On the Fundamental Inconvenience of Democracy
From the perspective of a leader, somebody who wants to hold onto power, it’s the worst form of government because it puts you at the greatest risk of losing power.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Silver Professor of Politics at New York University. He is an expert on international conflict, foreign policy formation, and nation building. His current research focuses on the links between political institutions, economic growth, and political change. He is also investigating the causes and consequences of international conflict as well as national security policy forecasting and analysis.
Using a proprietary mathematical formula that takes into account the self-interests of and alliances among actors in key business and political questions (i.e. whether Iran will build nuclear weapons), de Mesquita predicts the future for businesses and organizations such as the CIA.
His most recent books include The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics (PublicAffairs, 2011) and The Predictioneer's Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future (Random House, Inc., 2009)Additionally, he has authored more than one hundred articles and fourteen books on politics, as well as one published novel, The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge (Ohio State University Press, 2001).
Machiavelli was a very smart guy who by the way wrote The Prince in the hope of attracting employment. He failed to get the job. He was a little too nice, not quite tough enough.
So most people who are familiar with Machiavelli are familiar with the views he expressed in The Prince. Not so many people seem to have read his Discourses where he thought that the best form of government is a more republican form of government - that is a democracy in our modern terms - and I certainly agree that from the perspective of the folks on the street it’s far and away the best form of government.
From the perspective of a leader, somebody who wants to hold onto power, it’s the worst form of government because it puts you at the greatest risk of losing power. So in The Dictator’s Handbook we go well beyond Machiavelli’s understanding to lay out precisely what leads you to hold onto power and precisely what ties the hands of a democrat in trying to do the things that dictators also do.
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