The Dictator's Handbook
The Dictator's Handbook

The Dictator's Handbook

Journalists, authors, and academics have endeavored to explain politics through storytelling. (Location 106)

When addressing politics, we must accustom ourselves to think and speak about the actions and interests of specific, named leaders rather than thinking and talking about fuzzy ideas like the national interest, the common good, and the general welfare. (Location 269)

Politics, like all of life, is about individuals, each motivated to do what is good for them, not what is good for others. And that surely is the story of Robert Rizzo of Bell, California. (Location 272)

To understand politics properly, we must modify one assumption in particular: we must stop thinking that leaders can lead unilaterally. (Location 384)

we must stop thinking that North Korea’s Kim Jong Il can do whatever he wants. (Location 386)

All of these notions are flat out wrong because no emperor, no king, no sheikh, no tyrant, no chief executive officer (CEO), no family head, no leader whatsoever can govern alone. (Location 389)

While most of us think of a state’s bankruptcy as a financial crisis, looking through the prism of political survival makes evident that it really amounts to a political crisis. (Location 403)

Bad economic times in a democracy mean too little money to fund pork-barrel projects that buy political popularity. For kleptocrats it means passing up vast sums of money, and maybe even watching their secret bank accounts dwindle along with the loyalty of their underpaid henchmen. (Location 406)

Louis’s specific circumstances called for altering the group of people who had the possibility of becoming members of his inner circle—that is, the group whose support guaranteed his continued dignity as king. (Location 411)

In a radical departure from the practice observed by just about all of his neighboring monarchs, Louis opened the doors to officer ranks—even at the highest levels—to make room for many more than the traditional old-guard military aristocrats, the noblesse d’épée. (Location 414)

This meant that their prospects of income from the crown depended on how well favored they were by the king. That, of course, depended on how well they served him. (Location 420)

For leaders, the political landscape can be broken down into three groups of people: the nominal selectorate, the real selectorate, and the winning coalition. (Location 439)

The most important of these groups is the third, the subset of the real selectorate that makes up a winning coalition. These are the people whose support is essential if a leader is to survive in office. In (Location 449)

For Louis XIV, the winning coalition was a handful of members of the court, military officers, and senior civil servants without whom a rival could have replaced the king. (Location 454)

finished. A simple way to think of these groups is: interchangeables, influentials, and essentials. (Location 458)

They have big institutional shareholders and some others who are the influentials. And the essentials are pretty much those who get to pick actual board members and senior management. (Location 483)

What individuals, though not essential to your CEO’s power, are nonetheless influential in the governance of the company? And then, of course, who is there every day at the office—working hard (or not), just hoping for the breakthrough or the break that will catapult them into a bigger role? (Location 486)

There is incredible variety among political systems, mainly because people are amazingly inventive in manipulating politics to work to their advantage. (Location 518)

Changing the relative size of interchangeables, influentials, and essentials can make a real difference in basic political outcomes. (Location 527)

The first step in understanding how politics really works is to ask what kinds of policies leaders spend money on. Do they spend it on public goods that benefit everyone? Or do they spend mostly on private goods that benefit only a few? The answer, for any savvy politician, depends on how many people the leader needs to keep loyal—that is, the number of essentials in the coalition. (Location 553)

By contrast, dictators, monarchs, military junta leaders, and most CEOs all rely on a smaller set of essentials. (Location 559)

Thus small coalitions encourage stable, corrupt, private-goods-oriented regimes. (Location 562)

Obviously, self-interest plays a large role in these equations. We must wonder, therefore, why incumbents don’t take all the revenue they’ve raised and sock it away in their personal bank accounts. (Location 592)

This means that the next step in explaining the calculus of politics is to figure out how much a leader can keep and how much must be spent on the coalition and on the public if the incumbent is to stay in power. (Location 598)

This support is only forthcoming if a leader provides his essentials with more benefits than they might expect to receive under alternative leadership or government. (Location 601)

Essentials must compare the benefits expected to come their way in the future because that future flow adds up in time to bigger rewards. (Location 615)

Kleptocrats, of course, sock the money away in secret bank accounts or in offshore investments to serve as a rainy-day fund in the event that they are overthrown. (Location 648)

Rule 1: Keep your winning coalition as small as possible. A small coalition allows a leader to rely on very few people to stay in power. Fewer essentials equals more control and contributes to more discretion over expenditures. Bravo for Kim Jong Il of North Korea. He is a contemporary master at ensuring dependence on a small coalition. (Location 657)

Rule 4: Pay your key supporters just enough to keep them loyal. Remember, your backers would rather be you than be dependent on you. (Location 669)

To come to power a challenger need only do three things. First, he must remove the incumbent. Second, he needs to seize the apparatus of government. Third, he needs to form a coalition of supporters sufficient to sustain him as the new incumbent. (Location 732)

Consider a room filled with 100 people. Anyone could take complete control if only she had five supporters with automatic weapons pointed at the rest. She would remain in power so long as the five gunmen continue to back (Location 760)

