Card which has had no good effects – see the situation in Illinois over the years.

    Brin is reported personally a nice guy. He certainly takes advice from experts on technical issues and takes it well. (I’ve known people who gave him advice) On occasion Brin, perhaps suffering from smartest person in the room syndrome, takes his impressions and beliefs to be consensus reality – no need to double check.

    On the general subject of resistance to the state see e.g. Solzhenitsyn on the populace pitching in when they come to arrest the neighbors.

    On Mr. Heinlein’s statement I suggest it does suppose a society – imposing arms on a Hobbesian state of nature will not make the state of nature polite. A society in which arms are generally accepted and widely distributed will almost certainly be composed of citizens not subjects and will in fact be polite. Compare Idaho with Chicago.

  83. Some time in the early 1990s I tried to read Earth, & within 30 pages realized that I had much better things to do. That the author of such terrificly cliched tripe would turn out to be a stereotypical paranoid leftist with a strong bent towards polluting the course of dialogue is a shock even greater than the ending of the Crying Game (she had a penis! the chick, I mean, not David Brin).

  84. Sadly, David Brin has succumbed to the leftist echo chamber that is today’s modern university. Brin labels himself as a libertarian but nearly all of the policies he supports are socialist. When debating he even starts spewing the whole “red-state, blue-state” mantra of the liberal democrats (to the red-states detriment of course) and goes on to assert that the vast majority of ‘intelligent’ and ‘educated’ people are “blue-staters” (sigh). While I give him credit for being brilliant in his writing and scientific pursuits (until he rants about politics), David is seriously tainted with a bad case of liberal intellectual elitism and is about as far away from being a libertarian as Nancy Pelosi is from being a “tea partier”. What David Brin has morphed into I would label as ‘liberal intellectual aristocrat’ or to be more precise, an ‘ass’.

  85. David Brin embodies the liberal paradox of our age. Fundamentally he is good decent individual in the liberal mold. His aim is to protect and nurture civilization in all its best aspects — including open-mindedness, civility and tolerance. I imagine he would be a wonderfully gracious host if one were to visit his home.

    However, if he comes to see you as a threat to civilization, then you are no longer human to him, but an enemy, an enemy that must be dealt with for the sake of civilization, i.e. for those values of open-mindedness, civility and tolerance.

    At times, such as WW II, those are the stakes. But I submit that today when such enemies for liberals like Brin include any American who votes Republican, then Brin’s liberalism has flipped over to become anti-liberalism.

  86. I think that if there’s a resource-based civil war in the US, it will be over water. I don’t think it’s terribly likely, but that may just be optimism talking.

    I agree that Heinlein was consistently in favor of private gun ownership, but the polite society part is more varied.

    The original quote shows up in _Beyond This Horizon_, and it’s clear that dueling gives extra space for bullying and that dueling exists partly because the vast majority doesn’t have anything important to do– people on the research station on an outer planet go unarmed. There’s formal courtesy, but I don’t think that’s quite the same thing as a good place to live.

    On the other hand, Heinlein thinks people in general being armed leads to good behavior in Luna in _The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress_.

    _I Will Fear No Evil_ shows a society where crime is very common. He never suggests that fewer guns would make it better, but it’s a bad place unless you’ve got a lot of money to insulate yourself.

  87. Cathy @ 11:18 pm: Or the Year of Four Emperors, or the Constantine-Licinius war. Rome had numerous “disastrous civil wars”, due to a lack of a rigorous succession principle.

  88. About the police as public hazard: I strongly recommend The Agitator.

    The system isn’t completely broken: Cory Maye is free. A SWAT team did a wrong-door raid on his half of a duplex. He thought it was an armed robbery and shot and killed one of the police– the son of the police chief.

    Maye was convicted of murder and put on death row. Maye eventually got a second trial (it took a lot of pro bono work by lawyers and agitation by Radley Balko) in which he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to time served, which meant that, after 10 years in jail, he’s just been released.

    I don’t have the link handy, but apparently the police officer who was killed was a generally decent person, but too willing to trust that his employers had good policies.

  89. Katana @ 10:53 pm:

    The US military as currently constituted takes an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemy’s foreign and domestic.

    True.

    Any order to attack US citizens would be an illegal order and result in the removal from office of the individual or group issuing said order. The US military may not enforce civil laws.

    Not true.

    In 1791, George Washington called up the militia into Federal service to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion and enforce the collection of excise taxes.

    In 1861, Abraham Lincoln, facing armed rebellion “by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the Marshals by law…” ordered the Regular Army into action, and called up the militia “in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed.”

    You may be thinking of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the employment of the armed forces in law enforcement. However it is statutory law and could be repealed or modified at the will of Congress. Also it contains important exceptions: the prohibition is against such enforcement except as expressly authorized by Congress – which Congress may do as it pleases.

    Thus the Act bars the use of military personnel in general law enforcement. This was intended to remove Federal protection of blacks and Republicans in the South.

    But the Act allows enforcement as authorized by Congress – in specific circumstances or for specific kinds of law. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2006, Congress authorized the military to enforce law during a major disaster; this change was repealed in 2008.

    There are other, permanent exemptions, mostly contained in the Insurrection Act.

  90. An armed citizenry does not need full military weapons to defeat a modern military. Semi automatic rifles, combined with homemade roadside bombs, are enough. They were enough to cause us a lot of trouble in Iraq, and are still causing us trouble in Afganistan. The only thing that saved us from defeat in Iraq was we were finally able to accomidate many of the Sunni insurgents by alllowing them to form the Sons Of Iraq malitias. The goal is not to completely defeat the military, but to give them enough trouble that they are willing to seek a political accomidation. Another use for an armed citizenry is to defend against paramilitary malitias and thugs that many petty dictators employ, where semi automatic rifles are more than sufficient. Much of the violence in Africa could be stopped if ordinary villages were armed in this way, and thus could defend themselves against the thugs that currently oppress them.

    Heinlien was clearly pro gun rights, very early in his career, and to suggest otherwise is pretty foolish. His other political views were more flexible, as for example Starship Troopers favored a fairly conservative military based gov, while many other books, like Red Planet, Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and Stranger In a Strange land, were very libertarian and revolutionary, but all of them shared a respect for an armed citizenry, and also a respect for individual freedom and responsibility, and free market economics.

  91. @Rich Rostrom, Katana;

    Whether congress uses the US military against its citizens may be a non-sequitor for now. They have access to private militaries within the US that they can reach out and touch with an emergency pass-through contract. They used them during Katrina as a matter of fact. And when it turns ugly, they use those guys as the fall guys, buying some political protection. These military contractors know this, and many don’t like it, the the payout for their services is often worth the risk. Especially when certain protections are built in to the contracts. This illustrates all kinds of scenarios WRT an internal conflict…

  92. Rich Rostrum;

    Granted that the Congress can recind the Posse Comitatus Act and the President can order the military to suppress revolt. The last time that was done on a large scale the Civil War ensued. General Yamamoto was asked after the attack on Pearl Harbor if he planned an invasion of the United States. Having lived in the United States he said that an invasion could not succeed as their would be a rifle behind every blade of grass. Unconstitutional laws can be passed or edicts issued the question remains; who will enforce them and at what cost. 100 million armed citizens would be a formidable foe considering many are experienced veterans.
    I would not envy the General given the order to suppress the American People!

  93. It is interesting to me that a blogpost about disinformation has morphed into an insurgency discussion. We live in an unsettled time in which the probability of major economic and social upheaval is non trivial. That so many people are thoughtfully contemplating this potential development is indicative of serious social anxiety.

    The Second Amendment right is, without question, a liberty safeguard and largely functions to dissuade tyranny. However, the more probable doomsday scenario is a slow, incremental weakening of the freedom and individuality spirit coupled with creeping despotism. Should this occur, a militia-based resistance is likely not the optimum response.

  94. TomA;

    Robert A. Heinlein was a staunch advocate of both freedom and revolution to maintain it. Revolution prevade his writing’s i.e. Red Planet, Sixth Column, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress etc. I concur that the Second Amendment only increases the cost of imposing tyranny and is a limited deterrent. However a modern society is fragile and a technological revolution can easily disrupt a despotic government. Cyber warfare being only one of many techniques not requiring conventional weapons. A disaffected population can be very disruptive.

