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Copyright 1975 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.

C.M. Kornbluth's The Syndic

Reviewed by J. Neil Schulman


The government of North America has been reduced to bands of sea pirates operating out of Ireland. For the past century the eastern half of what had been the United States has been controlled by the Syndicate (now shortened to "Syndic") --complete with Sicilian names, call girls, and protection shakedowns.

To the west is territory ruled by the old Chicago Mob--but let's not even get into that.

Sounds pretty awful, doesn't it? Just the sort of thing we're constantly told would no doubt happen the moment we try to put anarchocapitalism into effect.

But it's not awful at all--and that's only the first of surprises confronting the reader (libertarian or otherwise) in C.M. Kornbluth's farsighted 1953 science fiction novel. The protection shakedown (and called such in the novel) ask far less than our current taxes with a far greater degree of public acceptance--and the Syndic does at least provide efficient protection for the money. Prostitution is a glamorous and high-paying profession, and the surrounding society's mores are free enough that call girls are frequented mainly by beginners and confirmed loners. And only a bigot could object to someone's ancestry.

As for the rest of Syndic society, virtually anything goes--and the people are happy enough that alcoholism and psychotherapy are unknown except as historical curiosities looked upon much as bloodletting and alchemy are today.

As for the government? "Let me point out what the so-called Government stands for," one Syndic member says: "brutal `taxation,' extirpation of gambling, denial of life's simple pleasures to the poor and severe limitation of them to all but the wealthy, sexual prudery viciously enforced by penal laws of appalling barbarity, endless regulation and coercion governing every waking minute of the day. That was its record during its days of power and that would be its record if it returned to power."

But this says nothing or The Syndic's story--only its viewpoint. And rightly so: C.M. Kornbluth was a master storyteller and I'd hate to spoil any of his fast-moving plot.

The Syndic is a vastly entertaining and insightful projection of a successful libertarian society--if not a flawless one--and good ammunition to use against those who threaten us (rhetorically) with organized crime if we oppose governments. A science fiction novel even Dr. Rothbard might like.


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