Paying supporters, not good governance or representing the general will, is the essence of ruling. Buying loyalty is particularly difficult when a leader first comes to power. (Location 765)

Leaders understand the conditions that can cost them their heads. That is why they do their level best to pay essential cronies enough that these partners really want to stay loyal. This makes it tough for someone new to come to power. But sometimes circumstances conspire to open the door to a new ruler. (Location 776)

Although the masses brought down the old regime in hopes of obtaining a more democratic government, Khomeini ensured that real power was retained by a small group of clerics. The parliament, while popularly elected, could only contain politicians who would support and be supported by the Council of Guardians. (Location 802)

Impending death often induces political death. The sad truth is that if you want to come to power in an autocracy you are better off stealing medical records than you are devising fixes for your nation’s ills. (Location 840)

Would-be autocrats must be prepared to kill all comers—even members of the immediate family. (Location 871)

Paying off the right people is the essence of good government—and princes are well equipped to continue to reward supporters. (Location 877)

But supporters of the old king correctly believe in the old adage, Like father like son. It’s not a bad gamble for them. (Location 884)

But the first time they need to know your true feelings for them is when you banish them from court, well after your investiture and not a minute before. (Location 889)

Competition in democracies is cerebral, not physical. Killing foes works for dictators, but it is a pretty surefire path to political oblivion in a democracy. That’s a good thing, from a moral standpoint, of course. But from a democrat’s point of view, the corollary is that even good public policy does not buy much loyalty. (Location 1076)

They offer greater expected rewards to the essential supporters of the current leader than those essentials currently receive. (Location 1142)

To achieve power means recognizing the moment of opportunity, moving fast, and moving decisively to seize the day. And, for good measure, coming to power also means seizing any opponents, figuratively in democracies, and physically in dictatorships. Coming to power is not for the faint of heart. (Location 1146)

Politics is a risky business. As we will see, successful leaders manage these risks by locking in a loyal coalition. Those who fail at this first task open the door for someone else to overthrow them. (Location 1150)

Having once been a coup maker, there is little reason to doubt that they stand ready to start trouble once again if they think the circumstances warrant it. (Location 1197)

Research into CEO longevity teaches us, not surprisingly, that time in office lengthens as one maintains close personal ties to members of the board. (Location 1200)

Putting more outsiders on a board translates on average into better returns for shareholders, a benefit to everyone. At the same time, it also translates into greater risk for the CEO. (Location 1203)

Seemingly growing more secure in her control, Fiorina launched an effort to merge Compaq with HP, an effort with both beneficial prospects and serious risks for her continued rule. (Location 1223)

The three most important characteristics of a coalition are: (1) Loyalty; (2) Loyalty; (3) Loyalty. Successful leaders surround themselves with trusted friends and family, and rid themselves of any ambitious supporters. (Location 1307)

Once in power, people like Amin and Hussein wisely surround themselves with trusted members of their own tribe or clan, installing them in the most important positions—those involving force and money—and killing anyone that may turn out to be a rival. (Location 1312)

A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason. —J. P. MORGAN (Location 4385)

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A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason. —J. P. MORGAN (Location 4385)

If we have learned anything in the preceding pages it is to be suspicious of people’s motives. Appeals to ideological principles and rights are (Location 4415)

Leaders, given their druthers, would always like the set of interchangeables to be very large, and the groups of influentials and essentials to be very small. (Location 4424)

and a handful of essentials on the board of directors who agree to pay CEOs handsomely regardless of how the company fares. (Location 4426)

But even in a large-coalition system, these masses are unlikely to get what they want all the time. Their hope is to get what they want more of the time. (Location 4433)

You see, they don’t like the idea that they might be purged to make the coalition smaller. (Location 4435)

What political insiders want when it comes to institutional change is complex, but to understand the reforms they can be expected to support and those they will oppose we need to understand their wants. (Location 4438)

The coalition prefers monarchical, theocratic, or junta style institutional arrangements that restrict those who can be brought into the coalition to a select group of aristocrats, clerics, or military elites. (Location 4443)

First, coalition members should beware of their susceptibility to purges. (Location 4534)

At such times, the essential group should begin to press for its own expansion to create the incentives to develop public-spirited policies, democracy, and benefits for all. (Location 4535)

Outsiders would be wise to take cues from the same lessons: the time for outside intervention to facilitate democratic change or improved corporate responsibility is when a leader has just come to power or when a leader is near the end of his life. (Location 4539)

The Packers are the only nonprofit, community-owned franchise in American major league professional sports. (Location 4549)

Thus, a tiny band of owners cannot easily overturn the many and run the team for their personal gain at the expense of the larger, small-owners fan base. The Packers have a forty-three-member board of directors. (Location 4552)

Remember that the Hewlett Packard Board varied between ten and fourteen members. HP has about 2.2 billion shares outstanding. Roughly speaking, each Packard board member nominally represents the interests of about 185 million shares. (Location 4555)