  95. The state department and the Pentagon regularly get to the edge of warfare. Their proxies do sometimes engage in actual warfare, with US army mercenaries and proxies shooting up state department proxies. Were the US government to call upon the army to uphold its power, the fact that the government is not really one entity would become apparent.

    What we are seeing on the left is a multiplication of paramilitary forces – for example the education department now has a large paramilitary force, as does the EPA. Is this to collect student loans? I interpret this as an indication that the left lacks confidence that, in the coming collapse, the army will be reliably on its side.

  96. Governments do not suppress the populace….memes enacted by the population themselves do.

    Scary huh?

  97. “….Imagine if you will an alternate world where there was a madman in office who said “damn the blood. Open fire”. How many soldiers do you imagine would have opened fire on men who had every likelihood of being their friends and mentors.
    It’s pretty pulpy SF… but Insurrection by David Weber and Steve White also talks about this……”

    That’s what’s happening in Syria right now.

  98. Katana, the government in Starship Troopers was designed to be revolution-proof. Does that mean it’s more potentially evil than most governments?

    Any opinions about how bad things need to be before insurrection is reasonable?

  99. >That’s what’s happening in Syria right now.

    True, but the question being asked isn’t about Syria. It’s about the U.S. and, by extension, civil societies in which the military is indoctrinated to uphold the rule of low or constitution rather than being tied to a despot in a mutual-support pact aimed at keeping the general population suppressed. In such societies the concept of an “illegal order” has meaning and teeth, and the madman’s order would backfire on him.

  100. Nancy;

    Revocation of constitutional rights i.e. freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the second amendment would constitute cause for revolution as cited in the Federalist Papers on many instances. Cancellation of national elections, confiscation of private property sans compensation, suspension of Habius Corpus etc. The list is long in a free society; unfortunetly our society has been becoming less free gradually for the last century. The boiling of the frog scenario writ large!

  101. Brin really lost me when he supported making the Fairness Doctrine into a law.

    You’ve missed the point badly. Without the Fairness Doctrine any given channel will only air one point of view; that of the owner or his/her investors, and those viewpoints will be similar across the entire class. Before you decide that this is the owner’s privilege, (regardless of whether the owner comes from the left or right) consider the social value of making sure that everyone can expect to hear at least two opinions on any subject regardless of the station to which someone’s TV or radio is permanently tuned.

    The Fairness Doctrine also means that nobody of any political stripe can go right off the deep end. A feedback mechanism is built into the rules such that nobody can advocate Communism or Fascism on a 24/7 basis and never be contradicted.

    For example, every major station is currently airing the kind of airy-fairy propaganda which results in bankers being rewarded for some very shady behavior – ranging from robo-signing to straight-up fraud – and nobody can get on the air and suggest that maybe the people who ran Washington Mutual into the ground, violating numerous laws in the process, should be in jail. If you think the lack of contradiction to “To Big To Fail” isn’t hurting you, you need to think about a few things, including what Heinlein said about systems that run on pure positive feedback.

  102. Homeland security forces are well prepared, trained, and equipped to counteract a militia-based insurrection, should that reality play out in this country. Game theory modeling suggests that confrontations between massed forces is unlikely; and rather, government agents would first seek to undermine militias via infiltration, subversion, deprivation, leader arrest, and economic isolation. Furthermore, this modeling demonstrates that the most effective counter-tyranny strategies do not require, nor take significant advantage from small arms use. This is not to suggest that a traditional grass-roots revolution could not be successful in defeating a tyrannical government, but merely that scientific analysis can point us toward better and more effective methods. To paraphrase an old aphorism, fight smarter not harder.

  103. Alex R.: Ach, what nonsense. Having the government restrict free speech by categorizing points of view and rationing time in the name of “fairness” was always a slap in the face of the First Amendment, even when the argument was that the airwaves were limited. Now we have cable and satellite TV, internet radio, and, you know… the internet. Everything is now contradicted. There’s no more need for a Fairness Doctrine for TV or radio or newspapers or magazines or books or the internet or any other communication medium. Brin’s totally out to lunch on this.

  104. Alex R: let’s presume that the opinions of the station owners are aligned with the interests of the class of station owners. But let’s also presume that the reason the owners own the station is to make money (ideologues eventually run out of money, so this is a good assumption). If all of the owners offend listeners who are in a different class, that’s gonna make for a lot of listeners. The first station to defect is going to have a huge fan base of listeners hungry for a different point of view.

    Your fear is, like most fears, not rational.

  105. No, no, we do need a Fairness Doctrine, people. For every person suggesting that capital gains taxes should be reduced, we should have someone advocating that capital gains tax rates should be made negative. For every person advocating the abolition of Obamacare, there should be someone calling for the complete abolition of all Federal involvement in health care. For everyone calling for the decriminalization of marijuana possession, there should be someone calling for the total abolition of all laws limiting the sale of any drug of any kind to anyone. For every person advocating the defeat of Obama in the 2012 election, there should be someone advocating putting all Democrats in extermination camps. We need balance on the airwaves!

  106. @ Russell Nelson, PapayaSF

    Instead of a Fairness Doctrine becoming law, I’d settle for a general requirement for media owners to require their talent (of any political stripe) to act honestly.

    The shrieking circus that passes for contemporary political debate is almost certainly harmful to democracy – but, as Fox News demonstrates, it’s very popular.

    (Incidentally, I’m puzzled as to how the Gramscian March conspiracy theories – so enticing to some among us – account for the popularity of Bill O’Reilly et al.)

  107. Jeff Read provides an interesting insight into the mindset of left-leaning people.

    It seems there are at least two views of how politics relates to what kind of world we are living in.

    In the left-leaning worldview, societies are shaped from above and basically people are passive, they can be molded into any form without reaction: you don’t want violence, so you make violence alongside with its instruments “not OK”, and it is supposed to work. In this worldview Japan became a low-violence society because someone from above shaped it so, and not because its median age is 45, it has little ethnic-racial-religious differences and thus tensions, has a strongly discplinizing schools system which presumably very few Western liberals would want to import, and somehow still manages to have a higher intentional homicide rate than the very gun-friendly Austria where pretty much every rural person in the mountains is a big hunter. But all this does not not matter. It is very often symbolic, it has a certain element of magic to it, for example, although gravity knives are obviously less dangerous than many commonly used tools, cook’s knives etc. ban them anyway because they are symbolic of gang violence. The whole thing is a bit like using rhino horns for erection problems because they symbolize an erect penis. I think that left-leaning people were strongly influenced by a Freudian kind of psychological thinking, that one becomes violent by being surrounded by symbols of violence.

    In the right-leaning worldview people are seen as active, and thus the world becomes better or worse by the people doing better or worse things, and by the people becoming better or worse themselves largely through doing and not doing things and acquiring or not acquiring good or bad habits. Thus in this worldview the role is politics is indirect: it can only make the world better by trying to reward/punish certain actions, and there is always a large amount of uncertainity whether it really had the same effects as was intended, or had it incentivized rather different actions and formed rather different habits than it wanted. It can be visualized as a shot in a pool game in a difficult setup, you give a push, then after many reflections and collisions *something* happens, often something very different than what you wanted. This worldview can be either be reached through an often complicated analysis of long-term incentives or through relying on one’s moral instinct whether the action in and of itself which is getting rewarded or punished is good or bad. Thus, when it comes to guns, in this worldview they should not be banned because they will not deter those who intend to break much more severe laws with them, but will deter those who do not intend to break any laws. Or relying on the moral instinct, one can simply say there is nothing wrong in and of itself of carrying a weapon, only in its usage, whether that is justifiable or not.

  108. I liked Brin’s books. When I read his article on the Enlightenment vs. Romanticism, I thought it was an elegant defense of what helped to improve the world.

    Then I read his other political opinions. It’s really REALLY disturbing how someone who could so eloquently defend the ideals of liberty and the enlightenment in one article – who gives every indication of understanding the principles involved can so directly contradict them all when he is talking about dominating and oppressing the enemies of HIS political tribe.

