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Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein are both fascist wankers, and neither of them are anywhere close to the greatest American philosopher of the 20th century. No doubt they both have redeeming qualities. Reading Heinlein can be an amusing diversion. But why would they be nominated for the greatest American philosopher of the 20th century? This writeup is now long gone.

Most of Heinlein's earlier fiction is just entertainment with a large quotient of wish-fulfilment, aimed at adolescents or geeks (i.e. emotionally adolescent people with an interest in hi-tech toys).

Starship troopers, in particular, is an extended exercise in the technophilic and destructophilic equivalent of masturbation. I didn't read Starship Troopers as a parody the first time round, and neither did any of my impressionable teenage friends. This was a book written by a navy man, with a victorious soldier as the gung-ho action hero, published in America in 1959, during the cold war and shortly after World War II. If you want parody from that period, see Catch-22. Thanks DejaMorgana for pointing this out. The way that the Paul Verhoeven movie of 1997 mocked the original 50s text is beside the point.

Not to mention his later works, which become increasingly transparent sexual fantasies.

I shouldn't comment on Ayn Rand, as reading The Fountainhead was quite enough for me. If this is philosophy, then what does it say about the human condition? This too seems more like an excercise in self-justification and self-gratification.

I say Fascist because they both emphasise the will of an individual over any egalitarian or democratic process. And presumably the rest of use would have to either agree with him or just be wrong. This is dodgy at best and very much in line with mid-20th century fascism. This arrogant view is often implicitly or explicitly held by geeks, but it fails miserably as a principle of social organisation because half the population is below average on any given measure of competence.

See also Why Robert Heinlein Bugs the Hell out of me, You call that philosophy?, Why do geeks love Robert Heinlein?

Heinlein did not promote extreme freedom in general, he promoted extreme freedom for his male main protagonists while everyone else had to subject themselves to their ego trips. I distinctly remember a scene where the main protagonist's lover disagreed with him (gasp!) and virtually had to beg on her knees for forgiveness.

All the self righteous "libertarian" anti-government crap may seem to promote freedom, but it's really just replacement of an inconvenient authority (government) with a new one one (Heinlein's avatar in the story) which is conceived as perfect and allowed to get away with far more shit than the previous one. And that sounds damn close to the fascist Führerkult.

Above, we see criticisms of Heinlein. These criticisms are not unfounded. Some of them are, in fact, fairly well warranted. It is certainly true that he tended to advocate a lot more freedom of action for his male protagonists than for the subordinate secondary characters.

The thing to remember about Heinlein is that his basic attitudes were products of the very early 20th century, and that (with the probable exception of his sexual mores) these attitudes remained largely unchanged until his death in the late 1980s.

In the early 1900s, there were a lot of men who opposed women's suffrage on the grounds that women were not competent to vote; there were in fact quite a few women that espoused the same position. The archetypal hero was invariably male, whatever other qualities he might possess. Qualities such as personal courage, dignity, and honor were valued very highly. Men, particularly, were expected to show them; the corollary to this was that women were not expected to show them to anything like the same degree.

Thus, Heinlein mostly wrote books with male protagonists and female support characters. Women usually played second fiddle and were generally submissive to the male protagonist. The male protagonist, being a heroic figure, displayed exceptional personal courage, dignity, and (usually) honor. Since Heinlein liked to write stories about smart people, the male protagonist was also usually intelligent.

In Heinlein's early novels and short stories (essentially everything written before Stranger in a Strange Land), this was not as much of a problem. The masculinist perspective did not stand out from the background of the general science fiction community, and the stories were mostly kept under control by strong editors. His early publications were edited by the legendary John W. Campbell, while his juvenile novels were edited with a close eye to their suitability for 'impressionable young readers'.

In his later life, when he was writing with little or no control from an editor, this led to a series of books that have the same flaw as Platonic dialogues: the protagonist ends up being a genius while everyone else sits around in awe of their superior mind. The resulting conversations tend to be rather wooden.

It should be noted that Heinlein did write three novels with female protagonists. One of these, Podkayne of Mars was written at a time when female protagonists were exceptionally rare in science fiction. The other two, Friday and To Sail Beyond the Sunset, feature women who are very intelligent and competent, though probably not sufficiently independent to satisfy a feminist perspective. Fairly strong female characters also feature in some of Heinlein's other works, such as The Number of the Beast.

I would argue that Heinlein did have a strong belief in individual freedom, but that he thought that not all people are equally competent at exercising freedom. It is probably unfair to charge him with sympathy for any sort of Führerkult, His protagonists are generally not trying to rule large groups of others, and are instead concerned primarily with creating the kind of libertarian environment that Heinlein himself appeared to espouse.

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