The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics

The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics

by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Alastair Smith


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A groundbreaking new theory of the real rules of politics: leaders do whatever keeps them in power, regardless of the national interest.

As featured on the viral video Rules for Rulers, which has been viewed over 3 million times.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith's canonical book on political science turned conventional wisdom on its head. They started from a single assertion: Leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don't care about the "national interest"-or even their subjects-unless they have to.

This clever and accessible book shows that democracy is essentially just a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind but only in the number of essential supporters, or backs that need scratching. The size of this group determines almost everything about politics: what leaders can get away with, and the quality of life or misery under them. The picture the authors paint is not pretty. But it just may be the truth, which is a good starting point for anyone seeking to improve human governance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781610391849
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 07/31/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 134,646
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is the Julius Silver Professor of Politics and director of the Alexander Hamilton Center for Political Economy at New York University. He is the author of 16 books, including The Predictioneer's Game.
Alastair Smith is professor of politics at New York University. The recipient of three grants from the National Science Foundation and author of three books, he was chosen as the 2005 Karl Deutsch Award winner, given biennially to the best international relations scholar under the age of 40.

They are also the authors of The Spoils of War: Greed, Power, and the Conflicts That Made Our Greatest Presidents.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Rules to Rule By ix

1 The Rules of Politics 1

2 Coming to Power 21

3 Staying in Power 49

4 Steal from the Poor, Give to the Rich 75

5 Getting and Spending 101

6 If Corruption Empowers, Then Absolute Corruption Empowers Absolutely 127

7 Foreign Aid 161

8 The People in Revolt 195

9 War, Peace, and World Order 225

10 What Is To Be Done? 251

Acknowledgments 283

Notes 287

Index 301

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Machiavelli's The Prince has a new rival. . . . This is a fantastically thought-provoking read. I found myself not wanting to agree but actually, for the most part, being convinced that the cynical analysis is the true one." —-Enlightenment Economics

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Dictator's Handbook 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Frruss More than 1 year ago
This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand real politics and power...
Serhiy_Kudelia More than 1 year ago
This book goes into a head of a dictator and offers an elegant consistent analytical framework to understand the reasoning of any dictator. In fact, many of its examples come from the corporate world since corporations are often built according to the similar principles. You can apply this framework to analyze any authoritarian regimes in the world - both the ones recently established in the post-Soviet space and the ones existing for decades in Africa or the Middle East. As the authors demonstrate through numerous historical examples, they all rely on the same set of institutions to sustain themselves. This book will allow you to predict which dictators may be successful in maintaining their hold on power for long, and which ones are bound to fall soon. It also points to particular moments of vulnerability of any dictatorship and, therefore, may serve not only as a guide for an aspiring dictator, but also to the ones plotting to bring existing dictators down. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the policies of authoritarian regimes or hierarchically built organizations.
ChronicD More than 1 year ago
Put on your new glasses and prepare to view the world of politics from an island of practicality. Look around, the presidential campaign, Libya , banks . What will become of Libya ? The trail may follow the money from oil. Our country ? Why do income distributions look like Nigeria ? The banks ? Whay are people in charge of the country's finances always from Goldman Sachs ? Foreign aid ? Huh ? Why are we hated when we give them money ? Read this book . Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you won't regret it.
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