Now featuring a new chapter on the rise of illiberalism worldwide.
The essential book that lays out the real rules of politics: leaders do whatever keeps them in power, regardless of the national interest.
As featured in the viral video “Rules for Rulers,” which has been viewed over fifteen million times.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith’s canonical book on political science turned conventional wisdom on its head. They started from a single assertion: leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don’t care about the “national interest”—or even their subjects—unless they must.
Newly updated to reflect the global rise of authoritarianism, this clever and accessible book illustrates how leaders amass and retain power. As Bueno de Mesquita and Smith show, democracy is essentially just a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind, but only in the number of essential supporters or backs that need scratching. The size of this group determines almost everything about politics: what leaders can get away with, and the quality of life or misery under them. And it is also the key to returning power to the people.