Great Libertarian Quotes in Robert Heinlein

Yesterday on LewRockwell.com, Jeff Riggenbach posted a short essay entitled “Was Robert A. Heinlein a Libertarian?” It reminded me of how much I enjoyed Heinlein’s incredible novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, for its witty characters and thought-provoking political dialogue.

Besides the inimitable Mike (who is actually a computer), my favorite character was definitely Professor Bernardo de la Paz, affectionately called “Prof” throughout the book. He identifies himself a rational anarchist and always has something interesting to add to whatever is going on at the time.

I have taken the liberty to type out my favorite quotes from the book for your reading pleasure. Maybe it will inspire you to read the novel in full

“Under what circumstances may the State justly place its welfare above that of a citizen?”
“Prof, as I see, [there] are no circumstances under which [the] State is justified in placing its welfare ahead of mine.”
“Good, we have a starting point.”
~ Professor de la Paz and Manuel O’Kelly-Davis

“Under what circumstances is it moral for a group to do that which is not moral for a member of that group to do alone?”
“Uh… that’s a trick question.”
“It is the key question, dear Wyoming. A radical question that strikes to the root of the whole dilemma of government. Anyone who answers honestly and abides by all consequences knows where he stands – and what he will die for.”
~ Professor de la Paz and Wyoming Knott

“A rational anarchist believes that such concepts as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame… as blame, guilt, responsibility are taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluation, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world… aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge and self-failure.”
~ Professor de la Paz

“Sir, there was a time when it was not simply expensive to ship goods across oceans but impossible. Then it was expensive, difficult, dangerous. Today you sell your goods half around your planet almost as cheaply as next door; long-distance shipping is the least important factor in cost. Gentlemen, I am not an engineer. But I have learned this about engineers. When something must be done, engineers can find a way that is economically feasible. If you want the grain that we can grow, turn your engineers loose.”
~ Professor de la Paz

“A managed democracy is a wonderful thing, Manuel, for the managers… and its greatest strength is a ‘free press’ when ‘free’ is defined as ‘responsible’ and the managers define what is ‘irresponsible.’ ”
~ Professor de la Paz

“Comrade Members, like fire and fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. You now have freedom – if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant.”
~ Professor de la Paz

“Distrust the obvious, suspect the traditional, for in the past mankind has not done well when saddling itself with governments… Whatever you do, do not let the past be a straitjacket! ”
~ Professor de la Paz

“But in writing your constitution let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do.”
~ Professor de la Paz

“I would be satisfied to have the Golden Rule be the only law; I see no need for any other, nor for any method of enforcing. But if you really believe that your neighbors must have laws for their own good, why shouldn’t you pay for it? Comrades, I beg you – do not resort to compulsory taxation. There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”
~ Professor de la Paz

And of course, we can never forget that Moon is the book that first introduced into the vernacular the initialism TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).

Cross-posted at LibertarianChristians.com.

2 comments… add one

  • One could certainly make the case that ‘Moon’ was an evolutionary step Heinlein took along his life’s path. Consider how he started off as a tax-subsidized defender of empire to private property grabbing altruistic socialist foot soldier and then libertarian leaning scribbler of freedom. I tend to agree with the LewRockwell piece where they posit that Heinlein was penning down what LeFevre advocated just around the block. Great quotes? You bet! Was RH a Libertarian? I don’t think so. He was a skilled economic chameleon who kept his finger in the air to check which way the winds blew and wrote great prose to satisfy and stimulate the public at the time.

    Reply
  • You forgot my absolute favorite Prof quote!

    I am free no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; If I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

    Reply

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