Dictator or democracy: Politics is politics

NYU (US) — There is no difference between tyrants and democrats; leaders do whatever keeps them in power, according to a new book by politics professors at New York University.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith argue that political leaders don’t care about the “national interest”—or even their subjects—unless they have to.

They contend there is no difference between tyrants and democrats because governments do not differ in kind—but, rather, only in the number of essential supporters they need to stay in power.

What holds them together, the authors posit in The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics (PublicAffairs, 2011), “is the logic of politics, the rules ruling rulers.”

“One important lesson . . . is that where politics are concerned, ideology, nationality, and culture don’t matter all that much,” Bueno de Mesquita and Smith write.

“The sooner we learn not to think or utter sentences such as ‘the United States should do . . .’ or ‘the American people want . . .’ or ‘China’s government ought to do . . . ,’ the better we will understand government, business, and all other forms of organization.”

While the authors acknowledge they offer a cynical—but accurate—view of politics, they contend that once we understand what brings leaders to power and keeps them there, “we will also begin to see how to fix politics.

“Politics, like all of life, is about individuals, each motivated to do what is good for them, not what is good for others.”

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