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The Dictator's Handbook Audiobook

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

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Publisher's Summary

For 18 years, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith have been 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 don't care about the "national interest" - or even their subjects - 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.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2011 Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (P)2012 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.6 (1526 )
5 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Michael MILAN, TN, United States 07-01-14
    Michael MILAN, TN, United States 07-01-14

    "Sapere Aude" Kant

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Think you understand politics, think again!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Dictator's Handbook the most enjoyable?

    I was angry about the premise because I didn't want to believe it. However, the more I read and the more independent research I did the more I came to believe. That is what is enjoyable about this book, it's a paradigm shift in political human nature!


    What other book might you compare The Dictator's Handbook to and why?

    I would compare this to, and recommend reading of, "Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty" They should be companion readings to understand global politics and economics.


    Have you listened to any of Johnny Heller’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is my first audio book read by Johnny Heller. His hushed, raspy voice was disconcerting at first, but I can't imagine a better performer for the info now. No false accents, or grandiose announcing, just well read hard truths.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Not only was this a book to listen to in one setting, but one of the few I know I will listen to again. What it has to tell is vitally important to anyone who votes and controls policy.


    Any additional comments?

    This should be read in High School so that when those students reach voting age, they won't vote with their heads in the sand.

    40 of 40 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles USA 06-06-13
    Charles USA 06-06-13 Member Since 2008

    Wonderchuck

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    "Expand the coalition"

    This book is cynical and cold, and views people as selfish and greedy with little concern for the welfare of others. I hate that I think it's correct. The thesis is straightforward: the size of of a leader's coalition largely determines his/her behavior. The examples in the book are concise and convincing, making the case so plain that I feel a little embarrassed that I had not realized what was going on before. Cold as it is, the authors do not leave us in despair as they close with practical ideas on how to make things better. This is not a reassuring read, but it is one of the most insightful I have read.

    The narration went unnoticed - which is how I like it.

    68 of 69 people found this review helpful
  •  
    California Dreaming 12-27-16 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Why the world is the way it is"

    This book was absolutely eye-opening. Highly recommend to anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of how power and politics shape our world.

    To summarize, the goal of any leader is to stay in power. In a democracy that generally means keeping the a large portion of the population happy. If a democratic leader doesn't keep the majority happy, they will be voted out by that same majority.

    In a dictatorship, the leader is beholden to a much smaller group of people so they only need to worry about keeping that small group happy (i.e. rich). As long as they do that, they will stay in power even if the majority of their people are starving.

    I'm not really doing this book justice though. Please read if you can. If we want to have any hope of making the world a better place, we need to first learn the rules of the game. The Dictator's Handbook does a fantastic job of laying out those rules.

    Bravo!

    17 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    josette 06-12-16
    josette 06-12-16 Member Since 2014
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    "A Fantastic Pragmatic Approach to Bettering the World"

    The Dictator's Handbook was an incredibly pragmatic book based on the principle that leaders do what is necessary to seize and maintain power, which relies on the size of their coalition. I highly recommend it to those looking to make a difference.

    Some topics include how foreign aid strengthens autocrats, tourism promotes liberalization, why resource rich nations are often autocratic and how corporations can be democratized (which helps handle excessive executive pay and poor corporate practices that lead to crises).

    20 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    christy Plano, TX, United States 12-27-12
    christy Plano, TX, United States 12-27-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book!"

    If you hate political science, but want to understand politics, this is the book for you! This book tells it how it is and not how we want it to work in LA LA land. I have recommended this book to tons of people from my father-in-law to my ecentric, anarchist friend and they all love it! Highly recommended read!

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Larson 07-11-14

    Dave

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Book but bad title"
    What made the experience of listening to The Dictator's Handbook the most enjoyable?

    I learned something new every ten minutes I listened to this book. For someone who listens to almost a book a day (like myself), it's rare to find a truly insightful new book.


    20 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    José 12-20-16
    José 12-20-16 Member Since 2016
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    "A must read, unless you like to live under a rock "

    Eye opening analysis of why political leaders act the way they do. Explanations for why democratic leaders inevitably invest in public goods. Explanations for why autocratic leaders invest in private rewards for themselves and more importantly their allies. Spoiler alert! It has nothing to do with morality, it is all about survival.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Sioux Falls, SD, USA 07-17-12
    Joseph Sioux Falls, SD, USA 07-17-12

    I'm travel alot and auido books are my moble home. I seem to be hooked on them and there is rarely a time that there not on for me.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Machiavelli's Grandson"

    This is an objective view on a political theory. This is why people rule or how to rule. This isn't whether a specific government is good or a specific government is bad. This is how all government generally works. And it doesn't matter whether it's a monarchy a democracy or theocracy or anything. It's a very comprehensive political theory and he gives exact examples of this is how it works. Ranging from small town mayor ships or small groups of people up into large countries both capitalist or communist.

