The Rules of Power: What Che and Hitler Have In Common

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita: Well I would think of power as the ability to get other people to do what you want them to do when they otherwise wouldn’t do it. 

We really can’t tell the difference between people who might seek power for some greater good and people who seek power just to aggrandize themselves.  For example, all revolutionaries say that they want to uplift the downtrodden.  They want to democratize their society and so forth and some few of them wind up doing that for reasons that, again, may not have to do with good intentions.  And most of them don’t wind up doing it because once they’re cast in the role of the person in power they kind of like it.  So the fact that we see some people doing what appears to be good civic-minded deeds may be because that is their true intention and it may be that that is their best way to hold onto power in a setting where they have to depend on a lot of people.

I don’t think it has changed throughout history.  I think this is a characteristic of how we are hardwired by evolution.  There are a small set of rules, five rules according to The Dictator’s Handbook, that govern how people rule and those five rules apply universally, not just over time, but across space as well, whether we’re talking about governments, we’re talking about corporations, we’re talking about NGOs, clubs, families, Big Think or anybody else.  They operate everywhere.

Directed / Produced by

Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd


If we accept Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s claim that remaining in power is the primary motivation of our leaders, then the political structure of a nation is the single most important determinant of how responsive its leaders will be to its people’s needs.

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