In a presidential election year, when we’re not focused on some irrelevant detail about a politician’s sordid past, we’re focused on the issues of the day – education, military spending, taxes . . . But as the philosopher Michel Foucault demonstrated in sweeping historical analyses like The History of Sex and Discipline and Punish, power is its own animal. When considering the actions of political leaders, and the best ways of getting the results we want as a nation, it is useful therefore to understand how power operates.
For Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, author of The Dictator’s Handbook, it’s quite simple: people like power. They want to get it and, once they have it, they don’t want to give it up. Any analysis, therefore, of a politician’s behavior and prediction of her future actions needs to start with this firmly in mind.