Quotes by Robert Heinlein, one of my favorite SF authors, partly because I agree with so many of his views.


quotes from the novel by Robert A. Heinlein

Prof: "I'm a rational anarchist. . . .A rational anarchist believes that concepts such 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 matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world ... aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undimayed by self-knowledge of self-failure."

Wyoh: "Professor, your words sound good but there is something slippery about them. Too much power in the hands of individuals--surely you would not want ... well, H-missiles for example--to be controlled by one irresponsible person?"

Prof: "My point is that one person is responsible. Always. If H-bombs exist--and they do--some man controls them. In terms of morals there is no such thing as 'state.' Just me. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts."
"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."
--- Prof
"Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws--always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of the trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: "Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop." Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them "for their own good"--not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it."
--Narrator (Manuel)
"Limiting the freedom of news 'just a little bit' is in the same category with the classic example 'a little bit pregnant.'"
"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."
Quotes from "To Sail Beyond The Sunset"
I need not have worried about being naked; no one seemed to notice .... which irked me. Gentleman should at least leer.
The Ten Commandments are for lame brains. The first five are solely for the benefit of the priests and the powers that be; the second five are half truths, neither complete nor adequate.
--- Ira Johnson
Happiness lies in being privileged to work hard for long hours in doing whatever you think is worth doing. One man may find happiness in supporting a wife and children. And another may find it in robbing banks. Still another may labor mightily for years in pursuing pure research with no discernible results.

Note the individual and subjective nature of each case. No two are alike and there is no reason to expect them to be. Each man or woman must find for himself or herself that occupation in which hard work and long hours make him or her happy. Contrariwise, if you are looking for shorter hours and longer vacations and early retirement, you are in the wrong job. Perhaps you need to take up bank robbing. Or geeking in a sideshow. Or even politics.
Source: Jubal Harshaw in To Sail Beyond the Sunset

No intelligent man has any respect for an unjust law. He simply follows the eleventh commandment.
-- Brian Smith in To Sail Beyond the Sunset
Quotes from other Heinlein books

Most people can't think, most of the remainder won't think, the small fraction who do think mostly can't do it very well. The extremely tiny fraction who think regularly, accurately, creatively, and without self-delusion- in the long run these are the only people who count...
S Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love

Still rarer is the man who thinks habitually, who applies reason, rather than habit pattern, to all his activity. Unless he masques himself, his is a dangerous life; he is regarded as queer, untrustworthy, subversive of public morals; he is a pink monkey among brown monkeys -- a fatal mistake. Unless the pink monkey can dye himself brown before he is caught.

The brown monkey's instinct to kill is correct; such men are dangerous to all monkey customs.

Rarest of all is the man who can and does reason at all times, quickly, accurately, inclusively, despite hope or fear or bodily distress, without egocentric bias or thalmic disturbance, with correct memory, with clear distinction between fact, assumption, and non-fact.

We defined thinking as integrating data and arriving at correct answers. Look around you. Most people do that stunt just well enough to get to the corner store and back without breaking a leg. If the average man thinks at all, he does silly things like generalizing from a single datum. He uses one-valued logics. If he is exceptionally bright, he may use two-valued, 'either-or' logic to arrive at his wrong anwers. If he is hungry, hurt, or personaly interested in the answer, he can't use any sort of logic and will discard an observed fact as blithely as he will stake his life on a piece of wishful thinking. He uses the technical miracles created by superior men without wonder nor surprise, as a kitten accepts a bowl of milk. Far from aspiring to higher reasoning, he is not even aware that higher reasoning exists. He classes his own mental process as being of the same sort as the genius of an Einstein. Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.

For explanations of a universe that confuses him, he seizes onto numerology, astrology, hysterical religions, and other fancy ways to go crazy. Having accepted such glorified nonsense, facts make no impression on him, even if at the cost of his own life. Joe, one of the hardest things to believe is the abysmal depth of human stupidity.
--- Kettle Belly Baldwin in Gulf from Assignment in Eternity

I suspect that our race's tragedy has been played endless times. It may be that an intelligent race has to expand right up to its disaster point to achieve what is needed to break out of its planet and reach for the stars. It may always -- or almost always -- be a photo finish, with the outcome uncertain to the last moment. Just as it is with us. It may take endless wars and unbearable population pressure to force-feed a technology to the point where it can cope with space. In the universe, space travel may be the birth pangs of an otherwise dying race. A test. Some races pass, some fail...
--- Jacob Solomon in Time Enough for Love

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.
--- Robert A. Heinlein in Postscript to Revolt in 2100

What are the marks of a sick culture?

It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn't the whole population.

A very bad sign. Particularism. It was once considered a Spanish vice but any country can fall sick with it. Dominance of males over females seems to be one of the symptoms.

Before a revolution can take place, the population must loose faith in both the police and the courts.

High taxation is important and so is inflation of the currency and the ratio of the productive to those on the public payroll. But that's old hat; everybody knows that a country is on the skids when its income and outgo get out of balance and stay that way - even though there are always endless attempts to wish it way by legislation. But I started looking for little signs and what some call silly-season symptoms.

I want to mention one of the obvious symptoms: Violence. Muggings. Sniping. Arson. Bombing. Terrorism of any sort. Riots of course - but I suspect that little incidents of violence, pecking way at people day after day, damage a culture even more than riots that flare up and then die down. Oh, conscription and slavery and arbitrary compulsion of all sorts and imprisonment without bail and without speedy trial - but those things are obvious; all the histories list them.

I think you have missed the most alarming symptom of all. This one I shall tell you. But go back and search for it. Examine it. Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms as you have named... But a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than a riot.

This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength. Look for it. Study it. It is too late to save this culture - this worldwide culture, not just the freak show here in California. Therefore we must now prepare the monasteries for the coming Dark Age. Electronic records are too fragile; we must again have books, of stable inks and resistant paper.
--- Friday and Dr. Baldwin in Friday

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
--- Lazarus Long in Time Enough For Love
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Last Modified: March, 2000

Patri Friedman / patri@izzy.com