    One more point towards the picture that there are really very few people who actually think like I do: Is it too much to ask that people consistently adhere to their principles – something other than naked political tribalism?

  109. Alex R: let’s presume that the opinions of the station owners are aligned with the interests of the class of station owners. But let’s also presume that the reason the owners own the station is to make money (ideologues eventually run out of money, so this is a good assumption). If all of the owners offend listeners who are in a different class, that’s gonna make for a lot of listeners. The first station to defect is going to have a huge fan base of listeners hungry for a different point of view.

    By that logic, entertainment is a bigger moneymaker than journalism so station owners are going to favor entertainment over journalism. We’ve seen this in the past with Pulitzer and Hearst’s yellow press, and today with the Fucks News format– the high fructose corn syrup of television journalism — which has been copied by CNN and even MSNBC.

    If you want to find out what’s actually going on in the world you have to turn to Al-Jazeera.

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  111. ams: “Is it too much to ask that people consistently adhere to their principles – something other than naked political tribalism?”

    I’d love to see a blog entry dedicated to this question. It’s understandable that different people arrive at different moral principles, but why do so few people consistently apply their moral principles once chosen? Are humans really incapable of moving beyond short-term, ad-hoc “morality” that is really just a thin veneer covering tribal loyalty?

    I suppose that the EEA put a high premium on tribal loyalty and group cohesion, and this evolutionary drive goes back much deeper in our history than cognitive approaches to abstract ethics and logic.

  112. Alex R, let’s assume that the “fairness doctrine” has some “social value”. So bloody what? What gives you the right to impose it on people? It’s my newspaper/radio station/blog/whatever, and I’ll use it to say what I believe, and only that. If you want to express the opposite view, get your own outlet. If you seek to use the arms of the state to force me to give you a platform, in defiance of the first amendment, why the hell shouldn’t I use my second amendment right and blow your head off?

  113. And don’t give me that nonsense about “public airwaves”. Even if we confine our discussion to broadcast radio and TV, what the hell makes the airwaves “public”? What did the government do to create them?

  114. Then I read his other political opinions. It’s really REALLY disturbing how someone who could so eloquently defend the ideals of liberty and the enlightenment in one article – who gives every indication of understanding the principles involved can so directly contradict them all when he is talking about dominating and oppressing the enemies of HIS political tribe.

    Oh, I don’t see the problem at all. Brin is profoundly anti-elitist; the enemies of his political tribe are the elites who gambled so much of our blood and treasure to fill their own coffers. How so is he advocating dominating and oppressing them anyway?

  115. Milhouse,

    The airwaves are public because they support effectively unlimited receivers but finitely many (indeed very few) transmitters; a laissez-faire policy on who may transmit would affect all receivers within a signal’s reach, usually to their detriment.

  116. And don’t give me that nonsense about “public airwaves”. Even if we confine our discussion to broadcast radio and TV, what the hell makes the airwaves “public”? What did the government do to create them?

    As Jeff Read says, it’s not what the government did to “create” them, but it certainly is what the government did to give a particular station a geographical monopoly on a piece of spectrum. It’s fine to believe that the government shouldn’t be in that business, but then you have to be consistent about it and agree that if somebody builds a terawatt station right next to your 50 MW station, you have no right to complain…

  117. It’s fine to believe that the government shouldn’t be in that business, but then you have to be consistent about it and agree that if somebody builds a terawatt station right next to your 50 MW station, you have no right to complain…

    Um, no, you can complain, because, you see, the courts had already begun to apply precedents from normal property law to broadcast spectrum in the 1920s, and a new broadcaster trampling over your established mix of frequency and geographic area was trespassing.

    Then Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover managed to convince Congress to nationalize all spectrum and subject content to the supervision of the Federal Radio Commission.

    There’s nothing about spectrum as a limited resource that makes it any more necessary to treat all of it as public airwaves under the control of the FCC than the nature of land as a limited resource makes it necessary to make all land public property under the control of the BLM. It was a deliberate centralizing power grab.

  118. Tom: Who decides what’s “honest” enough to not earn a penalty?

    The State getting to punish you whenever it feels your opinions are “not honest” is essentially identical to the State mandating agreement with its policies, as far as I can tell.

    (I’ve had people tell me – with a straight face – that whoever they happened to be disagreeing with was a liar, because nobody could actually believe what they did, by all indications available to me, believe.

    In other words, there’s no reliable way to tell “dishonest” apart from “honest”. People have honestly believe utterly daft things that were self-contradictory, and contradicted the person’s other honestly held beliefs. But there was no dishonesty. Judging that requires knowledge of their mental state that simply isn’t available from outside.)

    I understand the impetus and core idea, but in practice it’s horrible.

  119. I am told that to this day most Marine noncoms carry a well-thumbed copy of Starship Troopers in their rucksacks.

    If you are being literal, I doubt it. From 1985 – 1993 I don’t recall seeing anyone carry ‘Starship Troopers’ in the field – every bit one throws in there has to go up hills and down hills and it starts to take it’s toll.

    I have no doubt that some people carried a copy around on long deployments – it’s easy to get bored and reading passes the time. But that stays in seabags back in the tent, not carried around in the field.

    Also – it’s on the Commandant’s Reading list for Private, PFC, Lance Corporal. So it’s going to be in every base and unit library in the Corps.

  120. Although I was an undergrad at UCSD when Brin was still a grad student there and actually spoke with him a few times (he had just become a successful SF writer, and was somewhat pompous), I can’t really claim to know his politics except in the roundabout sense that in all of his books, the “good guys” are basically Leftists, and his published essays are mostly Leftist (or as our gracious host might write, transnational-progressivist).

    I think the late Jeff Cooper (LTC USMC, Ret.) would have termed Brin a hoplophobe–Brin has long repeated the Leftist meme that guns are “icky” and that nice, civilized people should not have them or allow others to have them, except perhaps for a few police officers.* Brin wrote “The Postman” at least partly as a screed against “survivalists” of the Mel Tappan era (I was a junior one)– who worried about civilizational gaps due to natural disaster, war, or monetary collapse (which seems even more likely now than then!) (but not about the Y2K problem–that came later). We thought civilized middle-class people should keep guns to defend their homes in case of rioting and arson.* The bad guys in “The Postman” are “gun-nut survivalists” (“holnists”) who deliberately murder rescue workers and people trying to rebuild civilization. I can hardly imagine a 1970s Southern California-type survivalist doing either–we planned to be the rescuers and rebuilders (we weren’t religious whackos, either). We read stuff like Pournelle and Niven’s “Lucifer’s Hammer” and wished to emulate its heroes.

    “The Postman” is also Brin’s “anti-Farnam’s Freehold,” where Brin expresses his disdain for the Heinlein-style “Be Prepared” (Boy Scout’s Motto) approach to life and its problems.*** The hero of the Postman is the opposite of prepared–he’s a lazy con-man who blunders into his role and initially cheats his benefactors. While this allows Brin a straightforward, if rather forced, arc along which to develop his hero’s character, it makes the book into a kind of anti-rationality (almost anti-technology) fantasy (like LOTR, which Brin has roundly criticized)– especially when the action moves to the Wizard-Of-Oz like fake super-AI domestic god of the “Cyclops” culture.

    Anyway, Brin’s writings suggest a disdain for individual effort using personal tools, and a preference for collective work using crew-served technologies (under wise leadership, of course, which Brin thinks will magically be altruistic rather than selfish and domineering). Of course Brin is a skilled writer whose characters must often express views not shared by their author, but Brin expresses collectivist personal opinions in essays and books like the “Transparent Society.” I wouldn’t care to live in Brin’s preferred world as I understand it– I think his notions of social organization are somewhere between naive and malevolent.

    *Brin seems uninterested in the possibility that the few armed people in such a society would shortly become an oppressor class.

