Synopses & Reviews
For eighteen years, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith have been part of a team revolutionizing the study of politics by turning conventional wisdom on its head. They start from a single assertion: Leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They donand#8217;t care about the and#147;national interestand#8221;and#151;or even their subjectsand#151;unless they have to.
This clever and accessible book shows that the difference between tyrants and democrats is 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.
Enlightenment Economics, July 14, 2011
andldquo;Machiavelliandrsquo;s The Prince has a new rival. Itandrsquo;s THE DICTATORandrsquo;S HANDBOOK by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith.andhellip; 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.andrdquo;R. James Woolsey Director of Central Intelligence, 1993-1995, and Chairman, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, July, 2011andquot;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 survivalandmdash;a view they characterize as 'cynical, but we fear accurate.'and#160; Yet as we follow the authors through their brilliant historical assessments of leaders' choicesandmdash;from Caesar to Tammany Hall and the Green Bay Packersandmdash;we gradually realize that their brand of cynicism yields extremely realistic guidance about spreading the rule of law, decent government, and democracy.and#160; James Madison would have loved this book.andquot;and#160;Roger Myerson, Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, July, 2011
andquot;In this book, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith teach us toand#160;see dictatorship as just another form of politics, and from thisand#160;perspective they deepen our understanding of all political systems.andquot;and#160;Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2011andldquo;A lucidly written, shrewdly argued meditation on how democrats and dictators preserve political authorityandhellip;. In a style reminiscent of Freakonomics, Messrs. Bueno de Mesquita and Smith present dozens of clever examplesandhellip; The most fascinating chapter in The Dictator's Handbook concerns the rewards that governments provide other governments. The authors make the obvious, but nevertheless controversial, argument that almost all aid money is dispersed not to alleviate poverty but to purchase loyalty and influenceandhellip;. Bueno de Mesquita and Smith are polymathic, drawing on economics, history and political science to make their pointsandhellip;. In other words, the reader will be hard-pressed to find a single government that doesn't largely operate according to Messrs. Bueno de Mesquita and Smith's model. So the next time a hand-wringing politician, Democrat or Republican, claims to be taking a position for the andlsquo;good of his country,andrsquo; remember to replace the word andlsquo;countryandrsquo; with andlsquo;career.andrsquo;andrdquo;and#160;Macleansandldquo;In a brutally forthright work, the authors distill the process by which politicians gain and retain power.andrdquo;
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 Predictioneerandrsquo;s Game.and#160;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.