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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.

©2011 Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (P)2012 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"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)

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  • Michael
  • MILAN, TN, United States
  • 07-01-14

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.

59 of 59 people found this review helpful

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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.

87 of 89 people found this review helpful

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  • christy
  • Plano, TX, United States
  • 12-27-12

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!

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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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.

20 of 23 people found this review helpful

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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!

25 of 29 people found this review helpful

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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).

23 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Thank you, CGP Grey

Any additional comments?

I got here because CGP Grey let me. Watch the youtube video, "the rules for rulers", as a brilliant 20-minute summary of this audio book. If it got you hooked, you're very welcomed you just found the right book for you to listen to.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Joseph
  • Sioux Falls, SD, USA
  • 07-17-12

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

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Must read for anyone interested in politics

Accessible, insightful, and best of all, academically sound. I cannot recommend this book enough. Seriously.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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.

22 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Jack
  • 12-31-16

insightful

Amazing take on leadership and nation building. pessimistic and Machiavellian on human nature but detailed and extraordinarily informed with excellent references to the real world.