Translation of Excerpts from Robert Heinlein's Book, Take Your Government Away

Translator's Preface

Starting today, I am starting to publish excerpts from my translation from English from Robert Heinlein's Take Back Your Government, a guide for beginner politicians written by Heinlein in the late 1940s. I have already published part of this material in LJ , but I think that starting to read a good book right from the middle is wrong, so I start publishing from the beginning.

In my opinion, the book is interesting in that, firstly, it was written by the Master of Fiction and retains his trademark laconic bright style, and secondly, from the inside, he shows the American political life of that time, without embellishment and without omission.

And, I hope, it will be read by people like commentators on the article About open bookkeeping in the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science, who believe that ordinary people should not be allowed into the process of making important decisions, because, as Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is imperfect, but humanity hasn’t come up with anything better.”


Excerpts from my translation from English by Robert Heinlein's “Take Your Government” are used exclusively for informational and cultural purposes, in order to familiarize readers with the peculiarities of political activity in the USA in the middle of the 20th century. All the points of view described in them are the opinion of the author of the work of Robert Heinlein, and it may not coincide with mine.

And now, the Book .


(In which the accused pleads guilty to engaging in politics, but makes a speech in his defense).

This book was written as a practical guide for an ordinary American who never participated in politics, has no personal political ambitions, and does not want to make money on politics. But who nevertheless would like to help his chosen political system work better.

If you are disturbed by the feeling that you must do something in order to protect your rights, maintain and improve your lifestyle, but you are restrained by a lack of time, money, or the thought that all your efforts alone are useless, then this book - for you.
Even an inexperienced, self-serving politics lonely volunteer who does not have enough money or time can take control of the country from the hands of professional politicians and make it suitable for himself - provided that he knows how to do it.

This book describes how politics is made, without reference to specific political views. I have my own views on politics, some of which almost turn into bitter regrets about the unacceptability of the current state of things. And yet, I firmly believe in the common sense and decency of our people. Much in our lives calls on us every day to act politically, and I want to show you how to do it.

Thousands of books have been published for those interested in social sciences - on the design of cities, economics, political history, civil law, diplomacy, sociology, political science, and so on. Many books have been written about famous public figures. There are memoirs of these figures themselves - such as, for example, an interesting and instructive autobiography of James Parley, and the inspiring life story of Justis Holmes, the Yankees from Olympia. I even saw a clever and sarcastic book about the domestic kitchen of professional politics, entitled "How to Start Taking Bribes." But I never met a book that talked about how to become an influential political force to an ordinary citizen who has neither extra time nor extra money.

This book is the result of my own mistakes and experience, it was written in the hope that by reading it you will not make my mistakes. If this task is completed, then I hope that you forgive this book for its shortcomings. But you probably ask me: "Who are you to write about politics?" A doctor must have a diploma, a plumber - a license, and a politician, to prove his competence, can only show his achievements. I did everything that I will write about.

I visited voters ’houses, organized political clubs, conducted election campaigns, ran for posts, was a member of the district and state party committee, attended party congresses, published a political newspaper, spoke at rallies, raised money for the election campaign, distributed campaigns, distributed posts in the government of the victorious party, he was in charge of the party’s representative offices - cluttered and smoky rooms, and even found out that my phone was tapped.

I think all this gives me the right to call myself a politician. And I was convinced from my own experience that an ordinary citizen who has freedom of speech and the right to vote can feel his own significance for the fate of his country if he takes the trouble to exercise these rights.

Robert Heinlein, 1946

Chapter 1 Why mess with a dirty business?

“He who has touched impurities may be defiled”
Ecclesiastes 13: 1

“And the Pharisees asked Jesus,“ Why do you eat and drink with sinners? ”
Gospel of Luke V: 30

This book is about the structure and methods of practical politics. The book is based on the view that democracy is worth fighting for, and that a simple citizen can make democracy work.
I don’t care which political party you belong to. Personally, I belong to one of the two parties that dominate our country, so there is half the chance that you will guess my party affiliation. However, when I wrote this book, I tried not to allow any party biases in it, because the methods of political activity do not have a party affiliation.