    **Note that in 1992 we semi-tough “survivalists” who lived in Los Angeles County discovered we were right! We actually had to defend our homes for a day or two against the “Rodney King” rioters who left their slums to commit arson, assault, robbery, and looting around the LA basin! No kidding. The LAPD retreated into Parker Center while their city was set aflame by arsonists. While Venice burned the Santa Monica PD blocked the exits from the freeway (I-10), but they lacked the manpower to block all the surface streets. I took my turn guarding my apartment building in Santa Monica with my personal HK91, so the motorized arsonists who set the Sears-Roebuck store two blocks away on fire wouldn’t do the same to my home. All along the (I-10) freeway corridor all the grocery stores and similar were looted and burnt except those guarded by their owners (the famous “Korean shopkeepers”) with small arms. The Korean shopkeepers had to shoot– I didn’t, the threat was enough. Los Angeles Times columnist (and standard liberal) Jonathan L. Gold wrote an essay about how happy he was that the drug dealers (with “Uzis”) in his LA neighborhood guarded the street he and they lived on against roving arsonists. LA’s liberals even appeared on TV, complaining that California’s 15-day gun-purchase waiting period–which their own Democrat legislators had enacted–was “unfair.” “Gun control for thee,” they mewled, “not for me!”

    ***Actually, “Farnham’s Freehold” is another counter-example to Brin’s claim that all Heinlein novels have a first half full of exciting action and a second half full of boring talk.

  121. Oh, I don’t see the problem at all. Brin is profoundly anti-elitist; the enemies of his political tribe are the elites who gambled so much of our blood and treasure to fill their own coffers. How so is he advocating dominating and oppressing them anyway?

    Jeff R: Again, check this ripe sampling of Brin, http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2008/07/win-over-those-conservatives-who-still.html?showComment=1217180880000#c9003297387282977102 , in which he disparages me and people like me as monsters, psychopaths, and war criminals.

    I am not the elite. I am simply an American who disagrees with Brin and his tribe.

    Such a rank, polemical post from one who claims to uphold the values of the Enlightenment, as Brin does, is inconsistent, even hypocritical. Brin seems to imagine himself as true upholder of liberal values, but to me he comes across as an intellectual bigot unable to accept that informed people may disagree on a subject as complex as Iraq and still manage to engage in civil debate.

  122. @Sigivald

    You’re right, of course – honesty by itself is probably not enough and reasonableness is too much to hope for.

    But there has to be something wrong with the quality of debate when it takes a comedian to articulate the need to Restore Sanity.

  123. I should have contrasted Cyclops with H. Beam Piper’s Merlin. Piper was a man who knew a thing or two about guns, and made it clear in his books why civilized people should keep them around.

    I think the .40S&W (a shortened version of the 10mm Norma) is about what Piper envisioned as the 10mm pistol cartridge he equipped so many of his future-dwelling characters with. I’m proud to carry it.

  124. Huxley,

    He never disparaged you as a war criminal. Hell, his entire blog post is about reaching out to people like you and getting you to realize that the ShrubCo agenda is in fact anticonservative and against the grain of traditional American values. Inasmuch as “people like you” means Bush, Cheney, and the gang, he is right to disparage them as monsters and war criminals. But ordinary conservatives who support and justify their criminal deeds he only accused of being “complicit in treason”. Which is 100% true. Bush et al. have betrayed liberal values and all that this country stands for with their atrocities. Under laws duly enacted by Congress they should hang for what they’ve done. That’s not going to happen of course because we have a history of pardoning and excusing the well-connected political class. (See also: Ford pardoning Nixon.) By not calling them out on their misdeeds, conservative supporters are complicit in their crimes by definition: to be complicit in a crime is not to have committed the crime, but to have known it was committed and remained silent.

    Sorry, but you get no sympathy from me. Dr. Brin has given you no more than your just share.

  125. Um, no, you can complain, because, you see, the courts had already begun to apply precedents from normal property law to broadcast spectrum in the 1920s, and a new broadcaster trampling over your established mix of frequency and geographic area was trespassing.

    There’s nothing about spectrum as a limited resource that makes it any more necessary to treat all of it as public airwaves under the control of the FCC than the nature of land as a limited resource makes it necessary to make all land public property under the control of the BLM.

    So somebody who started up a really powerful spark-gap transmitter in 1915 should be able to own the entire spectrum for 200 miles around? Sorry, don’t buy it.

  126. Mr. Maupin, what do you think that theoretical has to do with anything? I’m talking about the actual historical state of the airwaves in the United States in 1926, before the nationalization of the airwaves, the shutdown of 83 established broadcasters, the imposition of a regime of regional quotas, and the start of Federal censorship of content.

  127. Jeff Read,

    By that logic, everyone who voted for Obama is “complicit in treason”. Obama’s fiscal policies are far more likely to bring down the Republic than anything Bush or Cheney did. Your argument, and therefore also Brin’s, show such utter inability to understand the human condition that I hope you both avoid voting booths at all costs.

    Yours,
    Tom

  128. @Steven Ehrbar:

    While I agree with the crux of your argument — that the government has no business regulating the airwaves through the FCC based on actual, historical precedence that says it should be treated like private property — I have a couple of points to make:

    1. The BLM is much more powerful than you might think. Just ask the U.S. Air Force and/or Glenn Campbell about “Freedom Ridge” — a little mountain (well, more like a hill) formerly adjacent to the area in the Nevada Test Site known colloquially as Area 51.

    2. The scene before 1926 was very much a madhouse and that’s why the FCC was ultimately created. People were tying up the court system fighting over pieces of spectrum and resorting to lawless tactics to get their signal heard. I don’t agree that the FCC was the way to handle that, but it wasn’t all roses and tulips prior to 1926.

  129. Mr. Maupin, what do you think that theoretical has to do with anything? I’m talking about the actual historical state of the airwaves in the United States in 1926, before the nationalization of the airwaves, the shutdown of 83 established broadcasters, the imposition of a regime of regional quotas, and the start of Federal censorship of content.

    I think the nationalization of most of the airwaves started at least a good 14 years before 1926:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Act_of_1912

    But it certainly got worse shortly after:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Act_of_1927

    But the problems at the agency were apparently mostly due to rent-seeking. IOW, the same assholes wound up on top that would have wound up on top anyway once things wound their way through the court system.

    Really, though, 1927 was almost a foregone conclusion given 1912, and 1912 was almost a foregone conclusion given the broadcasters who were screwing with military communication. I don’t think any court action between 1912 and 1927 would have changed much. The government already had most of the spectrum reserved in 1912.

  130. I recommend Melissa Marr’s “Guns for the Dead” in Datlow’s recent _Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy_ as a pleasant pro-gun story.

  131. Patrick, you might want to check out an article noting the history of radio control as well as one noting current problems and suggesting alternatives with it. YMMV, but I honestly think that many of the interference issues would have technical solutions, if legal solutions weren’t already in place making them superfluous. IIRC, things like WIFI routers have been much more efficient in their use of spectrum than anything in the unlicensed spectrum.

  132. @ Milhouse

    “If you want to express the opposite view, get your own outlet. If you seek to use the arms of the state to force me to give you a platform, in defiance of the first amendment, why the hell shouldn’t I use my second amendment right and blow your head off?”

    The Second Amendment is about the right to posses and carry weapons, it is quite silent about the ‘right’ to use them.

    So you have no ‘Second amendment right ‘ to blow the head off of anyone.

    On the other hand, whatever passes for members of the civilization you exist within will always reserve the ‘right’ (how ever you personally feel about that) to sanction you for any use of said weapons that they collectively disapprove of. Or to absolve you of sanctions if they find your use of said weapons to be appropriate.

    That is pretty much what personal responsibility comes down to –Did you make the correct decision, within the norms of correct decisions for the ‘civilized’ system you exist in.

    Which speaks not to the value of any given ‘civilized system’. But I suspect that any system that condones ‘it’s OK to blow the head off of anyone you don’t like, for any reason that pleases you” will not long stand.

  133. @phlinn:

    I honestly think that many of the interference issues would have technical solutions, if legal solutions weren’t already in place making them superfluous.

    I dunno. When you’re a broadcaster, you might want to drown out all the other broadcasters. When you’re trying to sell the baddest-ass WiFi card, you might want to make it 75 watts to blast through two apartment buildings all the way over to the pool.

    But certainly, in the early days, we have prima facie evidence that cooperation was lacking. Relying on the courts to sort it out absent any guidance (what’s the RF equivalent of 160 acres, anyway?) arguably would have been as bad or even worse than what we have now. What are the chances that a uniform slice of spectrum all the way across the country would have been made available for the equivalent of WiFi?

