Daily Piketty: Matthew Yglesias on Greg Mankiw
Liveblogging World War II: June 24, 1944: On Saipan

Tuesday Book Blogging: Jeet Heer on Robert A. Heinlein's Navy Disability Pension and Social Insurance

NewImageJeet Heer (HeerJeet) on Robert A. Heinlein's Navy Disability Pension:

  1. A little essay on Robert Heinlein's pension and the invisible welfare state.
  2. When he turned libertarian in late 1950s, Heinlein started mouthing off about welfare state, loafers, Aid to Dependent Children etc.
  3. Heinlein's complaints about the welfare state were more than a little hypocritical given crucial role of navy pension in his life.
  4. Heinlein got into Annapolis as naval cadet thanks to political connections (his family had pull with Pendergast political machine).
  1. Heinlein became naval officer in 1929, served till 1934, was mustered out because of TB, received lifetime pension at 2/3rds of naval pay.
  2. Heinlein's naval pension allowed him to survive Great Depression and try hand at different careers (grad studies, architecture, mining).
  3. In 1938/1939, Heinlein decided to take up writing. Pension again underwrite this career.
  4. Heinlein was a big hit as a pulp writer from the start but even so naval pension was crucial for his careers.
  5. Being a freelance writer is an unstable job. Markets dry up, editors turn cold. Having a naval pension was a crucial safety net.
  6. Heinlein's peers -- Sturgeon, Hubbard, even Asimov -- had to take other jobs (or start religions) when pulps dried up.
  7. Heinlein was able to reinvent himself several times as a writer thanks to security of having pension.
  8. 1939-1942 Heinlein mainly pulp writer. Then war work, then 1946 tried hand at nonfiction, then wrote for slicks and juveniles.
  9. Heinlein had the luxury of reinventing himself as a writer because his base salary was the naval pension.
  10. And when Heinlein went through a dry spell or personal crisis (i.e. break up of menage a trois leading to divorce) pension was there.
  11. As a young socialist, Heinlein knew how crucial pension was for him and wanted to have same benefit for everyone (Social Credit).
  12. Robert Heinlein 1941: "This country has been very good to me, and the taxpayers have supported me for many years.”
  13. Once he turned libertarian Heinlein forgot his gratitude to taxpayer. In Glory Road (1963) he mocked paying taxes to "Uncle Sucker".
  14. So: Robert Heinlein, that great hero of libertarian culture, was the complete creation of the invisible welfare state.
  15. The invisible welfare state is like white privilege: its whole power comes from the fact it is not talked about. Not seen as welfare.
  16. To understand the American right, we have to understand the process of forgetting that allowed Heinlein to suppress memory of pension.
  17. Point isn't that he didn't earn it. Point is that he first wanted to share social insurance broadly & then didn't.
  18. Main risk Heinlein faced as a sailor was getting v.d. from his visits to brothels.
  19. He didn't "earn" anything. As I said, he became naval cadet thanks to political connection. You're ignoring that fact.
  20. To say he earned position ignores fact political connections (not available to most) gave him crucial help.
  21. Question isn't paying for service. Question is Heinlein became officer with help of political connections.
  22. My argument isn't that he didn't deserve pension. I'm glad he got it. And in 1930s & 1940s he understood his debt.
  23. He was free to spend as he wanted. But "earned" implies meritocracy. Navy wasn't meritocracy.
  24. I think language of "earning" is wrong here. Society should provide disability pension to disabled. Social insurance.
  25. Civilized society should do. And 1930s/1940s RAH thought so too. But later he became more Social Darwinist.