From my politics, I learned the following:

  1. In general, most Americans are kind, honest, and decent.
  2. The American people are wise enough. In order to conduct his affairs, he does not need the Fuhrer, Iron Chancellors, Technocrats, Commissars, Theocrats, and the like dictators.
  3. In their ambitions, Americans do not interfere with each other. Most of them do not want to be super-rich, seeking only economic security sufficient to support their family in decent conditions, without fear for the future. For Americans, the minimum control they need to achieve this goal is enough. They don’t care what others do until they interfere in their lives. In general, we Americans are not obsessed with money, do not interfere not in our own affairs, by our nature are carefree and anarchistic. We try to live no worse than our neighbors, but do not strive to become richer than Vanderbilt. And we don’t love the police too much.
  4. Democracy does not follow naturally from laws and the Constitution. This is a lively and fluid process that should be guided by the citizens themselves, otherwise it will cease to be a democracy, even if its external appearance remains
  5. Any government held in power is the one who elected it. If a corrupt party mafia seized power in your city, it means that you and your neighbors prefer this state of affairs, instead of making efforts yourself and taking control of your city from the hands of the mafia. Hitler’s government was very popular in Germany, the vast majority of Germans preferred to give power to these gangsters, instead of laboring to rule themselves. They themselves have given up responsibility.
  6. Democracy is the most effective form of government ever invented by humanity. History shows that, both in peace and in war, democracy works better than fascism, communism, or any other form of dictatorship. As for the mythical "enlightened monarchies" and "soft dictatorships", they do not exist in nature!
  7. An ordinary citizen without political connections and money can achieve a lot in politics.

I deliberately left the most important in the end. Contrary to popular belief, this is true. You can become an influential political force by spending less on an evening devoted to politics than if you went to the movies that evening; making less effort than scout leaders, avid bridge players, and enthusiastic hams make to their hobby; spending as much time on politics as Sunday school teachers, members of the English teacher community, and stamp collectors.

You might think that I am exaggerating the accessibility of political activity. Of course, I can be mistaken, but it was such an idea that I formed for myself on the basis of my many years of experience in politics, having gone through many election campaigns. If you yourself have extensive experience in politics, you have the right to argue with me, although I doubt that you will do so.

If you are a novice politician, and participated in no more than two election campaigns, then I ask you not to make hasty judgments.

It is amazing how many people object to the very first item on my list, believing that cheaters are more common than honest people. I can understand how a person who has dealt with corrupt officials for too long can decide that the whole world is built on deception. However, when I hear someone complaining that everything is crooks around, I suspect that the crook is himself, especially if he complains that an honest person in his profession cannot feed himself. I met crooks, but each of them had dozens of crystal-clear honest people, both in politics and outside it.

Any bank employee can confirm this. Find out from your friend who works at the bank how many fake signed checks received by the bank. The answer will amaze you with a pleasant surprise.

However, crooks can conspire among themselves and sit in your government if you allow them to do so. Then of course, it’s much calmer for you to believe that, in essence, you can’t do anything to rectify the situation. It’s much easier to sit in your living room, and, looking through the newspapers, to make bitter comments about “these scoundrels” who have sat in the city hall of your city, state government, or country, and complain that “They” do not care about the welfare of ordinary citizens ( referring to himself), instead of leaving the house and collecting a couple of dozens of votes.

What good do you expect if you do nothing for this? If you would like to receive a large order for the supply of a manufactory, would you be sitting idle waiting for an order? In politics, everything is exactly the same. Do you remember that the government is financed from the income tax that you paid this year? Do you remember that your nephew died in Okinawa because you allowed an older deputy from your county to remain in Congress longer than necessary because you did not want to understand politics?

Why should the average man think about politics? Why mess with this dirty business? Isn't politics full of crooks with whom you wouldn’t eat at the same table, and crazy people whom you wouldn’t let you and a cannon shot? “Overflowing” is, of course, an exaggeration, but there are plenty of people of both kinds in politics, and they can bring to a nervous breakdown those who will deal with them. In addition, if you engage in politics, then your dear friends, who hate any politics, will consider that you have become indifferent, engaging in politics for your own benefit. They will be firmly convinced of this, because self-interest is the only reason for pursuing politics that they can imagine.

So why take on all this work? Why deal with crooks, having heard malicious remarks from friends and acquaintances behind you, just to try to clean out the Augean stables, scoop out the ocean with a spoon and cut down the forest alone?

Because it is necessary for you personally. And because the task is doable.

Democracy lives in an eternal crisis. Maintaining it requires the same constant attention as driving in the city center. If for a couple of years you will not pay attention to the direction in which your political wagon is moving, then very soon crooks, fools, and villains will take your steering wheel from you, and they will take you in the direction that does not suit you, or they will crash and smash into smithereens.

