Who should be able to vote? Heinlein’s opinion

I just read a book called Starship Troopers.  I had seen snippets of the movie and they were truly terrifying-  The plot was nonexistent, the dialogue transparent, and the creativity absent.  The book was full of great ideas.

You may see these ideas as wrong, but they do show some thought.  They revoke the idea of universal suffrage.

Today as Americans we think it is blasphemous for someone to say that only a portion of the population should have the right to vote.  It is not very far back in our history when women didn’t have the right to vote.  Universal suffrage is a very recent event.  Democracy is the worst form of government, besides all of the others that have been tried (Churchill).  The problem is that people tend to vote themselves a portion of the governments largess.  When we have universal suffrage, we invite all to decide what to do with the resources, regardless of whether we have contributed.  The fact is, whichever group is currently in charge makes laws that are beneficial to them.  The object is to get selfless people in charge.

The founding fathers tried to guard against this tendency by limiting the power of the government.  We have decided against their advice and have made the government very powerful.  When in high school, I thought the government in the US was nearly without corruption.  Now I recognize that their is favoritism everywhere, with contracts made with companies government officials trust (who are generally friends), and  zoning made to match the beliefs of those in charge, generally benefiting them.  The premise of the government in Starship Troopers was that the only ones who could vote or hold office were those who had previously served in the low paying, dangerous military and been honorably discharged.  The idea was that those that were willing to risk themselves for the greater good would also put the greater good ahead of themselves when they voted.  Their military boot camp started with over 2000 recruits, and 187 graduated, with 14 dead.  Our military today is very risk averse, and boot camp for many services is getting less and less vigorous.  The pay is good, and the benefits are fantastic.  People in the military also learn how to thrive in bureaucracy.

The greeks limited voting to landholders.  They wanted the government to be run by people who had a financial stake in  the outcome.  Now only allowing taxpayers to vote has a certain allure to me.  At this point, I would not be able to vote.  I have three children and am in the military, so a significant portion of my pay is sheltered as food and housing allowance.  I do not contribute to the pie, so I should not have a say in how it is divided up.   Anyway, this is always problematic.

Proposing that we should only give the right to vote to certain people is heresy these days, but Starship Troopers shows an interesting viewpoint in a very effective way.  I really liked it both for the ease of reading, the storyline, and the ideas.

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3 Responses to “Who should be able to vote? Heinlein’s opinion”


  1. 1 rhill October 30, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Excellent opinion but it would never work here. The Democrats would be laughed out of office if it passed so they would never allow it so that they continue running things.

  2. 2 Dan February 26, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    The problem with suffrage only too those who have served in the armed forces, is that all people must then have the right to serve. The military is very selective these days and only takes the best. America would never allow its military to be weakened and take the common man/woman’s right to vote at the same time.

  3. 3 durch February 27, 2010 at 2:21 am

    You are right Dan. I am not suggesting that the only those who have served should be able to vote. I am just saying that there are people that just vote themselves money out of other people’s pockets. I think the people that pay in should have more of the say, whether they pay with blood or treasure.

    It reminds me of the saying, “Democracy is when two wolves and a sheep get together and vote on what’s for dinner.”


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