The shared universe that I usually write fiction in nowadays is an alternate history where the world is generally freer, governments are smaller and weaker (or non-existent), power is decentralized. While I don’t harp on libertarianism that much, nor make proselytizing the primary (or even tertiary) purpose of my fiction, I do spend a lot of time exploring both what how this freer world might function and exposing the pathologies of statism.

In our superhero novella Copper Knights & Granite Men (due to be released this week), the action takes place in the newly independent free city of New York. There’s a lot of back story there that derives all the way from the central conceit of the universe, and you can read all about it in the book. But I wanted to share an appendix entry I wrote for Copper Knights that gets into how the government of the free city of New York can literally be described as a gangster state, since it actually arose out of the organized crime syndicates that infested the city prior to its independence.


“I have said that the state is merely organized crime legitimized, and New York City provides the example par excellence of this fact.”

– Robert Kingston “The Underworld Enthroned”, The American Mercury, February 9, 2011

While on paper the city of New York regained much of its autonomy in the 1990s and 2000s, in reality there was a great deal of headbutting between city offices and the New York state-run agencies and authorities that had previously overseen the city. The mayor’s office was at loggerheads with the Provisional Oversight Commission (the “pox” in the parlance of most New Yorkers) and there were were rival street departments, park wardens, harbor authorities, and even feuding courts and police forces. Not infrequently, these struggles turned to violence, even pitched battles on the streets, the so-called Interbureau Wars.

One of the most common complaints of the state agencies were that many of the new city agencies had close connections to various street gangs and larger organized crime syndicates, and even that wanted and convicted criminals held city posts. These allegations were mostly true.

Criminal gangs had been a cornerstone of the New York secessionist movement for decades. It was the syndicates that grew rich and influential from smuggling under New England’s protectionist tariffs, and it was their ‘soldiers’ that kept order during the turmoil of the Pan-American War. Colluding with some otherwise legitimate businessmen, taking over the trade unions, and running the electoral wards, the various gangs essentially ruled the city, and the gangs themselves were ruled and coordinated by the 11-member council of syndicate heads called ‘The Board.’

While the Interbureau Wars are over, most of the violence has moved from the front streets to the back alleys, and the members of the Board have changed, this arrangement still prevails in current day New York. Most of the city’s elected officials are beholden in some way to this hidden power structure, if they not members outright. Even the city’s array of officially sanctioned talent vigilantes (Neighborhood Protectors, or NPs) are aligned with the syndicate that rules their territory.

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