When you get out of the wreckage - you and your family, don’t say that “They” did this to you. You did it yourself. Because they chose to sit idly by and doze. Because they decided that in exchange for the taxes paid, they received a bus ticket that will take you where you need to. All that you actually received for the taxes paid is the right to participate in the purchase of the bus, and in its management.

And this year it is harder to drive than usual: traffic is more intense, turns are more dangerous, traffic lights work worse, and there are many sections on the road where there is simply no asphalt, although this is not indicated on the map. In such circumstances, your well-being requires you to be more responsible and attentive than usual.

Are you satisfied with the mandatory draft in peacetime? How did the deputy from your county vote on this issue? Do you have children of military age? Should your county budget be replenished if there is a deficit? If so, will you vote for a tax increase? Or will you instead reduce the cost of the army, navy, and pensions to veterans? Are there other ways to balance my budget?

Should miners be prohibited from striking? Can you mine coal for them yourself? Do you know how much you will pay for heating your home if you do not regulate tariffs? Or do you still do not have your own house, but rent an apartment? Will you ever build your own home? If so, can you contain it? Are there any restrictions on the use of new building materials and technologies in your city?
Should our country give a loan to England? France? Russia? Do you agree to the introduction of food supply standards in our country in order to save Germany from the threat of hunger? How long should our occupation of Japan last? Why?

How did your congressman vote on the adoption of a law to abolish racial discrimination? Do you know what this law is and how it can affect your life?

This year the Philippines gained independence - should we help them grow by abolishing import duties on Philippine sugar? Or maybe you live in Colorado, where sugar beets are grown?

Is deliberate delays in enacting Senate laws a legitimate way to protect state rights, or is it a forbidden device?

Can oil producers be entrusted with the management of strategic oil reserves for our army and navy?

Was Albert Fall involved in the oil industry, involved in a scandal over fraud with these reserves?

Should we insist that Russia provide our journalists with free access to the country and the opportunity to report news from there without censorship, so that we know what is happening there? Is it worth the effort?

Does the UN need the Big Five countries vetoing UN resolutions? Does veto power serve peaceful or military purposes?

Should Russia withdraw troops from Iran? And England from Egypt? Is the USA from Korea? Are these three cases similar, or are they completely different?

Does the Chinese Communist resemble Brooklyn? If so, what is it like? If not, what is the difference?

What is an American way of life? Does it mean for residents of prestigious neighborhoods the same as for residents of slums? Are you sure of your answer? Aren't we all sailing in the same boat? Do you think the atomic bomb will figure out who has the largest bank account and who is in which party?

And now, we come to the most important. All other questions before this were from the kind of problems that we somehow somehow managed to cope with over the past one hundred and seventy years.

In the same year, we are dealing with such an acute, and even double-edged crisis, as we never had before, a crisis worse than Pearl Harbor and the Civil War of 1861.

One side of the crisis is political and economic. Our political system has rivals in the form of revolutions in all corners of the globe. We can begin to persecute and persecute their supporters, fall into hysteria, try to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world, and we can strengthen our political system and defend it by showing its real achievements. Well-fed, having a good job and a reliable roof over his head, the American is an inaccessible target for propaganda. But if the same American goes hungry for seven days, the consequences are obvious.

The other side of the crisis is not so obvious, but much more dangerous. The Atomic Era has come, and we have not realized this yet. Have you read Smith's report? Do you know what this document is? This is a report on the atomic bomb prepared by the famous physicist G.D.Smith, its full name: "Atomic energy for military purposes", you can buy it in any bookstore for one dollar twenty-five cents. It is rather boring, but it is written clearly, being, in my opinion, the most important document for mankind since the Sermon on the Mount.

I will not explain why it is so important for you to read it. In the end, whether you will read it or not is up to you. After all, you are a free American citizen, at least for now, free. And, if you're lucky, you will remain so for another five to ten years. Whether you and your family will live longer depends on how you interpret the contents of Smith's report, and you yourself must do it, no guardian angel will help here.

So find this document and read it carefully. After that, take the list of candidates for this year’s elections and study it carefully. If after that you make the right decision, then there is a chance that the star-striped flag will still fly over our country of brave and free people. Just a chance.

Now get down to work: you have a Case that needs to be done.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
Part 15 Part 16
Part 17
Part 18
Part 19
Part 20
Part 21
Part 22
Part 23
Part 24
Part 25
Part 25 Part 26
Part 27
Part 28, final

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