I've heard this same assertion about Starship Troopers countless times, and it always disturbs me. In my viewpoint, those who liken ST to a promotion of "fascism" can be compared with those who associate Ron Paul with "racism". This stems from a confusion of the terms.
Some people tend to interpret the "government" of Starship Troopers as a proposed ideal, which it is not. It is rather an appropriate setting for Heinlein to masterfully disseminate some of his deepest personal philosophies with a core focus on how honor, duty, and responsibility influence morality and tie into the means of self-preservation. Of course, there are also tones of anti-communism.
Think of it this way... You might call yourself a libertarian, but your ideal vision of a "perfect" society and the true methods of its realization probably conflict with your libertarian convictions. I know I've faced the same quandary in moments of exasperation ("If only I could FORCE these sheep into being peaceful, reasonable, and non-coercive!"). Obviously, the proper resolution to this dilemma is to admit reality and do the best you can while you can in accordance with your own morality. This is one of the basic foundations that indirectly guides all of Heinlein's fiction. He admits reality.
"Bear in mind that this is science, not wishful thinking; the universe is what it is, not what we want it to be." - Starship Troopers
Conversely, fiction is fiction, and it leaves open opportunities for the writer to explore alternative realities.
So, let's actually examine the reality that Heinlein creates in Starship Troopers. The one aspect that a lot of people seem to attribute to the supposed "fascism" inherent in the book is the concept of “Civilian Vs. Citizen”.
Basically, the society in the book has established a threshold one must cross to graduate from the ordinary civilian (achieved by birth) and the citizen (achieved by the completion of military service). The definition of a citizen is one who is granted the permission to vote and participate in public office. Another controversial issue is that voters must pay a “poll tax”. At first, these concepts seem quite draconian to a liberty-minded observer, but let us remember that the rules pertaining to this particular “franchise”, as Heinlein names it, have been far more controlled and arbitrary throughout the history of man. He reminds us:
“The sovereign franchise has been bestowed by all sorts of rules—place of birth, race, sex, property, education, age, religion, et cetera. All of these systems worked and none of them well. All were regarded as tyrannical by many, all eventually collapsed or were overthrown.” - Major Reid, Starship Troopers
Now, let us consider the society of the book as a whole. It is composed of relatively libertarian constructs. There are few laws (anti-coercion based). There are low taxes and few. The economy is not regulated and controlled. There is no “prison system”. Murder is met with execution; minor infractions such as theft are met with restitution and corporal punishment (often flogging). All of the rights enumerated in our own “Bill of Rights” are protected and granted to civilian and citizen alike. Also, military service is in no way compulsory. In fact, you can choose to be discharged before ever seeing combat, the forfeiture of your citizenship your only penalty.
In essence, the main jurisdictions of the “government” are the military and courts. A system in which the military is regulated solely by veterans of that very same military is hardly fascism. It seems much more reasonable than a military controlled by stockholders of Goldman-Sachs.
“To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy. The unlimited democracies were unstable because their citizens were not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority... other than through the tragic logic of history. The unique “poll tax” that we must pay was unheard of. No attempt was made to determine whether a voter was socially responsible to the extent of his literally unlimited authority. If he voted the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead—and responsibility was then forced on him willy-nilly and destroyed both him and his foundationless temple.
“Superficially, our system is only slightly different; we have democracy unlimited by race, color, creed, birth, wealth, sex, or conviction, and anyone may win sovereign power by a usually short and not too arduous term of service—nothing more than a light workout to our cave-man ancestors. But that slight difference is one between a system that works, since it is constructed to match the facts, and one that is inherently unstable. Since sovereign franchise is the ultimate in human authority, we insure that all who wield it accept the ultimate in social responsibility—we require each person who wishes to exert control over the state to wager his own life—and lose it, if need be—to save the life of the state. The maximum responsibility a human can accept is thus equated to the ultimate authority a human can exert. Yin and yang, perfect and equal.” - Major Reid, Starship Troopers
You must also keep in mind that in no way does Heinlein propose that this system is perfect. It is only an imagined reality.
“Love your country, but never trust its government.” - Robert Heinlein
At its roots, Starship Troopers is a treatise on the philosophy of responsibility disguised as a sci-fi novel about a boy's elevation to manhood (duty) during an inter-stellar alien war which threatens human existence. Sure, there are definite strains of militarism, but it is a sort of militarism combined with responsibility which is a contrast to the wars of profit and politics we suffer today. It is a primally inspired amalgamation of war and virtue. As Heinlein correctly writes in the book:
“Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms.” - Mr. Dubois, Starship Troopers
I agree that the movie could not be further from the book. Verhoeven is a hack who never even read the book. In fact, he has personal disdain for it. In his blind neo-liberalism, he designed the movie as a farce to patronize and tarnish the original work. The movie is a cliché that recycles the theme of action-as-plot and adds the obligatory Hollywood romance. And besides, no powered armor = instant fail.
I urge you to reconsider the novel in a different light. Perhaps even reread it without prejudice and try to absorb the underlying themes. In any case, don't let your evaluation of ST affect your desire to experience the rest of Heinlein's library, as I know that it can be a put-off for some. Heinlein was the greatest writer of libertarian fiction, and you would be robbing yourself to ignore his complementary works.
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