Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Peace and Freedom

 

“You can have peace or you can have freedom. You cannot get both at once.” – Robert Heinlein

Robert Heinlein made this comment during his speech at the 1976 MidAmeriCon World Science Fiction Convention, where he was guest of honor (skip to 7:40 to avoid a dull introduction). Heinlein was a cold warrior; he was a warrior, period. He understood freedom was not free, and the tree of liberty had to be renewed with the blood of patriots and tyrants. During his life, he saw the US struggle against four tyrannies: Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union. He died before the ultimate victory against the Soviet Union, but he understood the only way to overcome tyranny was to fight it.

It occurs to me that since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States – temporarily – achieved what Heinlein felt was impossible: simultaneous peace and freedom. The US has been enormously blessed during the last 30 years. Yet as Heinlein observed on several occasions, all bills come due. The bill for the last 30 years’ domestic peace is being presented. The question is, how do we pay it? Do we accept tyranny and resign ourselves to peaceful lives as serfs or do we take arms against it and opt for freedom?

However simple the choice, the path we choose will be difficult. On one hand, the perpetual humiliations to which a servile class is subject. On the other hand, the blood and treasure that will have to be spent — not by a nation, but by each individual in that nation — to maintain freedom.

In 1976, the choice most Americans would have made would have been for freedom. Peace without freedom is ashes. Today? Maybe it is the natural pessimism of the old (I turned 65 this month), but I wonder if most Americans would not rather have peace.

We shall see.

Published in Domestic Policy
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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Seawriter: Robert Heinlein made this comment during his speech at 1976 MidAmeriCon World Science Fiction Convention, where he was guest of honor (skip to 7:40 to avoid a dull introduction). Heinlein was a cold warrior; he was a warrior, period. He understood freedom was not free, and the tree of liberty had to be renewed with the blood of patriots and tyrants. During his life he saw the US struggle against four tyrannies: Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and the Soviet Union. He died before the ultimate victory against the Soviet Union, but he understood the only way to overcome tyranny was to fight it.

    It’s a pity he didn’t live to see the endgame. It’s a pity all of them didn’t; both the famous and those known only to friends and family. It was a long, hard fight.

    • #1
    • July 25, 2020, at 7:31 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. E. Kent Golding Member

    Go for Peace instead of Freedom and you get neither.

    • #2
    • July 25, 2020, at 8:11 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  3. Unsk Member

    “You can have peace or you can have freedom. You cannot get both at once.”

    Take down immediately all the Heinlein Statues and burn all his books! Such heresy is not to be allowed!

    • #3
    • July 25, 2020, at 8:23 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Arahant Member

    It was when science fiction was written by a bunch of tough old birds who knew these things that it was really worth reading.


    This is the Quote of the Day. If it reminds you of a quotation you would like to share, we still have three openings in July, and I’ll be putting out the August sign-up sheet later today.

    • #4
    • July 25, 2020, at 9:57 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter

    Arahant (View Comment):
    It was when science fiction was written by a bunch of tough old birds who knew these things that it was really worth reading.

    Yeah but watching the speech, the introduction and a second video showing the acclamations of Heinlein by fellow writers reminded me it was just as inside baseball and cliquish as it is today. Difference is I generally agreed with the inside clique back then.

    • #5
    • July 25, 2020, at 9:59 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Difference is I generally agreed with the inside clique back then.

    Yep.

    • #6
    • July 25, 2020, at 10:26 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. PHCheese Member

    He was a Democratic why should I believe him?

    • #7
    • July 25, 2020, at 1:02 PM PDT
    • Like
  8. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    He was a Democratic why should I believe him?

    Context. There was a time when even Progressives were reasonable (around the time TR was NYC Police Commissioner).

    • #8
    • July 25, 2020, at 3:57 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Goldgeller Member

    Heinlein was always a very interesting sort! The statement only works, I guess, if you want to talk about maximizing both quantities. (“You don’t have peace unless you have complete and total peace.” etc.) But it’s a neat quote because it invites one to really think about some very important trade offs. We do have good quantities of both. We can lose both, and there can be a variety of reasons why this might happen. It’s a timely quote, more so because it gets the mental juices flowing than because it is true any interesting sense. 

    • #9
    • July 25, 2020, at 4:08 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Heinlein is interesting. I’ve got a first edition of Stranger in a Strange Land, but I just had much fun rereading a 99 cent Kindle edition of Red Planet.

    • #10
    • July 25, 2020, at 4:27 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. Sisyphus Coolidge
    Sisyphus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    He was a Democratic why should I believe him?

    Context. There was a time when even Progressives were reasonable (around the time TR was NYC Police Commissioner).

