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The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics Paperback – July 31, 2012
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Enlightenment Economics, July 14, 2011
Machiavelli's The Prince has a new rival. It's THE DICTATOR'S HANDBOOK by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith. 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.”
Simply the best book on politics written . Every citizen should read this book.”
R. James Woolsey Director of Central Intelligence, 1993-1995, and Chairman, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, July, 2011
"In this fascinating book Bueno de Mesquita and Smith spin out their view of governance: that all successful leaders, dictators and democrats, can best be understood as almost entirely driven by their own political survivala view they characterize as 'cynical, but we fear accurate.' Yet as we follow the authors through their brilliant historical assessments of leaders' choicesfrom Caesar to Tammany Hall and the Green Bay Packerswe gradually realize that their brand of cynicism yields extremely realistic guidance about spreading the rule of law, decent government, and democracy. James Madison would have loved this book."
Roger Myerson, Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, July, 2011
"In this book, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith teach us to see dictatorship as just another form of politics, and from this perspective they deepen our understanding of all political systems."
About the Author
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.
Top customer reviews
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This rule of course applies to all dictatorships, say authors Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, but it also applies just as surely to liberal democracies. It is the size of a ruler’s coalition of supporters that makes a state one or the other.
In a dictatorship, the ruler controls the money and pays off a few cronies, a few generals for instance, who can coerce and control the citizens. The cronies must pay their team, so the ruler must pay his cronies well so they can in turn pay their soldiers. As long as the ruler has the money for all this, nothing will topple him. The money can come from international aid, from income taxes on the citizens or from selling natural resources.
In a liberal democracy, the ruler has much less control over the money. For one thing, most of a country's budget is fixed, civil service pensions, social security, military commitments, etc. For another, the ruler must follow the law when spending what is not already earmarked. He can't just write blank checks to whom he please.
But once those differences are taken into account, power inevitably follows the same principles: all government is about paying off the ruler's coalition.
Effective rulers keep their coalitions small. A city in California did this by relying on voter apathy. Hardly any one voted in municipal elections so that a few hundred voters in effect controlled the budget and paid themselves lavish salaries.
To pay the coalition in poor countries, the dictator insists on handling any cash given as aid; he’ll redistribute it and if the needy are very lucky they’ll get a tiny bit of it. In rich dictatorships, the dictator sells oil or metals or any other valuable commodity and keeps the money for his cronies and himself while providing minimal health and education services to the poor, if they really have to. In a
The same rules apply in rich countries: the ruler pays off the electors with universities, infrastructure and healthcare. And he will still get kicked out in a few years because inevitably the large coalition will feel it isn’t getting enough.
This is not a libertarian manifesto! The authors are quite clear: the answer is MORE government, not less, or at least much more of the good kind of government.
First, we should aim for a larger coalition of cronies, a coalition that in effect includes every citizen. That way, the only way for the ruler to pay off the cronies is to deliver public goods that pay off everyone.
Second, we should improve governance. That way policy decisions are made more transparently and the money can’t be easily diverted to a small clique of hidden enforcers.
My only complaint with the Dictator’s Handbook is its relentlessly cynical tone; but maybe the authors are simply being honest.
Vincent Poirier, Montreal
In short, this book phrases human society and the need for survival as politics to explain a politicians behavior but it really applies to everything that has a hierarchy, which really everything does.
I genuinely recommend this book to be read not only buy those wishing to understand why politicians act the way they do , but who need help in understanding why their not getting what they want from their job, their relationships and their life as well as where they place in human societies hire Cathy and how to improve it.