The Dictators Handbook

Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics

I have read over a dozen books in the past month, and my favorite by far is The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith.

Bruce is a political scientist, a professor at New York University, and a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is a specialist in applying game theory to international relations, foreign policy, and nation building.

This book is about the acquisition, maintenance, and loss of all political power–including corporate political power.

Don’t be fooled, democrats and dictators both do what best secures their hold on power.

The Dictator’s Handbook does a better job of anything I have ever read of setting the intellectual framework for how to think about organizational structure and the nature of political power. It breaks down to five principles of power that work across all political systems with different tactics based on the political structure (dictatorship or democracy). Fundamentally the same game underpins both!

Here are a few patterns he uses to universally describe the game of wielding dictatorial political power:

Rule 1: Depend on as few key people as possible to keep in power.

Rule 2: Draw the key people from as large of a pool as possible.

If you have a giant pool of potential supporters it keeps the key few knowing they must be loyal and supportive or else face replacement.

Rule 3: Control the flow of revenue.

Rule 4: Pay key supporters just enough to keep them loyal and not a penny more.

Rule 5: Don’t spend money on people who are not essential to keep you in power.

Democracy is a superior system to dictatorship since it benefits more people. It makes it hard to execute the five rules without writing some policy that better benefits larger groups of people! However, the game is the same.

These rules capture how corporations run, which skew far closer to Dictatorship than Democracy. It is best to understand the system you are in if you are hoping to help the system change.

CLICK HERE to check out the book on Amazon.

~ Tom Meloche

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