  134. “But ordinary conservatives who support and justify their criminal deeds he only accused of being “complicit in treason”. Which is 100% true. Bush et al. have betrayed liberal values and all that this country stands for with their atrocities. Under laws duly enacted by Congress they should hang for what they’ve done.

    Well, I always appreciate notice of who has designated me a traitor. It makes target selection easier.

  135. err… that should have been “Than anything in the licensed spectrum” in my last comment.

    @Patrick:

    I really do suggest reading those 2 links I included. The first, at least, demonstrated an instance where the big players lost a court case via a homesteading approach, which was shortly followed by the 1927 law which eliminated the possibility. I find no reason to believe that government control of airwaves is an improvement. The courts were already grappling with, and resolving, defining an analog to property.

    Consider this possibility: with no FCC, all spectrum would be up for grabs for WIFI, most likely with cards which automatically sought channels which weren’t in use as too much interference would make them useless. That would be a hell of a lot more spectrum I could use than I can with the current setup, which has numerous unused channels in my region. There is at the very least a practical limit to how much mutual interference would be created in free for all, as beyond a certain point no one would bother. It’s possible that the regulated channels are more useful than they would be if open, but in the open channels currently used by WIFI, the use of spectrum has been a lot more efficient than in the regular broadcast spectrum so I don’t consider the evidence of that very strong.

  136. @philnn:

    I read those articles. They conveniently ignore what was going on before 1912. Otherwise, they wouldn’t possibly be able to make the case that, e.g. everything was hunky-dory before Hoover got involved.

    I can believe that things could be done better. But trying to make a case for deregulation with a “history” that doesn’t reach back far enough to see what was going on when things were deregulated is disingenuous at best.

  137. Brendan Kehoe wrote “Zen and the Art of the Internet” in the early 90s
    (releasing it for free online distribution as well as selling it via
    Prentice-Hall).  His work inspired “EFF’s (Extended) Guide to the
    Internet”.  He also maintained the Computer Underground Digest archives at EFF (CuD);
    those archives now appear here:

     http://web.archive.org/web/20081102123813/http://www.etext.org/CuD/

    His name appears in the EFF website more than 20 times today.

    Cygnus ended up hiring Brendan in 1992 as an inspired and
    diligent programmer.  He barely survived a car crash in late 1993,
    inspiring concern and donations from all over the early Internet (and
    a NYT article about that), but he came back strongly and continued to
    be a major contributor.  He eventually married, quit working for
    Cygnus, and moved to his wife’s native Ireland, where he has lived
    since.  On July 19, 2011, surrounded by his family, he died in an Irish hospital.

    Details are on his blog, here:

    http://www.zen.org/

  138. Nancy Lebovitz, thank you for the reference to Melissa Marr’s Guns for the Dead/Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy. An interesting read…

  139. Now that we’ve knocked down Brin’s internet/literary persona, kicked it in the head, the ribs, the kidneys and the nuts, and left it lying by the side of the road nekkid, with rude remarks in Sharpy ink on it, and it’s just lying there going Ow Ow Ow, could we please talk about the Gunwalker scandal, which is actually Serious Business?

  140. Phlinn said: Consider this possibility: with no FCC, all spectrum would be up for grabs for WIFI, most likely with cards which automatically sought channels which weren’t in use as too much interference would make them useless.

    Well, not all of it, one hopes.

    I mean, transmitters and receivers and antennas seem to be most efficient and inexpensive when designed for a specific range of frequencies. (Especially transmitters; I’ve seen plenty of receivers that cover a fairly wide range of frequencies, but transmitters? Not so much.)

    So we’d probably see a wider range, but not unlimited – and possibly not much bigger than we see now!

    (Any RF guys want to chime on on what sort of broadness of RX/TX frequency range is compatible with the sizes of antennas and ICs we’re willing to put in things? Or how awkward it might make matchmaking?)

    Also, it seems unwise to compare the efficiency of spectrum use in different bands for different purposes like that.

    Trying to broadcast audio to a huge area with old technology (100,000W effective power FM radio) just isn’t quite the same thing as using 2.4-6ghz microwave for short-range data with band-hopping.

    The difference isn’t that “wifi is open and FM radio is closed”, but “radio is transmitting to legacy equipment that can’t DO that stuff” – and since it’s one-way communication, there’s no need at all FOR things like frequency hopping.

  141. @Jeff Read:

    There’s currently a proposal to make chunks of unlicensed spectrum available for WiFi. Republicans want to prevent that without first offering to sell the spectrum to telcos.

    The Republicans want to appear all pro-capitalism by offering the sale of the spectrum to telcos, but if they were really pro-capitalism they’d be looking for ways increase the amount of unlicensed spectrum.

    Republicans need to get a clue: capitalism is about free markets, not regulatory capture.

  142. The gunwalker thing is a shit sandwich and heads deserve to roll for it. “Gun control for thee but not for me, and also not for these Mexican drug thugs”? Psh. Welcome to the American political class.

    By the same token I love how the conservatives pounce on this and call for impeachments, yet when one of their own, John McCain, said that the Bush administration violated the Geneva Conventions, punishable by life imprisonment or death according to the War Crimes Act of 1996 — crickets.

  143. Trying to broadcast audio to a huge area with old technology (100,000W effective power FM radio) just isn’t quite the same thing as using 2.4-6ghz microwave for short-range data with band-hopping.

    The difference isn’t that “wifi is open and FM radio is closed”, but “radio is transmitting to legacy equipment that can’t DO that stuff” – and since it’s one-way communication, there’s no need at all FOR things like frequency hopping.

    So — shut the FM radio stations down (like we did with analog TV), replace their broadcasts with internet radio feeds, and renegotiate those chunks of spectrum! If you really want to hear KISS in the Morning, an internet radio for your car should be able to pull in their digital feed. If your radio is too old, tune in to 88 MHz and buy a converter box from Radio Shack, that converts the digital feed into a low-power analog signal you can hear on your old FM set.

    It wouldn’t be hard, if we decided to knuckle down as a culture and fucking DO IT already. What we get instead is mew mew mew, it’s not politically feasible. And why is it not politically feasible? Because of the entrenched big players and special fucking interests! Record companies, broadcast conglomerates like Clear Channel, you name it.

  144. By the way, I’m pretty sure Marconi invented radio as a communication device, not a broadcast mass medium. I don’t think millions of idiots bopping their head to Ke$ha was quite what he had in mind when he invented it.

  145. > The gunwalker thing is a shit sandwich and heads deserve to roll for it. “Gun control for thee but not for me, and also not for these Mexican drug thugs”? Psh. Welcome to the American political class.

    > By the same token I love how the conservatives pounce on this and call for impeachments, yet when one of their own, John McCain, said that the Bush administration violated the Geneva Conventions, punishable by life imprisonment or death according to the War Crimes Act of 1996 — crickets.

    Not the American political class. The human race.

    Yours,
    Tom

  146. @sigivald:

    I mean, transmitters and receivers and antennas seem to be most efficient and inexpensive when designed for a specific range of frequencies. (Especially transmitters; I’ve seen plenty of receivers that cover a fairly wide range of frequencies, but transmitters? Not so much.)

    DSP helps a lot, but this is still a true statement, and in general lower frequencies require bigger components.

    There is also the issue that different bands are better or worse for different things. Some bounce nicely off the ionosphere, some can be sent line-of-sight, some can travel through walls, some are OK for one-way really slow communication with submarines (like “surface so we can really talk” I guess, or “launch the big one.” Who knows? At those baudrates, the codebook can’t be too big), some are problematic because they cause problems with extremely difficult to replace transmitters in nearby bands, and some are most useful when nobody transmits on them at all.

  147. @jeff read:

    So — shut the FM radio stations down (like we did with analog TV), replace their broadcasts with internet radio feeds, and renegotiate those chunks of spectrum!

    Fair enough. But… The government has all the TV whitespace, which they are talking about selling to the highest bidder. Why should they sell that, and then claw back FM with a massive disruption of existing infrastructure, when the entire FM band is less than 3.5 TV channels worth of bandwidth?

