The Syndic
by Cyril Kornbluth

A Prometheus hall of fame science fiction story about a future America divided into two sections that are run by different organized crime families. The sections, called the Mob and the Syndic, have lived in peace for over 100 years since signing the Treaty of Las Vegas. An outside group calling itself the Government of North America performs acts of sabotage and assassinations against the Syndic.

The main character, a young man who is part of the Syndic family, is sent to spy on the so-called government. He learns that the government has feuding factions, constitutionalists and socialists, and that they control the coasts of England, Ireland, and Iceland. The interior sections of these lands are inhabited by people who have reverted to savagery. The government has made slaves of the people it has captured in these lands. Anyone who is not a so-called citizen, including most women, has no rights. Rape is a common activity. All the resources of the government are devoted to its military. The civilian population lives in poverty.

The Syndic-run section of America is prosperous because the patriarchs of the crime family that run it are benevolent despots who have a strong libertarian bent. The Mob section is more prosperous than the government-occupied lands, but upon closer examination, it turns out to be divided into have and have nots, based on who is closer to the Mob family that runs the country. The Mob family is much less enlightened than the Syndic family.

The book has many good lines regarding psychology, politics, and philosophy. Some lines are very funny. The story has the usual action, adventure, suspense, and young love. The science gadgets mentioned in the story underestimate the advances made, but this is not significant to the plot. The political economy of the syndic region is unclear. The eccentric patriarch who runs it makes contradictory statements. He denounces laissez faire and usury, but seems to keep a hands off policy with regard to business transactions. He insists that the Syndic is not a government, yet it retains a monopoly on the protection racket.

Year Read: 2001

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