Robert Heinlein

Robert-Heinlein 2Depending on who you ask, science fiction grand master Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) was either a conservative, a fascist or a left-wing hippie. But to those who knew him best — and to those who read any of his 47 books — Heinlein was a libertarian who glorified individualism, progress, honor and responsibility.

In fact, the opined: “The man was as libertarian as they come.” In the American Spectator (February 10, 2004), Colby Cosh wrote: “If you wish to trace the sources of the libertarian strain in 20th-century American thought, you must include the science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein.”

Heinlein’s novels feature characters who revolt against oppressive government (The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, 1966), fight aliens who steal their autonomy (The Puppet Masters, 1951), and spout libertarian philosophy (Time Enough for Love, 1973). In Time Enough for Love, Heinlein best summed up his view of the world when he wrote: “The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.” Heinlein left no doubt about which side of that divide he favored. (If there was any doubt, it ended when he described himself to fellow science-fiction writer Alfred Bester as “a hard-headed radical, a pragmatic libertarian.”) A graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Heinlein published his first science fiction story in 1939, and went on to write dozens of classic science fiction novels, including Tunnel in the Sky (1955), Glory Road (1963), I Will Fear No Evil (1970), Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984) and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985). In 2004, Heinlein’s first novel, For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs (originally written in 1938), was posthumously published. Heinlein has always been a favorite of libertarian readers: Five of his novels have been honored with the Hall of Fame Award for Classic Novel of Liberty from the Libertarian Futurist Society: Time Enough for Love, Methuselah’s Children (1958), Red Planet (1949), Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. In the Libertarian Party’s monthly newspaper, LP News, Laissez Faire Books editor Jim Powell named The Moon is a Harsh Mistress one of the 20 best introductory books about libertarianism. In 2003, Heinlein was named one of the past three decade’s “35 Heroes of Liberty” by Reason magazine. Heinlein is also credited with coining the popular libertarian phrase, “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch,” commonly abbreviated to TANSTAAFL. – Bill Winter


“Heinlein is a moralist to the core; he devoutly believes in courage, honor, self-discipline, self-sacrifice for love or duty. Above all, he is a libertarian.” — Damon Knight, in the introduction to The Past Through Tomorrow (1967)