    (BTW, for comparison, the AM band is only about 0.5 TV channels worth of bandwidth…)

  148. s/the AM band is only about 0.5/the AM band is only about 0.2/

  149. meat.paste Says:

    “A recurring question I have about the second amendment is about the thought behind the amendment. This has a significant impact on the issue of gun rights to me.”

    The Second Amendment has no fundamental relevance to the right of self defense. Rights are not created because some people write some words on a piece of paper and go through some ritual claimed to sanctify those words. Rights are moral imperatives: violating one’s right to keep and bear arms ultimately boils down to taking violent action against a person who has done nothing to aggress against another human being. That makes the enforcement of gun control laws simply a form of criminal assault.

    As I like to say, gun control doesn’t prevent violence — it IS violence.

  150. WCC Says:

    “the military ran into problems [in Iraq and Afghanistan] because the U.S. government did not have the political will to fight the war the way it needs to be fought.”

    And how did it need to be fought? A million+ dead Iraqi citizens isn’t enough for you? Dropping bombs with a blast radius of hundreds of yards into a crowded metropolis was the policy of timid and foolishly tenderhearted men? Telling soldiers to head into a neighborhood and “kill anyone who looks like a terrorist” was just too discriminating for you?

  151. JonB Says:

    “This [the Bonus Army] also demonstrates one of the main reasons why the military isn’t a guaranteed government win in a free society.”

    Too bad we Americans don’t live in one.

  152. esr Says:

    “…the question being asked …[is] about the U.S. and, by extension, civil societies in which the military is indoctrinated to uphold the rule of low or constitution”

    It would be comforting to believe that the U.S. has such a military, but I am not convinced. As far as I can tell, the one thing the military is most indoctrinated in is the importance of obedience to their commanders.

  153. Mr. Van Horn,

    “As far as I can tell, the one thing the military is most indoctrinated in is the importance of obedience to their commanders.”

    Then you are profoundly ignorant, basing your picture of the U. S. military on a Sixties-era leftoid stereotype that was, at best, obsolescent even then. You should make some attempt to familiarize yourself with the content of modern military training. It would help you avoid such fatuity.

    Regards,
    Ric

  154. And how did it need to be fought? A million+ dead Iraqi citizens isn’t enough for you? Dropping bombs with a blast radius of hundreds of yards into a crowded metropolis was the policy of timid and foolishly tenderhearted men? Telling soldiers to head into a neighborhood and “kill anyone who looks like a terrorist” was just too discriminating for you?

    That’s my fear. That’s why I said I’m afraid of what victory may have looked like.

  155. > And how did it need to be fought? A million+ dead Iraqi citizens isn’t enough for you? Dropping bombs with a blast radius of hundreds of yards into a crowded metropolis was the policy of timid and foolishly tenderhearted men? Telling soldiers to head into a neighborhood and “kill anyone who looks like a terrorist” was just too discriminating for you?

    Tendentious claptrap.

    > That’s my fear. That’s why I said I’m afraid of what victory may have looked like.

    Victory pretty much looked like what we got. The Iraqis have a chance to move from corrupt bloody tyranny to slightly less corrupt, much less bloody democracy, and thence to something even less corrupt and less bloody. It took the French quite some time to make their journey to the Fifth Republic. The Iraqis would benefit from a similar journey, hopefully much less bloody. I am somewhat optimistic they will do so. There have been many countries with wildly different cultures which have made that journey in a much more peaceful fashion.

    I’m sorry you thought victory would be more dramatic. We don’t get that all the time you know.

    Yours,
    Tom

  156. Victory pretty much looked like what we got. The Iraqis have a chance to move from corrupt bloody tyranny to slightly less corrupt, much less bloody democracy, and thence to something even less corrupt and less bloody.

    So that was the stated goal from the beginning? Or did perhaps the Bush administration tell the American people that he was invading Iraq as retribution for the attacks of September 11, 2001, when, instead, he was simply carrying on the neocon agenda, which as early as the mid-to-late 90s was pushing for regime change in Iraq as part of a greater campaign to stabilize the Middle East?

    BTW–both missions failed miserably. The terrorists weren’t stopped and are maybe worse than ever at this point and the Middle East is even less stable than before that war began.

    I’m not trying to take sides here, but you have to admit that when you step back and really think about what happened, it becomes clear that Iraq was not anything close to a success when you consider the reasons for regime change as opposed to simply the regime change as an end unto itself.

  157. @ M Greywolf> “a greater campaign to stabilize the Middle East?”

    …more like destabilize. We agree in general…but the Neocons are clever at least….stupid….like petulant children…..but clever in a carnival barker kind of way. They have the pulse of the hoi polloi….until they don’t.

    They seem to come off quite well. Mostly because they are ruthless and arrogant, while the many do not care. Short term this works quite well. Long term…not so much…

    The long term is quickly upon us.

  158. …more like destabilize.

    Kind of. The idea was to destablize those entities within the Middle East that were considered a threat to Israel and its allies. (cf. Clean Break, etc.) Despite the regime change in Iraq and recent Syrian uprising, things really aren’t any better for Israel and the Middle East is less stable now than it ever has been. I think hope — however misguided — was that by destabilizing Israel’s enemies, that would somehow lessen tensions in the Middle East overall. As we can see, they were wrong.

  159. Oh, and if you mean they’re trying to destabilize the Middle East to bring about “armageddon” on purpose? I think some individuals may be that misguided, but I don’t think the neocon movement as a whole was ever thinking that way.

  160. Ric Locke Says:

    “Then you are profoundly ignorant, basing your picture of the U. S. military on a Sixties-era leftoid stereotype”

    I am not now nor have I have ever been a leftist or “leftoid”. My picture of the U.S. military is based on things I have heard from people who have been in today’s military. It’s based on reports of how the military has lowered standards because of difficulty recruiting. It’s based on the behavior of former U.S. military personnel when they come home, become cops, and start treating Americans like serfs. It’s based on a 1994 survey of U.S. Marines in which 26% stated that they WOULD shoot American citizens who “refuse or resist confiscation of firearms banned by the U.S. government.”

    And, quite frankly, I just can’t see idolizing people who have voluntarily chosen to surrender their own consciences and kill anyone they are ordered to kill. Given the nigh universal murderous tendencies of governments, I don’t see how any man of conscience could volunteer for military service. The only possible exception that comes to mind is the Swiss military, given their centuries-old policy of refusing to use military force for anything except stopping an actual invasion.

  161. Tom DeGisi cries “Tendentious claptrap” to this:

    > And how did it need to be fought? A million+ dead Iraqi citizens isn’t enough for you? Dropping bombs with a blast radius of hundreds of yards into a crowded metropolis was the policy of timid and foolishly tenderhearted men? Telling soldiers to head into a neighborhood and “kill anyone who looks like a terrorist” was just too discriminating for you?

    In other words, you have nothing of substance with which to counter. I didn’t make up any of those assertions. You can hide your head in the sand and pretend that the U.S. government wouldn’t do something so murderous as to drop bombs with a blast radius of hundreds of yards into a densely-populated city, with civilian casualties guaranteed to occur in large numbers, but facts are facts.

  162. Jeff Read Says:

    “That’s my fear. That’s why I said I’m afraid of what victory may have looked like.”

    My apologies.

  163. >As we can see, they were wrong.

    consistently….

    quite amazing really. They imagine themselves Israel’s best friends….HA…HA…HA

    At this rate they will destroy Israel…

    “$deity” help us…

    We WILL ALL be involved in one way or another….Calgon…take me away

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calgon

    also:

  164. >oh, and if you mean they’re trying to destabilize the Middle East to bring about “armageddon” on purpose? I think some individuals may be that misguided, but I don’t think the neocon movement as a whole was ever thinking that way.

    Nah…only the crazy snake handling types think that way. The neocons….they are more rational than that….but still stupid; locked in the past….. With a narrow silly paradigm involving hard power and the illusion of control.

    as if……

  165. Van Horn, lowered standards from difficulty recruiting? Your understanding of the US military is based on misunderstandings that are fundamental.

