- Copertina rigida: 319 pagine
- Editore: Public Affairs (13 ottobre 2011)
- Lingua: Inglese
- ISBN-10: 161039044X
- ISBN-13: 978-1610390446
- Peso di spedizione: 567 g
- Posizione nella classifica Bestseller di Amazon: n. 308.678 in Libri in altre lingue (Visualizza i Top 100 nella categoria Libri in altre lingue)
The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics (Inglese) Copertina rigida – 13 ott 2011
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"In this book, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith teach us to see dictatorship as just another form of politics, and from this perspective they deepen our understanding of all political systems."
Enlightenment Economics, July 14, 2011
“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.”
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This rule of course applies to all dictatorships, say authors Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, but it also applies just as surely to liberal democracies. It is the size of a ruler’s coalition of supporters that makes a state one or the other.
In a dictatorship, the ruler controls the money and pays off a few cronies, a few generals for instance, who can coerce and control the citizens. The cronies must pay their team, so the ruler must pay his cronies well so they can in turn pay their soldiers. As long as the ruler has the money for all this, nothing will topple him. The money can come from international aid, from income taxes on the citizens or from selling natural resources.
In a liberal democracy, the ruler has much less control over the money. For one thing, most of a country's budget is fixed, civil service pensions, social security, military commitments, etc. For another, the ruler must follow the law when spending what is not already earmarked. He can't just write blank checks to whom he please.
But once those differences are taken into account, power inevitably follows the same principles: all government is about paying off the ruler's coalition.
Effective rulers keep their coalitions small. A city in California did this by relying on voter apathy. Hardly any one voted in municipal elections so that a few hundred voters in effect controlled the budget and paid themselves lavish salaries.
To pay the coalition in poor countries, the dictator insists on handling any cash given as aid; he’ll redistribute it and if the needy are very lucky they’ll get a tiny bit of it. In rich dictatorships, the dictator sells oil or metals or any other valuable commodity and keeps the money for his cronies and himself while providing minimal health and education services to the poor, if they really have to. In a
The same rules apply in rich countries: the ruler pays off the electors with universities, infrastructure and healthcare. And he will still get kicked out in a few years because inevitably the large coalition will feel it isn’t getting enough.
This is not a libertarian manifesto! The authors are quite clear: the answer is MORE government, not less, or at least much more of the good kind of government.
First, we should aim for a larger coalition of cronies, a coalition that in effect includes every citizen. That way, the only way for the ruler to pay off the cronies is to deliver public goods that pay off everyone.
Second, we should improve governance. That way policy decisions are made more transparently and the money can’t be easily diverted to a small clique of hidden enforcers.
My only complaint with the Dictator’s Handbook is its relentlessly cynical tone; but maybe the authors are simply being honest.
Vincent Poirier, Montreal
The basic theory of The Dictator's Handbook is Selectorate Theory. Selectorate Theory has three basic parts. The first is that leaders will do whatever they can to stay in power regardless of all other factors. The logic of this is that if the leader wouldn't do this, they would be replaced by someone who would.
The second part is that from the leader's point of view there are three groups of people. The first is the interchangables who is everyone is who has at least a nominal say in choosing the leader (such as all voters). For the most part, leaders don't really care about this group except to play against the other two groups (which are subsets of interchangables). The next group are the influential which is everyone who's say actually matters in choosing the leader (such as the majority party in a parliamentary election). The leader has to pay some attention to this group especially in democratic situations. The last and most important group are the essentials. The essentials are those whose support are vital to leader's continual existence as a leader (such as smallest group of voters that can change the outcome of an election). As the essentials have the power to make or break leaders, they are the central target of the leader's policies. From this, political decisions can be understood as the leader trying to stay in power against rivals by using these groups.
