What Qaddafi's Death Tells Us About the Will to Power

In a previous post, Big Think speculated about what Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's death would mean -- for the Arab Spring, for the price of oil, for President Barack Obama, etc. These were questions worth asking, after all, since Qaddafi's death has seemed imminent for many months now. 

Today, we learned that Qaddafi is finally dead. This news hardly comes as a surprise to us, and is especially unsurprising to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, a political scientist at New York University and the author of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics. In that book, de Mesquita argues that leaders will do absolutely anything to stay in power, even if that means they will wind up dead.

According to de Mesquita's research, "those who are in power overwhelmingly seem to want to stay in power" and almost never give up the reigns willingly. In fact, de Mesquita pointed to a study one of his students at NYU conducted that looked into every democratically-elected, national leader in the world since World War II to see how many of them voluntarily left office.

"There were only four who seemed just to leave office because they were tired of being in power," de Mesquita told Big Think. "All the others left office either because they had to, they were term-limited, or they were dying."

In other words, "everybody who aspires to be in power wants to keep it," de Mesquita says. "Now most of us don’t aspire to be in power. Most of us are probably people who are more pleasant than the folks who run companies and corporations and so forth, but then we’re not the ones that we have to be concerned about.  We have to be concerned about the people in power."

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Why avoiding logical fallacies is an everyday superpower

10 of the most sandbagging, red-herring, and effective logical fallacies.

Photo credit: Miguel Henriques on Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Many an otherwise-worthwhile argument has been derailed by logical fallacies.
  • Sometimes these fallacies are deliberate tricks, and sometimes just bad reasoning.
  • Avoiding these traps makes disgreeing so much better.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less