Heinlein Quotes

Robert Heinlein was a masterful science fiction writer whose work often focused on the themes of individual liberty and "alternative" lifestyles.  It should come as no surprise that he is one of my favorite authors.  Below is a collection of my favorite snippets from his work which range from prophetic to hilarious.  Enjoy. 


Methuselah's Children

"a committee is the only known form of life with a hundred bellies and no brain."

‘The suspension of the Covenant’s civil guarantees applies only to the group known as the Howard Families except that government agents are empowered to act as circumstances require to apprehend speedily the persons affected by the Action-in-Council. Citizens are urged to tolerate cheerfully any minor inconvenience this may cause them; your right of privacy will be respected in every way possible; your right of free movement may be interrupted temporarily, but full economic restitution will be made.’ “Now, Friends and Citizens, what does this mean?—to you and you and also you! The DAILY DATA brings you now your popular commentator, Albert Reifsnider: “Reifsnider reporting: Service, Citizens! There is no cause for alarm. To the average free citizen this emergency will be somewhat less troublesome than a low-pressure minimum too big for the weather machines. Take it easy! Relax! Help the proctors when requested and tend to your private affairs. If inconvenienced, don’t stand on custom—cooperate with Service!"


Time Enough for Love

"The old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed. I can’t stand people who are smug about how early they get up.”

"progress doesn’t come from early risers—progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.”

"Don’t ask me why. It was Navy policy and therefore did not have a reason."

"from what I’ve seen over the centuries, there doesn’t seem to be anything that a government can do to an economy that does not act as positive feedback, or as a brake. Or both. Maybe someday, somewhere, someone smart as Andy Libby will figure out a way to tinker with the Law of Supply and Demand to make it work better, instead of letting it go its own cruel way. Maybe. But I’ve never seen it. Though God knows everybody has tried. Always with the best of intentions."

"I don’t mean that a business politician won’t steal; stealing is his business. But all politicians are nonproductive. The only commodity any politician has to offer is jawbone."

"Interstellar trade is economics stripped to basics. You can’t make money by making money because money isn’t money other than on its planet of issue. Most money is fiat; a ship’s cargo of the stuff is wastepaper elsewhere. Bank credit is worth even less; Galactic distances are too great. Even money that jingles must be thought of as trade goods—not money—or you’ll kid yourself into starvation. This gives the sky merchant a grasp of economics rarely achieved by bankers or professors. He is engaged in barter and no nonsense. He pays taxes he can’t evade and doesn’t care whether they are called “excise” or “king’s pence” or “squeeze” or straight-out bribes. It is the other kid’s bat and ball and backyard, so you play by his rules—nothing to get in a sweat about. Respect for laws is a pragmatic matter. Women know this instinctively; that’s why they are all smugglers. Men often believe—or pretend—that the “Law” is something sacred, or at least a science—an unfounded assumption very convenient to governments."


"Llita was well above average smart but suffered from the democratic fallacy: the notion that her opinion was as good as anyone’s—while Joe suffered from the aristocratic fallacy: He accepted the notion of authority in opinion."

"Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent."

"Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it."


"No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: “Come back with your shield, or on it.” Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome."

"An elephant: A mouse built to government specifications."

"In a mature society, 'civil servant' is semantically equal to 'civil master.'"

"Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil."

"Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed."

"A 'critic' is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased—he hates all creative people equally."

"This sad little lizard told me that he was a brontosaurus on his mother’s side. I did not laugh; people who boast of ancestry often have little else to sustain them. Humoring them costs nothing and adds to happiness in a world in which happiness is always in short supply."

"Secrecy is the beginning of tyranny."

"Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors—and miss."

"A whore should be judged by the same criteria as other professionals offering services for pay—such as dentists, lawyers, hairdressers, physicians, plumbers, etc. Is she professionally competent? Does she give good measure? Is she honest with her clients? It is possible that the percentage of honest and competent whores is higher than that of plumbers and much higher than that of lawyers. And enormously higher than that of professors."

"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 . . and they are the very ones who migrate when it is physically possible to do so."