    And when people start talking about “neocons”, its pretty much a guarantee that we are going to hear greater and greater departures from reality. Its a guarantee that we’ll hear positions described that are essentially nonexistent and ascribed to mythical groups. And sure enough …

  166. @SPQR>And when people start talking about “neocons”, its pretty much a guarantee that we are going to hear greater and greater departures from reality. Its a guarantee that we’ll hear positions described that are essentially nonexistent and ascribed to mythical groups. And sure enough …

    Oh? Really?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/24/hugh-shelton-iraq-war-bush_n_773038.html

    I dare you to research Norman Podhoretz

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Podhoretz

    Elliot Abrams

    Irving Kristol etc.

    Do your homework first please.

    You are an enabler otherwise…they count on it…clever devils. I do have a sneaking admiration for their ruthless nature…if only they weren’t so daft.

    Oh and….the penis envy…they really have that.

  167. Apparently the word peni$ with links causes WordPress to $hit a brick…..

  168. @SPQR:

    And when people start talking about “neocons”, its pretty much a guarantee that we are going to hear greater and greater departures from reality. Its a guarantee that we’ll hear positions described that are essentially nonexistent and ascribed to mythical groups. And sure enough …

    No departure from reality here. See Clean Break, the paper and Clean Break, the WIkipedia entry. This paper was written in 1996 and stated that:

    Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.

    I could not make up such things even if I tried.

  169. >No departure from reality here.

    I think it’s significant that those arguing for the meaningfulness of the term ‘neocon’ have to cite 15-year-old sources. The term has since been effectively emptied of meaning, becoming left-wing shorthand for “anyone I wish to associate with the evil Boooooosh.” SPQR is correct that it now conveys more about the derangement of the accuser than the position of the accused, though there was a time when this was not the case – perhaps as recently as 2003 or 2004.

    Compare the evolution of the term “racism”, which has been even more thoroughly emptied of meaning by the same people in much the same way.

  170. # esr Says:

    “The term [neocon] has since been effectively emptied of meaning, becoming left-wing shorthand for ‘anyone I wish to associate with the evil Boooooosh.’ … Compare the evolution of the term ‘racism’, which has been even more thoroughly emptied of meaning by the same people in much the same way.”

    True, the left loves to accuse anyone with whom they disagree of racism. Yet racism is in fact a real phenomenon, and there are actual racists. Likewise, if leftists should apply the term “neocon” indiscriminately, this does not invalidate the term’s legitimacy.

    And you might want to consider whether you are yourself engaging in similar smearing behavior. You seem to have a tendency to label as “leftist” or associate with leftists any position that you disagree with. This is not far removed from the left’s cry of “racist” against anyone with whom they disagree. In the particular case of the term “neocon”, I heard that word from libertarians and commentators on the right long before I ever heard it used by the left.

  171. @esr>I think it’s significant that those arguing for the meaningfulness of the term ‘neocon’ have to cite 15-year-old sources. The term has since been effectively emptied of meaning, becoming left-wing shorthand for “anyone I wish to associate with the evil Boooooosh.” SPQR is correct that it now conveys more about the derangement of the accuser than the position of the accused, though there was a time when this was not the case – perhaps as recently as 2003 or 2004.

    All political language has been corrupted to the point of being meaningless as used in popular discourse. The neocons are a specific group, with specific goals, alliances and ideology. The fact that they have managed to corrupt their descriptor to essentially mean “Bush etc” is quite a triumph. They have not nor ever will be “conservative”. They are the heirs of Trotsky….

    If studying a group, their motivations, origins, goals, methods, and subsequent influence makes one deranged…then I will happily wear that descriptor.

  172. “The terrorists weren’t stopped and are maybe worse than ever at this point. . .”

    . . .but nevertheless, even if that’s true, compared to the suicide rate in the usa, as well as in most of the other industrialized nations, the number of murders the terrorists have caused is still just a miniscule fraction of the number of suicides.

    Here in the usa, we lost over ten times as many people to suicide in 2001 as were murdered in the 9/11 attacks. And the suicide rate has remained over 30,000/year since then. The suicide rate is also consistently higher than the homicide rate here.

    We spent 4.7 billion on the TSA in 2001 and that amount increased every year until now we’re paying over 7 billion dollars per year. . .to maybe prevent a couple of hijacking attempts that would, if successful, kill about 300 people on average at best.

    Meanwhile, over 100 times as many people kill themselves every year, and the federal government spends less than a hundredth as much on prevention of that, about $40M/year.

    “But, but, NEOCONS!!!”

  173. >You seem to have a tendency to label as “leftist” or associate with leftists any position that you disagree with.

    False. Look up my rants on creationism and religion sometime.

  174. >”“But, but, NEOCONS!!!”

    Exactly…and if you can’t understand that the administrations change..but the overall game plan does not, then you will forever be in my team vs your team mode.

    Which actually works quite well……as you are demonstrating.

  175. TMR, I can’t figure out what you’re trying to assert, because there’s not enough context in your response. Would you be more explicit, please?

  176. I probably should have posted this before conversation shifted, but…

    ESR, have you ever considered writing science fiction yourself? You seem to have a deep understanding of its underlying meaning and conventions.

    (Yesterday I got my first taste of Heinlein. I think this is the first time since childhood that I’ve felt a sense of wonder at what I read.)

  177. Ah, a link to Raimondo. Oh, wow. That always convinces me … of my first reaction really.

  178. Kevin,

    > In other words, you have nothing of substance with which to counter.

    Plenty of substance. Insufficient energy and respect.

    > I didn’t make up any of those assertions.

    No, but you have correctly labeled them as assertions. This is good.

    > facts are facts

    True. Some of your facts are opinions. Some of your facts are being used in a highly misleading (and approaching slanderous) way. In short: tendentious claptrap.

    Morgan,

    For whatever reason, whatever you are saying here is not clicking with me. I read it and it doesn’t mean anything to me, probably because you are remembering things without writing anything that is getting me to remember them. I wanted the U.S. to go into Iraq to produce a democratic state which would show Arabs and Muslims that following the path to liberal democracy is better than either corrupt secular dictators or corrupt theocratic dictators. It’s a grand strategy over a long period. My guru was Steven Den Beste, who didn’t care about Israel much at all, not Kristol or Podhoretz or Abrams, etc. From where I sit it’s going pretty well in Iraq and not well in Afghanistan. It will go better in Iraq (and long term success will be more likely) if they decide they want a long term U.S. troop commitment. I don’t know how to make it go better in Afghanistan. Maybe we should introduce a strong tribe of anarcho-capitalist colonists.

    Yours,
    Tom

  179. Heinlein himself had something to say about Campbell’s influence on him. By sheer coincidence I stumbled across this yesterday in Expanded Universe. It’s in Heinlein’s Foreword to the story “Solution Unsatisfactory”:

    I… wrote THEY and SIXTH COLUMN while I was on that trip. The latter was the only story of mine ever influenced to any marked degree by John W. Campbell, Jr.

  180. I finally picked up the copy of Stranger In A Strange Land I’ve been eying since last fall. Borders is clearing out, and by coincidence I found the lone copy they had left. I’m through the first part and looking forward to more.

  181. Stranger was preachy but interesting. But to see Heinlein at the apex of his powers you should check out The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

  182. > The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

    Seconded. As a child this was definitely my favorite Heinlein.

  183. Kevin S. Van Horn,

    Here’s an example.

    > Given the nigh universal murderous tendencies of governments, I don’t see how any man of conscience could volunteer for military service. The only possible exception that comes to mind is the Swiss military, given their centuries-old policy of refusing to use military force for anything except stopping an actual invasion.

    You want me to give you the respect and understanding to respond substantively to you. Yet, you cannot be bothered to give respect and understanding to the hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of men and women who have volunteered for military service over millenia of time. Either you are incredibly dense, which I don’t believe for a minute, or you are tendentiously refusing to apply your understanding of real human nature to real humans. If you cannot be bothered to make the slightest effort to understand the real human nature of millions or billions of real humans, or if your arguments require you to deliberately gloss over the real nature of those same people, do your arguments really merit the respect you seem to think their due?

    Or perhaps you have been mislead by the tendentious claptrap repeated by otherwise respectable people, who, hearing a set of arguments that sounded good to them, didn’t bother to think about millions or billions of real people in our real history.

