When the aliens came to Earth, and wanted to harvest noble gases from the atmosphere, humanity was both amazed and also confused. Why noble gases? But, since it turned out that the aliens' anti-matter energy generators for some reason required noble gases to function properly, few saw a reason to refuse them. A few humans used noble gases for neon signs or helium balloons, but the aliens payed far more than any earth-based user, and there seemed no reason not to sell to them.

But, who would they pay to? After asking around about local earth systems of governance and property, it was the aliens who decided. They went to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and in return for what seemed an enormous quantity of Galactic Credits, they were given permission by him to park their spaceships in the air over the center of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, and filter as much of the noble gases from the air currents as they wanted. The question had never come up before of who exactly owned the atmosphere, in order to give them permission to do this, but it didn't seem to hurt anyone, and anyway their advanced technology seemed to prevent any opportunity for effectively objecting.

There were other benefits. With three googols per year of Galactic Credits to spend, the Secretary General found that he could acquire alien technologies that greatly benefited earth. A nanomachine which killed only malaria, then disassembled itself, soon sent to oblivion a disease which had been a blight on some of the poorest regions of the world for millenia. Other Galactic Credits in the U.N. account went towards water purification for anyone on Earth who couldn't afford it, cheap teleportation systems so that rescue crews with equipment could be sent to anywhere on the planet where a natural disaster struck, and many other high-tech marvels that extended lifespans and helped the poor.

Other aliens began to arrive, and as the one with the Galactic Credits under his control, the Secretary General was their first stop. They admitted that not all space aliens were friendly, and told the Secretary General that he needed to be prepared for the possibility that some of them would want to do something other than buying and selling. Soon, the Secretary General was in charge of elite robotic fighting machines that had laser beams, powered by anti-matter batteries, and could teleport to any spot on the planet near-instantaneously.

When news of this got out, the permanent members of the Security Council became alarmed. Who had authorized this? They quickly met to remove the Secretary General, and replace him with someone who was less of a threat to national sovereignty.

Unfortunately for them, it turns out that it is quite difficult to defend against teleporting attack drones whose weapons fire at the speed of light, no matter how many human troops you have at your disposal. After the leaders of all five permanent members of the UN Security Council were found dead on the same day, their replacements were all easily persuaded to withdraw their objections.

The Secretary General, meanwhile, became more and more eccentric, using his wealth to build larger and larger buildings for the U.N., wherever on the planet pleased him. Soon, the U.N.'s buildings became the largest ones in most cities, and the most ambitious Earthlings all scrambled for a spot in its bureaucracy. The fact that alien technology was making nearly everyone's regular job obsolete only accelerated this trend. Why make computers when the Secretary General was distributing more advanced ones for free to everyone who worked for the U.N., and they could sell them on to their countrymen? Why grow food when better tasting and more nutritious food was being teleported for free to everywhere on the planet that the Secretary General wanted it sent?

Not everyone on Earth was so willing to accept the new global order, of course. There were uprisings, and UN buildings were attacked. Unfortunately for the rebels in the USA and elsewhere, it is difficult to rebel against a government with teleporting attack drones that have laser cannons. In response, the UN buildings became more heavily guarded, and all national governments were put under pressure to crack down on anti-UN movements in their countries. Alien technology included remote camera-equipped drones that could listen in on millions of conversations at once, with good enough artificial intelligence to flag anything that seemed like conspiracy.

The earthlings, finding that they no longer had the ability to remove or even check the power of the Secretary General, began to ask themselves, who sold this guy that stuff? He was just a figurehead, before; the guy who ran the place where the real (local, which is to say national) powerbrokers met to talk things over. Now he seems to be unstoppable.

The events on Earth did not pass without notice among the aliens, of course. Some aliens backed the Secretary General, saying that he was the only one who could keep order on Earth well enough for the extraction of noble gases to proceed smoothly. Others said that the aliens should stay out of it, and not support the Secretary General; it was a local (that is to say, Earth) affair. The aliens had no right to intervene.

There was one alien who argued forcefully for intervention AGAINST the Secretary General. His nickname, translated into English, meant something roughly like "The Crank".

"It is rather too late," said the Crank, "for us to talk about 'staying out of it'. The Secretary General has become a tyrant, and he is nearly impossible for the earthlings to remove, given his access to advanced weaponry that we aliens gave him."

"Nonsense," said a more moderate alien. "We didn't GIVE him anything. He bought it, with his own money, and as the only plausible global leader there was no reason not to sell to him. Anyway, it wasn't our federation who sold the weapons to him, it was the Outer Spiral Arm Confederation."

"Regardless," said The Crank, "if it weren't for us showing up and showering him with Galactic Credits, he wouldn't be a tyrant, and even if he were the earthlings could remove him. We are the reason he has weaponry too advanced for his society."

"Your attitude is patronizing," said the moderates. "They have as much right to the latest technology as anyone else. Who are you to say who should have access to it, and who should be forcibly kept in the Dark Ages?"

"But we didn't get access to teleportation and anti-matter powered laser beams overnight," said The Crank. "If they had invented these things themselves, it would have come to them gradually, and their society would have adapted, as ours did. They wouldn't have had only one central authority figure with access to them before anyone else, and even if he did they would have been primitive and limited in number. We gave him the wealth to get large numbers of advanced attack drones, suddenly, before they had a chance to see what was going on and adapt their institutions to cope with this."

"It's not our fault if they don't have distributed government and decentralized control of their attack drones," said the moderates. "What we're seeing on Earth is the inevitable result of primitive civil institutions. If they emulated our ways of government and dispute resolution, they wouldn't be in the fix they're in now."

"We didn't develop those institutions until we came to a technology level that supported it, and encouraged it," said The Crank, "and it took us time to develop them. Then we gave advanced technology to the Earth central authority, but not the other parts of society. Small wonder that their institutions are too centralized now. We put them in this mess, the least we could do is give them help in getting out of it."

The Crank was shouted down at this point by even the moderate aliens. Giving weapons to earthling rebels?

"In any event," said the moderates, "we didn't give the Secretary General the weaponry, we just gave him the money. It was the Outer Spiral Arm Confederation that sold him the weaponry."

"We gave all the money to the central authority," said The Crank. "Was there any chance that they wouldn't be spent on weapons eventually? We made this mess by making the Secretary General richer than the rest of his planet put together."

The moderates threw up their pseudopods and stopped listening to The Crank. They did, after some discussion, decide that he did have a point about the weapon sales, so they announced a weapons embargo until the rebellion was over.

"No!" said The Crank. "The Secretary General already has his weapons! An arms sale embargo at this point just helps him to crush all resistance by preventing the rebels from getting any!"

This was generally taken as evidence that The Crank was the sort of being who you just can't make any kind of reasonable compromise with. An arms embargo seemed the sensible half-measure to make all sides, if not happy, then at least satisfied that their concerns were heard.

"What is it with these noble-gas-rich planets, anyway?" one of the moderates asked, after The Crank had stormed out of the discussion. "They all seem to be basket cases, with awful tyrants and no strong civil society."

"The Resource Curse, it's called," said another. "The only planets who escaped it were wealthy before they discovered the noble gases in their atmosphere; every other planet seems to have worse outcomes the richer its atmosphere. It's curious."

"Hmmm..." said the rest. "Inexplicable."