Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Silver Professor of Politics, New York University
Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Coauthor, The Dictator’s Handbook; Author, The Predictioneer’s Game

If you understand incentives, you can predict the future.

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Global affairs today is a world of baffling questions. Why can’t world leaders draft a climate accord, even in the face of peak oil? How do tyrants hold onto power for so long? Who really holds the reins of power in Iran?

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita can share with you the crucial insights for understanding these and many others of today’s most challenging issues. And if that claim seems far-fetched, perhaps you’ll be convinced by the amazing power his theories give him to predict world events.

Over his long tenure as a professor and political consultant, Bruce has conferred with experts on all the world’s most pressing issues and fed their knowledge into a vast and highly sophisticated computer model of global affairs. This combination of wide-ranging expertise and high-power analytics allows him to make strikingly accurate predictions of world events and speak with authority on the power dynamics of everything from office politics to international summits.

Bruce has advised the State Department, the CIA, and the Defense Department on US foreign policy and national security. As a corporate consultant, he has guided Fortune 500 companies through mergers and acquisitions. His uncannily accurate predictions about high-tension situations like those in Iran and Pakistan have gained him attention from the New York Times and other media: the Far Eastern Economics Review and the British Journal of Political Science agree with the CIA that Bruce’s accuracy rate is an astonishing 90%.

In 2009, Bruce shared his vision of game theory and power politics in a book called The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future. Now, in his new book, The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics, he lays out a provocative and pragmatic explanation of how leaders get, keep, and eventually lose power. Hearing Bruce explain these works is captivating: his analyses of self-interest present a lens on history we’re sure you aren’t used to, his predictions are highly intriguing, and his unflinching and wittily ironic style will delight you as he takes you from Caesars to CEOs on a tour of statesmanship.

Bruce teaches us that to change the world, we have to be willing to see it the way it is, not how we wish it were. The picture isn’t always pretty, but it is always fascinating — and Bruce can show it to you now.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is the Julius Silver Professor of Politics and director of the Alexander Hamilton Center for Political Economy at New York University and a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is also the co-founder of Mesquita & Roundell, LLC, a New York-based consulting firm which has advised the US Government and Fortune 500 companies, among other clients.


The Dictator's Handbook

Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita And Alastair Smith

A provocative, heretical, research-based exploration of the essential truth at the heart of all politics: Rulers will do anything to remain in power

For eighteen years, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith have been part of a team revolutionizing the study of politics by turning conventional wisdom on its head. They start 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 have to.

This clever and accessible book shows that the difference between tyrants and democrats is 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. The picture the authors paint is not pretty. But it just may be the truth, which is a good starting point for anyone seeking to improve human governance.

Public Affairs Press (Sept. 27, 2011)

Book Review

Machiavelli UpdatedNational Review Online

The Predictioneer's Game

Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a master of game theory, which is a fancy label for a simple idea: People compete, and they always do what they think is in their own best interest. Bueno de Mesquita uses game theory and its insights into human behavior to predict and even engineer political, financial, and personal events. His forecasts, which have been employed by everyone from the CIA to major business firms, have an amazing 90 percent accuracy rate, and in this dazzling and revelatory book he shares his startling methods and lets you play along in a range of high-stakes negotiations and conflicts.

Revealing the origins of game theory and the advances made by John Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist perhaps best known from A Beautiful Mind, Bueno de Mesquita details the controversial and cold-eyed system of calculation that he has since created, one that allows individuals to think strategically about what their opponents want, how much they want it, and how they might react to every move. From there, Bueno de Mesquita games such events as the North Korean disarmament talks and the Middle East peace process and recalls, among other cases, how he correctly predicted which corporate clients of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm were most likely engaged in fraudulent activity (hint: one of them started with an E). And looking as ever to the future, Bueno de Mesquita also demonstrates how game theory can provide successful strategies to combat both global warming (instead of relying on empty regulations, make nations compete in technology) and terror (figure out exactly how much U.S. aid will make Pakistan fight the Taliban).

But as Bueno de Mesquita shows, game theory isn’t just for saving the world. It can help you in your own life, whether you want to succeed in a lawsuit (lawyers argue too much the merits of the case and question too little the motives of their opponents), elect the CEO of your company (change the system of voting on your board to be more advantageous to your candidate), or even buy a car (start by knowing exactly what you want, call every dealer in a fifty-mile radius, and negotiate only over the phone).

