Hey, an alien!
Yes, I have travelled across space
to check on the progress of your species.
Cool. Shall I take you to our leader?
Our leader – the guy in charge.
The guy in charge of what?
Well, in charge of everything.
You have one guy in charge of everything?
No, no, he’s in charge of government.
What is government?
Well, government makes the rules for us.
It tells us what we can do and what we can’t
So government is really smart?
They come up with wise rules for you to follow?
Well mostly, but some of its rules are really
Do you disregard those rules?
No, we have to follow the rules,
even if they are stupid, or we disagree with
Government punishes anyone who disobeys the
So you are slaves to government?
No, no, no, it’s not like that at all.
Government works for us, the people.
It serves us. We’re the boss.
It tells you what to do, and it punishes you
if you disobey it, and yet you’re its boss?
But there are some things government does
that you don’t like?
Well, yeah, not everything government does
Like spending on wars, for example.
What is a war?
It’s when government basically spends the
on weapons and soldiers, and then sends them
over to the other side of the world
to kill a bunch of people over there and destroy
I don’t like it that government does this.
Well I can see why you might not like that.
Have you humans reached the stage where you
stealing, enslaving and killing each other
to be bad things?
Oh yeah, we know that.
Don’t steal. Don’t attack. Don’t assault.
But you give money to government and they
use it to kill people.
Well yeah, but government does good things
with tax money as well.
Why don’t you stop paying for the things you
and only pay for the good things it does?
No, we can’t do that.
You can’t just decide to stop paying taxes,
because the rules say that everyone has to
But the rules come from government though,
So government made a rule which says that
everyone has to pay them money?
So everybody pays taxes because if they didn’t,
government would punish them using violence?
Well yes, but most people don’t mind paying
most people feel obligated to pay taxes and
obey government laws,
because it’s for the good of society.
Society needs government, and that means we
all have to pay taxes.
So just to make sure I’ve got this straight.
Government makes the rules and you feel obligated
to follow the rules,
even the ones you don’t like, and it tells
you what to do,
and threatens to punish you if you don’t
do what it says.
And it uses some of the money that it has
taken from you using threats of violence
to pay for things you don’t like and actually
think are immoral, like mass murder.
Yeah, but we can ask it to please tell us
to do smart things,
and please don’t take our money and use
it to kill people.
We’re allowed to ask them to tell us to do
what we want them to tell us to do.
Are you guys just scared of this thing?
Is government some huge monster that can just
at any moment if you disobey?
No, government isn’t a monster.
Well what is it then? Could you draw me a
picture of it?
Government isn’t really the sort of thing
you can draw a picture of.
Maybe you could take me to it. Where is government?
You mean the building?
Government is a building?
No, but the politicians who make up the government
have buildings they work from.
So government is a group of these politicians?
OK, so what species are these politicians?
Well they’re… human.
So politicians are humans, and they’re government.
You’re a human, but you’re not government?
So it’s the politicians, they are the ones
that boss the rest of you around,
and make you do things you don’t want to do
and take your money using threats of violence.
But even though you’re all humans…
you’re not allowed to boss them around and
take their money?
No, they’d put us in a cage if we did that.
But look, it’s not like the politicians can
just do whatever they want.
Like, a politician can’t just come up to me
on the street and make me give him money.
They can’t do that.
Politicians can only do things like that in
their job, when they’re working for government.
Oh, so politicians aren’t government. They’re
just work for government.
OK, so government isn’t a monster, and it
and it’s not politicians, it’s something else.
And it employs politicians, who are just regular
who get to order everyone else around and
take their money.
How does a regular human become a politician?
Well that’s the great thing about our government.
It’s a democracy, and that means that the
people actually have the power,
because we get to decide who among us get
to be the politicians, we get to vote.
And if a politician starts doing things we
we can just replace him with someone else
in the next election.
So the people that get chosen to be politicians
only get to boss people around
and take their money for a short time, and
then they go back to being regular humans?
That sounds like a powerful position to be
But if you get to choose who does that, I
assume that politicians are always the wisest,
most honest, caring and respected people among
Well, no, not really. I wouldn’t say politicians
are known for being honest,
or wise, or caring,
and they’re certainly not the most respected
people among us.
Come to think of it, most politicians are
lying, power-hungry crooks.
The ones you chose?
Yeah, they’re always doing things we don’t
They use taxpayers’ money to enrich themselves
and their friends,
and they never keep their promises to voters.
They’ve been caught stealing and lying and
and they mostly do what the big corporations
Yeah, they’re always doing stuff like that.
They’re completely corrupt.
They’re a bunch of lying crooks.
But you said that most humans know that stealing
and beating each other up and killing are
And you said that you have the power because
you can change who’s in charge.
So why don’t you just replace the lying, thieving,
murderous crooked politicians
with some regular people?
Well we don’t try to elect lying crooks. It
just always turns out that way.
But we have to have a government, because
some humans are nasty,
and might kill, or enslave or steal.
Civilization just couldn’t survive without
Let me get this straight.
Because you’re worried about the small number
of nasty people
that are willing to kill, enslave and steal,
you think it’s necessary for your survival
to have a system where some humans among you,
for a short while,
get to call themselves the government,
and they get to order everyone else around
like slaves and, if they want,
commit mass murder, using money they stole,
using threats of violence.
Politicians get to kill, enslave and steal,
because if they didn’t, someone else might?
And you try to elect good honest people to
but what happens every time is that the people
turn out to be corrupt, evil, lying crooks.
That’s your system?
Yeah, that’s pretty much government.