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

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PublicAffairs, Sep 27, 2011 - Political Science - 352 pages
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.

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User Review  - thcson - LibraryThing

This is a great book on political coalitions, especially in dictatorial regimes. The authors' model of political life is simple but enlightening. Leaders strive to stay in power and to do so they must ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Fledgist - LibraryThing

A guide to how authoritarian rulers operate. Interesting. It's really an attempt to popularise some basic ideas of comparative politics and international relations, and update Machiavelli. Read full review


1 The Rules of Politics
2 Coming to Power
3 Staying in Power
4 Steal from the Poor Give to the Rich
5 Getting and Spending
6 If Corruption Empowers Then Absolute Corruption Empowers Absolutely
7 Foreign Aid
8 The People in Revolt
9 War Peace and World Order
10 What Is To Be Done?

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About the author (2011)

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

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