Savvy, provocative, and shockingly effective, The Predictioneer’s Game will change how you understand the world and manage your future. Life’s a game, and how you play is whether you win or lose.

Random House Trade Paperbacks (October 12, 2010)
Random House (September 29, 2009)

Book Review

Forecast: Self-ServingThe New York Times

Principles of International Politics

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

A little revolution now and again is a good thing. The scientific approach to international relations has transformed the field. And now, thanks to a revolutionary revision, Principles of International Politics offers a crisp and clear introduction to international relations from the strategic point of view.

Responding to user feedback and classroom testing, Principles has been completely recast so that the book is focused squarely on the central insights of the strategic perspective. Honing in on two key ideas winning coalitions and selectorate size the book delivers the fundamental lessons of the theory more easily than ever, giving readers even better access to the most powerful way of thinking about IR today.

Not only will readers find the text easier to follow, they'll also find the book shorter almost half the length of the previous edition. Streamlining places the take-away points front and center, and the basic tools of the model are delivered in clear step-by-step language, allowing beginning students to grasp the theory's powerful insights.

What hasn t changed: Bueno de Mesquita s commitment to covering the fundamentals of IR. You ll find a full examination of security problems, with special attention to theories of war, an exploration of the democratic peace, the problems of terrorism, military intervention, the role of foreign aid, democratization, international political economy, globalization, international organizations, alliances, and international law.

Helpful pedagogical features allow readers to master the principles, including:

  • chapter-opener overviews,

  • bolded key terms,

  • Try This feature boxes,

  • a full glossary, and 

  • appendixes (a survey of world history and a primer on the scientific method).

CQ Press; 4th edition (June 15, 2009)

The Strategy of Campaigning

Lessons from Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin

Kiron Skinner Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Serhiy Kudelia and Condoleezza Rice

The Strategy of Campaigning explores the political careers of Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin, two of the most galvanizing and often controversial political figures of our time. Both men overcame defeat early in their political careers and rose to the highest elected offices in their respective countries.

The authors demonstrate how and why Reagan and Yeltsin succeeded in their political aspirations, despite — or perhaps because of — their apparent “policy extremism”: that is, their advocacy of policy positions far from the mainstream. The book analyzes the viability of policy extremism as a political strategy that enables candidates to forge new coalitions and outflank conventional political allegiances.

University of Michigan Press (August 5, 2008)

The Logic of Political Survival

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2004 and Winner of the 2004 Best Book Award presented by the Conflict Processes section of the American Political Science Association (APSA)

The authors of this ambitious book address a fundamental political question: why are leaders who produce peace and prosperity turned out of office while those who preside over corruption, war, and misery endure? Considering this political puzzle, they also answer the related economic question of why some countries experience successful economic development and others do not.

The authors construct a provocative theory on the selection of leaders and present specific formal models from which their central claims can be deduced. They show how political leaders allocate resources and how institutions for selecting leaders create incentives for leaders to pursue good and bad public policy. They also extend the model to explain the consequences of war on political survival. Throughout the book, they provide illustrations from history, ranging from ancient Sparta to Vichy France, and test the model against statistics gathered from cross-national data. The authors explain the political intuition underlying their theory in nontechnical language, reserving formal proofs for chapter appendixes. They conclude by presenting policy prescriptions based on what has been demonstrated theoretically and empirically.

The MIT Press (March 1, 2004)

War and Reason

Domestic and International Imperatives

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and David Lalman

Using a combination of game theory, statistical analysis, and detailed case histories, two leading theorists of international relations here analyze the strategies designed to avoid international conflict. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and David Lalman evaluate the conditions that promote negotiation, the status quo, capitulation, acquiescence, and war in a book that is "a must-read for anyone concerned with foreign policy decision-making." — Bruce Russett, Yale University.

Yale University Press (February 23, 1994)


Bruce tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

The Dictator's Handbook

Incentives: Predicting the Future


Predicting Iran's Future | TED


A European university:
Bruce spoke very well and he engaged with the audience, making them laugh frequently. He spoke for just over an hour and he explained his background, game theory and some examples of his work, such as Iran and terrorist threats.


— Foreign Policy
— Foreign Policy