A recent question about capitalistic alien invaders reminds me of a short story (there may have been a sequel as well) I read back in the 1980s. I believe I would have read it in a magazine, which means most likely Analog, since I've recently been re-reading Asimov's and haven't come across it. (And I didn't subscribe to Fantasy & Science Fiction.)

As I've noted previously, my 1980s-1990s Analogs are mostly in the nebulous zone.

The story is told from the viewpoint of some supposedly incorruptible trouble-shooter type of an alien race that has conquered Earth. They have very strict rules about contracts, and equally strict rules about (against?) relationships which are not governed by contracts. Thus, when they came to Earth they dismantled all governments (any many other human institutions) as illegal monopolies.

The trouble-shooter is sent to a small community, possibly in New Zealand or Australia, where there is suspicion of illegal activity. He recruits or conscripts a local woman as a native guide, and she tries to convince him that social/collective organizations are how humans function, that humanity can't exist the way the alien society is organized.

I don't recall precisely what the illegal monopoly was, but it was some sort of normal (to us) community project - something like a public library, or a community theatre. The people of the community have tried to create some kind of alien-friendly façade, by creating something like a company governed by a pool of ownership shares, but it is fairly transparent, at least to the alien.

The alien comes to the conclusion that his guide is right, humanity can't live like the aliens, but he shuts the endeavour down anyway, because he can't do anything else.

  • 1980s magazine could also have been Omni -- they published 2-3 SF stories per issue while they ran.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jan 26, 2022 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


This is "Conquest by Default" by Vernor Vinge. It's a very close match to what you remember. It was published in Analog in May 1968.

The aliens live in a Libertarian paradise (which is moderated by the "Umpires" who really (somehow) don't become corrupt) and the narrator came to a post WW3 Earth where the aliens have tried to set up business. Not everyone on Earth wants them and Earth is a mess. The narrator is an alien anthropologist who falls in love with an Earth woman (yes, they're capable of breeding with us -- they don't understand it either!). He sees the turmoil as folly caused by these "government" things and ultimately calls in the Umpires (who had hitherto been ignoring Earth's institutions) to rule them as monopolies and disestablish them.

He loses the girl, because she doesn't want Earth to become a poor copy of the alien civilization.

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    Aha! Very good! I hadn't considered the used issues of Analog I was buying at the same time. (And how did I manage to keep track of those and not the others?!) Analog Science Fiction, May 1968; apparently I did not remember the story very well.
    – DavidW
    Jan 26, 2022 at 19:45
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    An important additional detail is that the aliens are caught in a legal bind: they can either acknowledge humans as similar enough to themselves that they have to apply their laws against monopolies to us, or they can allow one of their own corporations to continue exploiting Earth in a way that will cause humans to go extinct. The human woman wanted the alien anthropologist to find a third way, but in the end he could not.
    – zwol
    Jan 27, 2022 at 17:17

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