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The Dictator's Handbook cover art

The Dictator's Handbook

Written by: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita,Alastair Smith
Narrated by: Dan Woren
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Publisher's Summary

Now featuring a new chapter on the rise of illiberalism worldwide.

The essential book that lays out the real rules of politics: leaders do whatever keeps them in power, regardless of the national interest.

As featured in the viral video “Rules for Rulers,” which has been viewed over fifteen 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 must.

Newly updated to reflect the global rise of authoritarianism, this clever and accessible book illustrates how leaders amass and retain power. As Bueno de Mesquita and Smith show, 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. And it is also the key to returning power to the people.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

©2011 Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith (P)2022 PublicAffairs

Critic Reviews

"Simply the best book on politics written.... Every citizen should read this book." (CGP Grey)

"A lucidly written, shrewdly argued meditation on how democrats and dictators preserve political authority.... Bueno de Mesquita and Smith are polymathic, drawing on economics, history, and political science to make their points.... 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 'good of his country,' remember to replace the word 'country' with 'career.'" (Wall Street Journal)

"Machiavelli's The Prince has a new rival. It's The Dictator's Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith.... 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 listeners say about The Dictator's Handbook

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Reality of the Rulers

Narrated the true colours of rulers of the 🌍 world. Very well researched to explain political manoeuvring of the western world and more particularly the United States, though the theory can be applied to understand psyche of anybody who wants to manipulate controls over people involved or affected in the coalition. Recommended for all the faithfuls & loyalists !

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  • yuanbo
  • 09-07-22

A few good points but naive at best

The author’s view is laughably naive and simplistic. Almost burst into tears when he says price tag for public projects in US is low (100% incorrect) compared to elsewhere because it’s a democracy.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Yuval Kalugny
  • 29-01-23

Extremely thought provoking

It's been a few weeks since I listened to this book, but I find myself thinking about it again and again. Very apt for these turmoil times.

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  • Ebben Lane
  • 19-01-23

Dry

Hard to get into, doesn’t go into details very well. Gives a broad overview of most circumstances and repeats a lot of the same information over and over again. Seemingly biased about the US politics concerning the most recent election, considering it covers fraud and corruption in other countries voting practices yet leaves out the 2020 election allegations.

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  • Ndd
  • 09-01-23

Authors should try their best to be unbias

The book was pretty good in the beginning, but on the last chapter it really sounded like this book was an election campaign. It was trying to tell you how bad trump is. I was reading this book for a clear view into politics but sadly the last chapter ruined the book

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  • Justin Joven
  • 19-10-22

Disappointed

I found this book tedious and repetitive. All the concepts could be fully explained in one chapter. It’s also annoying to get the authors’ political viewpoints in a book that is ostensibly unbiased.

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  • Yu Ding
  • 16-09-22

great book but not perfect

overall it is an excellent book.the last part is a little overstretched. one factor cannot be dominant, especially when the derivative is diminishing

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  • Joseph
  • 05-07-22

This Book Reminds me that Knowledge is Power

This book reminds me that knowledge is power, and the secrets I've learnt from this book make me want to keep it from the rest of the world. It outlines and describes the necessary steps to gain power and hold it in any political situation.

I struggle to write this review as I want to be the sole owner of this sacred knowledge, but I must give credit to where credit is due. The production team and updated version of this book is like the magician uncovering their secrets, taking away the smoke, lies and mirrors of politics giving us the simple trick in its stead.

This knowledge is more powerful the less people know about, but if you've reached this part of the review then you're just as ambitious as me and no words will divert you from your path to power.

Read this book and learn the secrets behind political hegemony.

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  • RealChairmanChao
  • 02-07-22

Penetrating

This is the second book I’ve read/listened written by Mr. de Mesquita, the first book was the invention of power. Instead seeing politics through an idealogical lens, his ideas about politics are more inclined to human nature, backed by a lot of examples and data. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in politics. Also, I would love to read what professor de Mesquita have to say about the competition or maybe cooperation between China and the U.S.

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  • Schpitler
  • 22-11-22

mediocre insides, bad history

while the context and the narrative of the book is good, the argumentation is superficial and the historical arguments are outright wrong. don't get me wrong, the arguments posed in this book are in general correct and they do have some historical basis, the way thou they are written shows the lack of such knowledge from the authors, and the cherry picking of history to prove a point, EVEN if the point they argue is fundamentally correct (and machiavellian, so be weary).

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