The other main focus of the book is the difference between autocratic and democratic leaders. Generally the difference is the different size of the respective regime's influential and essentials. An autocratic leader only has a small group of influentials and essentials. Therefore, it's quite easy to win their loyalty with direct private rewards typically in the form of large gifts or corruption. A democratic leader however has a large group of influential and essentials. So large in fact, there isn't enough resources for the leader to earn their loyalty with direct private rewards. Therefore, a democratic leader must use broad public policies that indirectly benefit the influentials and essentials. These policies often have the side effect of being pretty good for interchangables and those who have no say at all. That's why democracy leads to better conditions for all. However ultimately there's no fundamental difference between the leaders of autocracies and democracies, just the situation.
From all of this, the authors discuss how leaders acquire power, stay in power, get money, get foreign aid, deal with revolution, and wage war. It then ends with how to help make autocracies become democracies, and improve American democracy. The book is downright dripping with realpolitik. Everything that isn't about a leader's continued existence as a leader is treated while not irrelevant, much less important. Social programs sincerely for the general good are treated as discretionary spending by the leader out of surplus funds which otherwise could have been pocketed. These programs also have a very hit or miss record as seen by the author's Hall of Shame and Fame.
There's a tension in The Dictator's Handbook. The authors take a very cynical approach to politics and at times speak of dictators in an epic way such as Liberian dictator Samuel Doe's Scarface-like rise and fall of power. Their cynicism reaches it peak on foreign aid which is viewed as democratic leaders entrenching other country's autocratic leaders to the detriment of that country's people for their own political gain. They are also dismissive of the popular claim of democracies doesn't go to war. Instead democracies act like bullies quite able and willing to fight those much weaker than themselves. However, the authors do try to fight being labeled as cynics with appeals to better more democratic world. Ultimately their stance is “don't hate the player, hate the game.”
My biggest grip with the book is the lack of numbers. While this is a mass appeal non-fiction book, I would like a better idea of what numbers the authors consider democratic versus autocratic. It's quite clear that they don't view the pool of democratic influentials and essentials as 50%+1 as they often only will use numbers like 12% to 25% of the population in thought experiments for these groups. That said, a good rule of thumb seems to be if your nation's influential and essentials can fit in a large football stadium, you're an autocrat.
I would also like more discussion on non-nation politics. It's clear that the authors very much think these rules also apply to all leaders everywhere especially corporate ones which due to rigged elections is autocratic. However outside one example of Fiorina's regime of CEO of HP and a vague “the internet will help democratized corporations!” suggestion at the end, there isn't much discussion of this important angle. I would also like more hard numbers to back up conclusions, though the crunch to statement ratio is about par for most mass market non-fiction works. It may have seemed worse than it was as I was coming off Poor Economics's very number heavy, conclusion light approach.
Overall, I do really like The Dictator's Handbook. To be fair, I naturally have a very realpolitik approach to organizations so it's right up my alley. However, it's helped to fix and formulate some of opinions of various politics both in real life and in world building.
The book begins with a “dictator” story of an elected city manager, Robert Rizzo, in the small town of Bell, California. The authors take away the ugly dictator mask and present the idea that anyone- even a Western, elected, white politician in small town USA can be dictator. Their thesis is that all leaders rely on people following them and they stay in power by keeping their following happy, not too powerful, and relying on them as the sole head-honcho. They authors divide the constituency into three parts- the nominal selectorate (pretty much everyone), the real selectorate (those who make a difference), and the winning coalition (those who tip the tide). They argue that the more nominal people are in the selectorate and the larger the winning coalition then the more the leader will reward the constituency with “good” behavior- or policies that provide quality public goods. When the selectorate is small and the winning coalition even smaller (a few generals) then the only thing a leader should do is provide benefits to that handful- they should not try to give benefits to the wider public. The underlying theme for the book is dispassionate leadership- leaders cannot afford to have values, feelings, or virtuous standards to live up to, there is no good or bad behavior. The authors want to drive home the limitation of incentives for leaders. If they want to stay in power their only measuring stick for good or bad is whether the real selectorate and winning coalition are big or small.