    12 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hector Lira 10-28-16
    Hector Lira 10-28-16 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Holy Mother of Christ!"

    Bravo! This book is by far the most provocative and insightful I have ever come across.
    It draws & builds on all of the best of philosophy's contributor's from Plato's Republic up to John Rawls & Michael Foucault.
    It makes sense of almost all human civil & commercial interaction from the Indus valley civilizations up to the minute the book was written in a beautifully simple theory.
    It lays out the the absolute horror of the world's woes in graphic detail and absurdities that come with it. However it explains with amazing clarity how to correct these woes and cross the bridge to a more just world.
    It is indeed definitely something any and all activists worldwide should read.

    16 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wayne Matthews, NC 01-07-17
    Wayne Matthews, NC 01-07-17 Member Since 2017

    I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!

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    "Often wrong, but never uncertain!"

    The two authors of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics are tenured professors of politics/political science at NYU. I'm more familiar with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita than with Alastair Smith because he has a much higher profile. I need to stop here to say I seldom write long reviews and almost never write long reviews of fiction because I do not want to include plot spoilers; with fiction I say a few words to identify the genre, set up the main characters, give my opinion of the worthiness of the novel, and usually comment on my view of the quality of the narration. Reviewing noon-fiction here at Audible usually involves considerably more comments because non-fiction has no plot. I apologize for the length of this review, but it is necessary.

    Any reader who has heard/seen any of Professor Bueno de Mesquita's TED presentations of other public speeches already appreciate his massive ego and his certainty even when he is wrong. I, possibly falsely, assume the major factual errors in this book are his rather than Professor Smith. This book was first published in September 2011; however, the theory on which it is based was published 7.5 years earlier in the book The Logic of Political Survival which had 4 authors including Bueno de Mesquita and Smith. The topic The Logic of Political Survival is a new, novel and useful political idea they call selectorate theory. At the theory's most basic level it says that three groups of people effect the selection of leaders: the nominal selectorate, the real selectorate, and the winning coalition. In the case of the US the three groups are eligible voters, actual voters, and the Electoral College majority. In the case of the British parliamentary system the three are eligible voters, actual voters, and the majority of the House of Commons. In the case of China the three are Communist Party members, the Politburo, and the Politburo Central Committee. In each case the third group actually does the actual selection of the leader of the country. In my view the utility of the selectorate theory is that it can be applied to all national government leaders regardless of the type of government.

    The title Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics is eye catching, cutesy, and misleading. Nevertheless, it is a very worthwhile book which I definitely recommend. This book outlines in a stark manner the differences in how “democratic” and “non-democratic” national governments select leaders as well as the differences in the ways they act toward each other. For example, the authors explain why “democratic” governments are more risk adverse.

    I have three major issues with the factual content of this book which I will cover in the next three paragraphs. The issues are related in a way that makes them cumulative.

    1. The first issue is with the use of “democratic” for nations that have broad based electorates even though the forms of government are very different. I am unaware of even a single nation on this earth that is a true democracy or even a representative democracy where the head of state is elected by universal suffrage. The US is a Republic. The UK has a parliamentary system with a titular monarch head of state (including a mostly ceremonial House of Lords). The Republic of France has has a president elected by universal suffrage, but he/she is NOT head of state. The prime minister is head of state and he/she is elected by members of parliament.

    2. This book is made up of the main informational body followed by a brief final recommendations section. My second major factual concern is that the authors claim that a democracy means that the leader is elected by universal suffrage after citing the US, Canada, Australia, and most European countries as examples of democratic nations. In fact, not a single one of those countries are democratic using their requirement that the leader/head of state be elected by universal suffrage. They cannot define democratic as implying universal suffrage after citing many nations as democratic that do not meet that requirement.

    3. My third and final major issue is the claim the authors make that the US Electoral College is a relic of slavery. While the now longer valid 3/5th rule for counting slaves for purpose of apportioning the House of Representatives is very much a relic of slavery, the Electoral College for selection of president most definitely has nothing to do with slavery. Federalist Papers #10 (Madison) and #68 (Hamilton) make it plain that the US Constitution is a federation of states and that the states elect the president with one vote each per number of House members plus 1 vote each per number for Senate members with electors selected as the state sees fit. The authors also refer to the one person, one vote rule from a Supreme Court decision and claim it applies to the US president. The Supreme Court case is Reynolds v. Sims (1964). That case concerned reapportionment of congressional districts by the states (and nothing else). The ruling was that each congressional district in a state must have as close as possible to the same number of citizens based on the most recent US census.

    So I am down rating this 5 star book to 3 stars based on three blatantly false representations of fact that tenured professors of politics/political science should not have made.

    35 of 43 people found this review helpful

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