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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
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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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Michael on 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.

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62 of 62 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Charles on 06-06-13

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.

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91 of 93 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Jack on 12-31-16


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.

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