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

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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.
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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 GameAlastair 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.
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Additional Information

Publisher
PublicAffairs
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Published on
Sep 27, 2011
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9781610390453
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Presidents & Heads of State
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Fascism & Totalitarianism
Political Science / Political Ideologies / General
Political Science / Political Process / Leadership
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.

The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?

- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. 
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a master of game theory, which is a fancy label for a simple idea: People compete, and they always do what they think is in their own best interest. Bueno de Mesquita uses game theory and its insights into human behavior to predict and even engineer political, financial, and personal events. His forecasts, which have been employed by everyone from the CIA to major business firms, have an amazing 90 percent accuracy rate, and in this dazzling and revelatory book he shares his startling methods and lets you play along in a range of high-stakes negotiations and conflicts.

Revealing the origins of game theory and the advances made by John Nash, the Nobel Prize—winning scientist perhaps best known from A Beautiful Mind, Bueno de Mesquita details the controversial and cold-eyed system of calculation that he has since created, one that allows individuals to think strategically about what their opponents want, how much they want it, and how they might react to every move. From there, Bueno de Mesquita games such events as the North Korean disarmament talks and the Middle East peace process and recalls, among other cases, how he correctly predicted which corporate clients of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm were most likely engaged in fraudulent activity (hint: one of them started with an E). And looking as ever to the future, Bueno de Mesquita also demonstrates how game theory can provide successful strategies to combat both global warming (instead of relying on empty regulations, make nations compete in technology) and terror (figure out exactly how much U.S. aid will make Pakistan fight the Taliban).

But as Bueno de Mesquita shows, game theory isn’t just for saving the world. It can help you in your own life, whether you want to succeed in a lawsuit (lawyers argue too much the merits of the case and question too little the motives of their opponents), elect the CEO of your company (change the system of voting on your board to be more advantageous to your candidate), or even buy a car (start by knowing exactly what you want, call every dealer in a fifty-mile radius, and negotiate only over the phone).

Savvy, provocative, and shockingly effective, The Predictioneer’s Game will change how you understand the world and manage your future. Life’s a game, and how you play is whether you win or lose.


From the Hardcover edition.
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