I’m reading a new book

It’s a little light reading entitled “The Logic of Political Survival.” I had heard of this work before and it intrigued me. In it, De Mesquita et. al. tries to explain how bad policy is often good politics and how good policy is actually bad politics.

He takes a rather cynical view of politics (something that I can identify with) but it works rather well for explaining things. It turns out that if you see governments as essentially collecting taxes and then distributing them, you can make sense of what most governments do most of the time. This applies to the worst autocracies and dictatorships as well as to the highest functioning democracies in the world. It’s nice to see a theory that applies to all types of governments.

I have never really read any political science work before, but I’m diving into the deep end. Bruce De Mesquita is actually a controversial figure in this realm. As far as I can tell, he has gained this notoriety by actually using mathematics to formalize his theories. Game theory is very well known to economists, but it has come very late to the political science realm. Deep down, I wonder if the people that oppose this approach resist because they can’t handle the math. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened…

This is one of two political science books that I have wanted to read for a while. I own the other but have never gotten the chance to read it. “The Calculus of Consent; Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy” by Tullock and Buchanan (Buchanan won the Nobel prize for it) started the entire field of political economy. In short, they had as their premise that politicians are motivated not by altruistic thoughts but by self interest. Their ability to accurately predict how government bodies act pretty much proved that their approach is sound. It turns out that politicians aren’t saviors, who knew?

I think that books like this should be mandatory reading, especially during an election year. I’ll report back with any amazing things I learn as I read…

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