Robert Heinlein

Editor's Note: Robert Heinlein's Continuing Relevance


As befits our annual double issue, the August-September edition of Reason covers a lot of ground. Peter Bagge's lead story, "The Right to Own a Bazooka" makes an "extreme case for the Second Amendment" (see page 56). In his madcap style, the creator of the legendary Hate comic book series recounts the tortured history of gun control while arguing for an individual's right not only to own a bazooka but a tank and the occasional nuclear bomb as well. It's an extreme position, to be sure, but also a strikingly persuasive one: "I'm not a 'gun nut'…and I don't want to own one," concludes Bagge, but "if I do feel the need, I'd like to arm myself as I see fit without being branded a criminal."

Other stories in this issue examine the atrocious civil liberties record of outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair (page 23), the unintentional contributions to free expression of the recently deceased Jerry Falwell (page 19), the "all-American appeal" of 1950s-era S&M queen Bettie Page (page 61), and the purportedly libertarian leanings of Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico (page 16).

In his review of Götz Aly's controversial Hitler's Beneficiaries, Reason's newest staffer, Associate Editor Michael C. Moynihan, reminds us that the socialist elements of the Nazi regime were an integral part of its popular appeal (page 65). In "Dying for Lifesaving Drugs," Senior Editor Kerry Howley reports on terminal cancer patients who have been cruelly denied access to experimental drugs in the name of maintaining traditional medical protocols (page 24). Other stories discuss the politics of abortion (page 60), the limits of anti–eminent domain legislation (page 42), and the rise of the personal computer since World War II (page 70).

And then there's Senior Editor Brian Doherty's incisive appreciation of the legacy of science fiction great Robert Heinlein, whose 100th birthday is in July (page 48). As the author of best-selling novels such as Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and Time Enough for Love, Heinlein masterfully explored the tensions between the individual and the state—and directly inspired the early editors of this magazine back in the late 1960s and early '70s. (Apropos of Peter Bagge's cover story, he also famously quipped that "an armed society is a polite society.")

Doherty, the author of the acclaimed Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, makes a convincing argument that by appealing to "individualists of both the left and the right," Heinlein "not only set the template for the American 1960s but helped create the looser, hipper, and more pluralist world of the decades since."

In short, Heinlein was the bridge between Barry Goldwater's brand of libertarian conservatism (which included support for the Vietnam War but not for the draft) and the flower power movement. Which is certainly something to think about as war rages in Iraq and we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love.