Book Review: The Dictator’s Handbook

After reading this handbook, I concluded I had been far to generous about dictators and how horrible they were.

Scrub Physics

The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alistair Smith

In a previous academic book, The Logic of Political Survival, the authors and others presented arguments in favor of a political model called selectorate theory. The Dictator’s Handbook is the popular (non-mathematical) version of that book. Oftentimes in political discourse we take disparate political systems and filter them into a one dimensional axis, with democracy on one end and autocracy on the other (a similar filtering happens when widely varying views on morality and policy are squeezed into the left-right axis). What selectorate theory instead argues for is a categorization of political systems into three nested groups:

  • The nominal selectorate, or interchangeables, includes those people who have at least some legal say in the selection of political leaders. In United States federal elections, this includes all adults over the age…

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About Jim Rose

Utopia - you are standing in it promotes a classical liberal view of the world and champion the mass flourishing of humanity through capitalism and the rule of law. The origin of the blog is explained in the first blog post at

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