    And the Progressives were heavily promoting eugenics programs, sterilize the “undesirables”, abort those black babies, we showed the Germans how. TR backed that stuff, even if he never made it a core issue.

    • #11
    • July 25, 2020, at 5:09 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Sisyphus Coolidge
    Sisyphus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Heinlein is interesting. I’ve got a first edition of Stranger in a Strange Land, but I just had much fun rereading a 99 cent Kindle edition of Red Planet.

    Red Planet is still awesome. I read it with all the rest of the Heinlein juveniles in a six week binge when I was seven. Those six weeks changed my life and how I thought and who I was and was going to be. Reread it a few years ago and appreciated even more. And the Martians. In a juvenile, the Martians come off as people as much more potent than the adults as the adults are more potent than you. You can see why Stranger haunted him as a book for over a decade until he finally got a handle on the project. What would a human child raised by Red Planet‘s super-advanced psionic Martians be like. In the end, he used Phillip Wylie’s 1930 novel Gladiator, a great book that also inspired Schuster and Siegel’s Superman, as his model.

    I have never loved Stranger but I appreciate it as the intellectual exercise it was. “Thou art god” was a grave blunder, but an almost unavoidable one given the course of the story. But he knew better and he went there anyway and the campuses (not his usual audience) lapped it up and made him financially secure for the rest of his life. And galvanized a counter culture he did not care for. But authors do not control how the culture responds to their work. 

    • #12
    • July 25, 2020, at 5:29 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Sisyphus Coolidge
    Sisyphus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    He was a Democratic why should I believe him?

    He was a Depression Era Missourian, you were either a Democrat or you moved to Kansas. But he never owned slaves and academically he was at the top of his class at Annapolis. The demerits he earned by violating his contract with the Navy to become a midshipman by, among many other disciplinary infractions, getting married, sank his class ranking big time. But he had a head on his shoulders and a passion for freedom that led to The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Citizen of the Galaxy, to name two classics. 

    Jefferson found the Democratic Party and was a de facto Jacobin after serving as ambassador to France, but we still hold those truths to be self evident. Men sometimes do things, and champion things, that transcend their circumstances. 

    • #13
    • July 25, 2020, at 5:39 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Al Sparks Thatcher

    I read many of Heinlein’s young adult books as… a young adult. I first encountered the Thomas Jefferson quote “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants” when reading Starship Troopers.

    I’m still a big fan, and an admirer of his life, after I read his 2 volume biography by William H Patterson. He was a genuine patriot.

    Yet, a lot of the expansion of the federal government can be sourced to the war economies of, not only World War I and World War II, but the Cold War as well. The War on Poverty programs that started in the mid-sixties was the because of a hubris of the American post world war generation (the “greatest generation”) that was running the country then.

    And of course those wars involved us sending our troops to foreign lands. We weren’t directly defending American soil. As an aside, I was born in Darmstadt, Germany, and lived on an American military base there my first eight years. I went to American schools in Germany.

    But I digress. Examining Jefferson’s quote in context, he was referring to rebellion against our own rulers not a defense against foreign invaders. The context of Heinlein quoting Jefferson was an alien invasion against the human race. But his book could easily have been analogous, in his mind, to an invasion by the Soviet Union on American soil.

    But it should be remembered that the Jefferson quote was a part of a larger letter, where he was looking on in approval of the French Revolution. He wrote it from Paris. And he also advocated for such revolutions every, say 20 years or so.

    Perhaps the Jefferson of that instant in time (he was full of contradictions) would have looked approvingly at Antifa.

    • #14
    • July 25, 2020, at 9:04 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Sisyphus Coolidge
    Sisyphus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Al Sparks (View Comment):
    Perhaps the Jefferson of that instant in time (he was full of contradictions) would have looked approvingly at Antifa.

    Jefferson returned from his time in France as a radicalized crypto Jacobin. As Secretary of State for Washington he was quietly acting against the US government when Washington cut him out of the loop and castrated him. Washington ran foreign policy himself for the rest of his first term. As president, Jefferson would avoid war and employ embargo measures instead, avoiding bloodshed. In the end, the bloodshed was merely postponed to James Madison’s presidency. 

    The quote comes in the context of Starship Troopers and how the quote was generally perceived at the time. I take the quote to convey that freedom requires sacrifice. 

    I think even in his Jacobin phase, Jefferson would recognize the Totalitarian evil of Antifa and wonder why they haven’t been rolled up yet.

    But Jefferson likes to surprise me. And he was religiously incompetent.

    • #15
    • July 25, 2020, at 9:31 PM PDT
    • 1 like