Starship Troopers

"He had been droning along about “value,” comparing the Marxist theory with the orthodox “use” theory. Mr. Dubois had said, “Of course, the Marxian definition of value is ridiculous. All the work one cares to add will not turn a mud pie into an apple tart; it remains a mud pie, value zero. By corollary, unskillful work can easily subtract value; an untalented cook can turn wholesome dough and fresh green apples, valuable already, into an inedible mess, value zero. Conversely, a great chef can fashion of those same materials a confection of greater value than a commonplace apple tart, with no more effort than an ordinary cook uses to prepare an ordinary sweet. “These kitchen illustrations demolish the Marxian theory of value—the fallacy from which the entire magnificent fraud of communism derives—and illustrate the truth of the common-sense definition as measured in terms of use.” Dubois had waved his stump at us. “Nevertheless—wake up, back there!—nevertheless the disheveled old mystic of Das Kapital, turgid, tortured, confused, and neurotic, unscientific, illogical, this pompous fraud Karl Marx, nevertheless had a glimmering of a very important truth. If he had possessed an analytical mind, he might have formulated the first adequate definition of value . . . and this planet might have been saved endless grief. “Or might not,” he added. “You!” I had sat up with a jerk. “If you can’t listen, perhaps you can tell the class whether ‘value’ is a relative, or an absolute?” I had been listening; I just didn’t see any reason not to listen with eyes closed and spine relaxed. But his question caught me out; I hadn’t read that day’s assignment. “An absolute,” I answered, guessing. “Wrong,” he said coldly. “‘Value’ has no meaning other than in relation to living beings. The value of a thing is always relative to a particular person, is completely personal and different in quantity for each living human—‘market value’ is a fiction, merely a rough guess at the average of personal values, all of which must be quantitatively different or trade would be impossible.” (I had wondered what Father would have said if he had heard “market value” called a “fiction”—snort in disgust, probably.) “This very personal relationship, ‘value,’ has two factors for a human being: first, what he can do with a thing, its use to him . . . and second, what he must do to get it, its cost to him. There is an old song which asserts ‘the best things in life are free.’ Not true! Utterly false! This was the tragic fallacy which brought on the decadence and collapse of the democracies of the twentieth century; those noble experiments failed because the people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted . . . and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears. “Nothing of value is free. Even the breath of life is purchased at birth only through gasping effort and pain.” He had been still looking at me and added, “If you boys and girls had to sweat for your toys the way a newly born baby has to struggle to live you would be happier . . . and much richer. As it is, with some of you, I pity the poverty of your wealth. You! I’ve just awarded you the prize for the hundred-meter dash. Does it make you happy?” “Uh, I suppose it would.” “No dodging, please. You have the prize—here, I’ll write it out: ‘Grand prize for the championship, one hundred-meter sprint.’” He had actually come back to my seat and pinned it on my chest. “There! Are you happy? You value it—or don’t you?” I was sore. First that dirty crack about rich kids—a typical sneer of those who haven’t got it—and now this farce. I ripped it off and chucked it at him. Mr. Dubois had looked surprised. “It doesn’t make you happy?” “You know darn well I placed fourth!” “Exactly! The prize for first place is worthless to you . . . because you haven’t earned it. But you enjoy a modest satisfaction in placing fourth; you earned it. I trust that some of the somnambulists here understood this little morality play. I fancy that the poet who wrote that song meant to imply that the best things in life must be purchased other than with money—which is true—just as the literal meaning of his words is false. The best things in life are beyond money; their price is agony and sweat and devotion . . . and the price demanded for the most precious of all things in life is life itself—ultimate cost for perfect value.”






The Door into Summer

"The treasurer was a human being, even though he looked like a treasurer."

“It’s a simple matter of economics, son. These are surplus cars the government has accepted as security against price-support loans. They’re two years old now and they can never be sold...so the government junks them and sells them back to the steel industry. You can’t run a blast furnace just on ore; you have to have scrap iron as well. You ought to know that even if you are a Sleeper. Matter of fact, with high-grade ore so scarce, there’s more and more demand for scrap. The steel industry needs these cars.” “But why build them in the first place if they can’t be sold? It seems wasteful.” “It just seems wasteful. You want to throw people out of work? You want to run down the standard of living?” “Well, why not ship them abroad? It seems to me they could get more for them on the open market abroad than they are worth as scrap.” “What!—and ruin the export market? Besides, if we started dumping cars abroad we’d get everybody sore at us—Japan, France, Germany, Great Asia, everybody. What are you aiming to do? Start a war?” He sighed and went on in a fatherly tone. “You go down to the public library and draw out some books. You don’t have any right to opinions on these things until you know something about them.”



The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

I felt that I now understood the new regime: absolute freedom... except that any official from dogcatcher to supreme potentate could give any orders whatever to any private citizen at any time.

A monarch's neck should always have a noose around it-it keeps him upright.

So it was "freedom" as defined by Orwell and Kafka, "freedom" as granted by Stalin and Hitler, "freedom" to pace back and forth in your cage.

"Huh? I was talking about charging for air. That's wrong. Air should be free."             "Why do you say that. Bill? This isn't New Orleans; this is the Moon. No atmosphere. If you don't buy air, how are you going to breathe?"          
"But that's just what I mean! Air to breathe is everybody's right. The government should supply it."          
"The city government does supply it, everywhere inside the city pressure. That's what we just paid for." I fanned the air in front of his nose. "This stuff."         
"But that's what I'm saying! Nobody should have to pay for the breath of life. It's a natural right and the government should supply it free."

Anyone who consults a shrink should have his head examined.

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