I found the book helpful to understand the staying power behind some things I never completely understood- like corrupt police forces and commodity boards. I find that the authors’ arguments hold up to an extent. I am convinced that for any analysis of a government or institution it is absolutely imperative to look at the size of the selectorate and the real coalition to see who is responsible for the leader staying in power and how many are unable to participate. One must understand if the leader has incentives to create more public goods or private goods for cronies.
The authors simply shoot themselves in the credibility foot by comparing and contrasting extremes on the winning coalition scale. For instance, to argue that smaller winning coalition governments have less incentives to provide public goods they compare Chile and Iran. In Iran they have earthquakes a lot but the government doesn’t have the incentives to make sure buildings can stand up to them. In Chile, a democracy, the people make sure the government is on top of making sure buildings can withstand big earthquakes. To show that dictatorships only care about the public to the extent they make the winning coalition happy they contrast primary education levels in Cuba and North Korea to Oxford and Paris. Castro and Kim Jong Il need to make sure the population can read and are healthy so they push buttons on the machines and go to work, but they don’t need Art majors or anyone studying sociology. To show how foreign aid and leaders of resource rich countries have their incentives distorted they present Pakistan. Pakistan has received a lot of aid, the dictator has stayed in power, yet poverty and the Taliban continue to persist.
When the argument relies on extremes the more the “facts” presented might rely on a wider range of correlations than the one suggested. Besides, no one is going to argue that Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe, or any of the other figures that come to power wearing a military uniform with stars are not self-interested dictators that don’t care about anybody else. The interesting part of the argument is the possibility it presents for democratic leaders to engage in dictator-like behavior. The book presented only a few cases of this, and one of them ended in an arrest.
I hope the authors come out with a second edition. I feel there is much more to elaborate on in winning coalitions of democracies. I notice that absent from the evidence is a list of governments and the size of the winning coalition in proportion to the population they serve. I think the authors decided to step around the objectiveness of determining the selectorate and winning coalition size- because maybe it can get confusing and polarizing. It is easy to use examples like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq because there are clear lines- there is Saddam, then the sons, the generals, and everyone else. But, in our democracy, for instance, there is the media, celebrities, wealthy people, businesses, and tricky campaign finance laws that play a role in greying the lines between selectorates and the winning coalition. It seems there could be much more written about the relationship between these “tools” and the winning coalition.
Secondly, the chapter on foreign aid dealt mostly with US unilateral aid to dictators elucidating on the “alliance trap” and the “hypocrisy curse”. It is known and well understood that much of this aid, especially during the cold-war and to those providing military assistance is not actually for economic, political, or social development. Most aid and development assistance today, which is thought of as real honest development, is done through multilateral actors such as the World Bank, the IMF, the Millennium Development Institute, as well as a host of European agencies. The developing world often sees some of the agencies as agents of the West devising confusing plans that make their country weak and the West better off. A coalition analysis may bring more light to understanding what these agencies, including USAID, are doing and why.
On the second thesis- that there is no morality when it comes to a leader staying in power, I am more shocked than satisfied. There is no evidence presented. It is given as a self-evident postulate. I can see how a leader who wants to maintain office and status quo would be more beholden to the rules to maintaining power presented in the book. However, in democracies, and autocracies, a fair amount of leaders get where they are in order to change the status quo- they are driven by a moral imperative. Sometimes they come from the smallest losing coalition and through some struggle, and without making compromises, they change the interests and values of the other coalitions. Perhaps in the next edition the authors can provide a coalition analysis of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency from election to emancipation proclamation; the Eisenhower presidency from forbearance to 101st airborne deployed on US soil to ensure integration; or the inability pass stricter gun laws despite overwhelming popular support. These episodes are stories of adapting to coalition changes and/or changing coalitions through a leader’s own vigor. Leaders are not always victims of the limitations of their incentives- leaders are leaders because they change things up. I would be intrigued to delve into a book that elucidates on the dynamics of coalition change and the role of leadership; as well as a deeper coalition analysis of US foreign policy in the modern age, and multi-lateral development assistance.