    Yours,
    Tom

  184. *The Moon is a Harsh Mistress* is great, but I think *Have Space Suit-Will Travel* is one of the more underrated books out there. I put off reading it for a long while because I thought the title was corny, but it is well worth it. I think Jack Williamson is right about Heinlein’s juveniles being the most enduring part of his legacy; *Farmer in the Sky*, *Tunnel in the Sky*, *Time for the Stars*, and *Starship Troopers* are all right up there, as well.

  185. Insurgencies are easy to beat, just ask the Filipinos. The problem is the modern notion of “acceptable tactics”….

  186. I’m trying to get my daughter to read *Have Spacesuit-Will Travel*. Perhaps if she gets bored enough this summer after her grandmother goes home.

    The ending to *Tunnel in the Sky* really drives home the difference between childhood and adulthood.

  187. > FWIW, I remember the modern drive to disarm the citizenry as being a follow-on to the assassination of John Kennedy.

    Nope. That was just the excuse for one round of US gun control.

    Gun control is a “progressive” cause because progressives have always been very concerned with race control (they’re behind Jim Crow and all of the federal govt race policies) and there’s nothing that scares them more than a non-white with a gun.

    Yes, they rant about “armed rednecks”, but they think of “lower” class whites the way they think of blacks, asians, etc. (In fact, NYC’s gun control was aimed at “those italians”.) For them, there’s the “correct whites” and everyone else.

  188. Andy Freeman,

    I for one just fear that my neighbour would be as totally fucking incompetent at handling their weapons, would perhaps point them in anger during a heated argument or try to intervene in an actual dangerous situation and completely fuck it up, *just as I would most likely do*. And I do not believe I live in a culture that really knows how to handle the people it arms that it really shouldn’t have.

    Then again, I also don’t believe that police or military folks are necessarily exempt from that fear, surely at least some of them were given weapons that they should not have been allowed. So, I’m not actually against gun ownership, ultimately, but for fucksakes, when I was, it had sweet fuck all to do with social class or race. This is likely true of many of the people you painted with that brush.

  189. “I for one just fear that my neighbour would be as totally fucking incompetent at handling their weapons AS I…”

    Proofreading is key.

  190. @acksiom
    “I thought Heinlein said all wars were the result of population pressure. Well, specifically, Friday did, but I consider it didactic.

    If that’s the case, what happens when RISUG or a comparable alternative arrives? RISUG (a safe, cheap, reliable male birth control) could be on the market any year now. What happens when the alpha thugs can get a vas injection for ten bucks that will render them reversibly infertile for ten years? What happens when the beta drones can also know for a fact that the pregnancy isn’t their responsibility?”

    Then the west automatically loses the war, as cultures that value reproduction end up dominating.

  191. The hypothetical perfect birth control was necessary for women to actually be equal to men in Heinlein’s writing, IIRC.

    Note that the end of accidental/unwanted/forced pregnancies is not the same as voluntary extinction.

  192. > I for one just fear that my neighbour would be as totally fucking incompetent at handling their weapons, would perhaps point them in anger during a heated argument or try to intervene in an actual dangerous situation and completely fuck it up, *just as I would most likely do*.

    What dumb things have you done with the knives, clubs, and other weapons that you have?

    What? You haven’t done anything dumb with them? Why would a gun be any different? (Yes, I realize the effects of guns are different, but whether or not you do something dumb won’t be.)

    About half of US households have guns. During our low crime years, the numbers were even higher. If the “my incompetent neighbor” argument was true, such incidents would be as commonplace as car accidents, yet they’re not.

    The only people do bad/dumb things with guns are the small minority who habitually do dumb/bad things with other things. In other words, if your neighbor isn’t an actual threat with his knives, he’s not a threat with his guns.

    > it had sweet fuck all to do with social class or race. This is likely true of many of the people you painted with that brush.

    While I agree that there are gun control supporters who aren’t pushing it as race/class control, they’re in the minority. Look at the arguments and advertisements. The assault weapons campaign, like many of the handgun campaigns, features gang-bangers and KKK members, not dear-old-dad dropping a gun.

    It’s effective. As one of my black gun-control opponent friends often says, there’s nothing that scares white america like a nigger with a gun. (The term “Saturday Night Special” actually came from a reconstruction-era gun control argument – “Those guns aren’t good for anything except Niggertown on Saturday night”. That campaign was aimed at disarming newly freed slaves so that raiding them would be less dangerous. The proposed laws outlawed the guns that they could afford and exempted guns that soldiers returning from the Civil war had.)

  193. And now for a contrarian opinion, courtesy of Stanislaw Lem:

    http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/5/lem5art.htm

    TL;DR: Lem says American SF is a circlejerk of shallow authors buttpatting one another and reusing each other’s tired old story lines. Philip K. Dick saved SF by remixing its tropes into something that really makes a statement about the human condition.

  194. If you have any doubts about gun control being class-based, just remember that many activists and politicians who support gun control don’t practice what they preach. Senators Schumer and Feinstein both concealed-carry; and Rosie O’Donnell has private armed security to protect her. Second Amendment protection for me, but not for thee? I think so!

  195. Forget Stanislaw Lem.

    It’s just that he was a socialist in opposition to his own country’s totalitarian regime that made him a pet of the Western Europe intellectuals. His stories are quite shallow, are most of the time a vehicle for leftist views, and read like watching paint dry. Liked the so-called “high literature” that’s just artificial dribble (Handke, for instance)
    Only his humoristic short stories are fun, sometimes.

    I haven’t reread one of his books or stories, while Heinlein’s (or Asimov’s, Clarke’s, Pournelle’s, Niven’s Weber’s,…) works are among the most used-looking in my bookshelves.

  196. @Patrick Maupin Says:
    I agree totally. With Google and Social Networking in the hands of the general public it is extraordinarily easy to for like minded people to find each other and what 50 years ago might have been a group of 20 folks using the group numbers for power may n ow easily be 20 million and that is alot of voices.
    John

  197. This article perpetuates one of the great myths about R.A.H.: the idea that TMIAHM was Heinlein’s holding up a libertarian society as a model for proper government. In truth he was demonstrating (for those who read what he wrote rather than what they wish he had written) that libertarianism is something that only works in a closed-off society that does not interact with other states, and cannot sustain more than minimal growth without outside transfusion. As soon as the Lunar Free State is declared, the libertarian society that spawned it is dismantled.

  198. Jon Ogden,

    Indeed.

    RAH actually favored welfare states; it’s just that the only actual one that really appealed to him was Uruguay.

    Kurt,

    If a socialist Lem be, he does not want for company: the Occupy Wall Street movement is a result of what happens when ordinary folks recognize the abject failure of capitalism to live up to its promise. Soon we will all be socialists, and libertards will be quaint curiosities of our medieval past, like Jacobites in English history.

    Anyway, I’m not sure what his political orientation has to do with his views of literature and the shortcomings of hard SF. You may wish to try addressing the points he raises rather than sneering about how disused are your copies of the works of the most widely-read SF author in the world.

  199. Jon Ogden,

    Indeed.

    RAH actually favored welfare states; it’s just that the only actual one that really appealed to him was Uruguay.

  200. Kurt,

    I’m not sure what Lem’s political orientation has to do with his views of literature and the shortcomings of hard SF. You may wish to try addressing the points he raises rather than sneering about how disused are your copies of the works of the most widely-read SF author in the world.

  201. This is one of the best discussions if these topics I have ever read.

    The biggest issue with gun ownership is that we can be picked off easily. Say a cadre of heavily armed and armored officers surrounds your house, brandishing any variety of large caliber automatic weapons. If they fear you, you can bet that thare will be at least one highly trained sniper standing off.

    Realistically, what will you do? You will submit, you will be imprisoned (and your property gone to pay the bills), or you will die. Will your neighbors help? Not likely. They will be hoping that the officers just leave them alone and go away.

    There have been enough stories recently of seemingly not guilty folks that have been mercilessly slain by the duly established authorities. What consequences have befallen the perpetrators? None. Nothing. Nada. Squat.

    I used to argue with folks, especially foreigners, that the strength of this country is that it is a nation of laws and that the laws were just and applied to all equally. Not anymore.

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