Quotes and Insights by Bruce Bueno De Mesquita


  • The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics
  • The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future
  • Applying the Strategic Perspective: Problems and Models
  • Strategy, Risk and Personality in Coalition Politics: The Case of India
  • Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge
  • Predicting Politics
  • Red Flag Over Hong Kong
  • The Invention of Power: Popes, Kings, and the Birth of the West
  • The Strategy of Campaigning: Lessons from Ronald Reagan & Boris Yeltsin
  • The Logic of Political Survival
  • War and Reason: Domestic and International Imperatives (Revised)
  • The War Trap
  • The Spoils of War: Greed, Power, and the Conflicts That Made Our Greatest Presidents
  • Principles of International Politics




  • “Pretty much all of us are greedy, some for money, some for adulation, some for power, but all greedy nevertheless. Some few among us have the opportunity to act on our greed, while most of us are confined to pursuing our greed in minor ways”
  • “Leaders never hesitate to miscount or destroy ballots. Coming to office and staying in office are the most important things in politics. And candidates who aren’t willing to cheat are typically beaten by those who are. ”
  • “Paying supporters, not good governance or representing the general will, is the essence of ruling. Buying loyalty is particularly difficult.”
  • “There is never a point in showing your hand before you have to; that is just a way to ensure giving the game away.”
  • “There is an interesting interplay between power corrupting and corruption empowering. The causality does not go one way.”
  • “Every type of politics could be addressed from the point of view of leaders trying to survive.”
  • “It’s always better for a ruler to determine who eats than it is to have a larger pie from which the people can feed themselves.”
  • “Democracies are not lucky. They do not attract civic-minded leaders by chance. Rather, they attract survival-oriented leaders who understand that, given their dependence on many essentials, they can only come to and stay in power if they figure out the right basket of public goods to provide.”
  • “The three most important characteristics of a coalition are: (1) Loyalty; (2) Loyalty; (3) Loyalty.”
  • “It is better to have loyal incompetents than competent rivals. Sometimes of course, having competent advisors is unavoidable.”
  • “The choice between enhancing social welfare and enriching a privileged few is not a question of how benevolent a leader is. Honorable motives might seem important, but they are overwhelmed by the need to keep essential supporters happy, and the means of keeping them happy depends on how many need rewarding.”
  • “Dictators, unlike Democrats, depend on a small coterie to sustain their power. These backers, generally drawn from the military, the senior civil service, and family or clan members, have a synergistic relationship with their dictator. The dictator delivers opportunities for them to become rich, and they protect him from being overthrown.”
  • “To understand why dictators fall, it helps to recognise factors that produce a perfect anti-dictatorial storm. Barring missteps such as those that led to Gaddafi’s undoing, a dictator’s survival can be at risk because of newness in office, poor health, or old age combined with economic trouble.”