Do you believe that democrats are angels and autocrats are son of bitches? Reading The Dictator’s Handbook written by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, you will find out they’re the same(both basters). The leaders’ primary goals are always: come to power, stay in power and control the money. The difference is the coalition size. If the leader only needs a few key supporters to stay in power, he will dole out private rewards to them. But if the coalition size is huge, private reward per person is negligible, the leader will have to increase public goods to keep his supporters happy.

That’s the core theory of the book: selectorate theory. The backers are divided into three groups: the essentials(key supporters), the influentials(who can pick leader) and the interchangeables(the voters). The leaders want to decrease the essentials and the influentials, but increase the interchangeables. So that’s easier for the leader to hold on the power, he will only have to take care of his cronies’ interests. The masses want to increase all three groups for improving public welfare and a full-fill life. The book keeps reminds you that the coalition size can explain many policies, such as foreign aid and war. Read the book if you are curious about why governments and charities dole out aids even though they know it’s not gonna help or why some governments care their soldiers’ life and some are not(even don’t care if they lose the war)?

You see the theory is not limited to the government, it’s suitable for everywhere as long as there exist governance. For example, universities and corporations are definitely small coalition autocracy. And some international organizations too, the book mentions two sports organizations: IOC and FIFA. Once you know their coalition size and understand how they select coalition members, you will not be surprised why there are so many corruption scandals around these organizations.

Go read the book! It will let you understand the world better and blow your mind. If you’re still not convinced, here is a video adapted from the book made by CGP Grey.