The Rules for Rulers

The Rules for Rulers

Do you want to rule? Do you see the problems in your country and know how to fix them? If only you had the power to do so. Well, you’ve come to the right place. But before we begin this lesson in political power, ask yourself why don’t rulers see as clearly as you… …instead acting in such, selfish, self-destructive, short-sighted ways? Are they stupid… these most powerful people in the world? Or is it something else? The throne looks omnipotent from afar, but it is not as it seems. Take the throne to act, and the throne acts upon you. Accept that or turn back now before we discuss, the Rules for Rulers. *somber music* No matter how bright the rays of any sun king: No man rules alone. A king can’t build roads alone, can’t enforce laws alone, can’t defend the nation or himself, alone. The power of a king is not to act, but to get others to act on his behalf, using the treasure in his vaults. A king needs an army, and someone to run it. Treasure and someone to collect it. Law and someone to enforce it. The individuals needed to make the necessary things happen are the king’s keys to power. All the changes you wish to make are but thoughts in your head if the keys will not follow your commands. In a dictatorship, where might makes right, the number of keys to power is small, … …perhaps only a dozen generals, bureaucrats, and regional leaders. Sway them to your side and the power to rule is yours, but… …never forget: displease them and they will replace you. Now all countries lie on a spectrum from those where the ruler needs few key supporters to those where the ruler needs many… …this foundation of power is why countries are different. Yet many keys or few, the rules are the same: First, get the key supporters on your side. With them, you have the power to act; you have everything. Without them, you have nothing. Now in order to keep those keys to power, you must, second: Control the treasure. You must make sure your treasure is raised and distributed to you — for all your hard work — and to the keys needed to keep your position. This is your true work as a ruler: figuring out how best to raise and distribute resources, …so as not to topple the house of cards upon which your throne sits. Now you, aspiring benevolent dictator, may want to help your citizens,… …but your control of the treasure is what attracts rivals, so you must keep those keys loyal. But there is only so much treasure in your vaults, so much wealth your kingdom produces. So beware: every bit of treasure spent on citizens is treasure not spent on loyalty. Thus, doing the right thing, spending the wealth of the nation on the citizens of the nation,… …hands a tool of power acquisition to your rivals. Treasure poured into roads, and universities, and hospitals, is treasure a rival can promise to key supporters if only they switch sides. Benevolent dictators can spend their take on the citizens, but the keys must get their rewards,… for *even if* you have gathered the most loyal, angelic supporters, they have the same problem as you, just one level down… Being a key to power is a position of power. They too must watch out for rivals from below or above: thus the treasure they get must also be spent to maintain their position. The loyal and dim may stay by your side no matter what,… …but smart key supporters, will always watch the balance of power, ready to change allegiance if you look to be the loser in a shifting web of alliances. In countries where the keys are few, the rewards are great… …and when violence rules, the most ruthless are attracted; and angels that build good works will lose to devils that don’t. So buy all the loyalty you can, because loyalty, in dictatorial organizations of all kinds, is everything. For the ruler, anyway. Thus, the dictatorship exposed: A king who needs his court to raise the treasure to keep the court loyal and keep raising the treasure. This is the self-sustaining core of power, all outside is secondary. Now a king with many key supporters has real problems: not just their expense, but also their competing needs and rivalries are difficult to balance,… …the more complicated the social and financial web between them all, the more able a rival is to sway a critical mass. The more key supporters a ruler has on average, the shorter their reign. Which brings us to the third rule for rulers: Minimize Key Supporters If a key in your court becomes unnecessary, his skills no longer required, you must kick him out. After a successful coup, the new dictator will purge some of those who helped him come to power,… … while working with the underlings of the previous dictator — which from the outside seems a terrible idea. Why abandon your fellow revolutionaries? Are the old dictator’s supporters not a danger? But the keys necessary to gain power are not the same as those needed to keep it. Having someone on the payroll who was vital in the past, but useless now is the same as spending money on the citizens: treasure wasted on the irrelevant. And by definition, a dictator that pulls off a coup has promised greater treasure to those switching sides. The size of the vault has not changed, so the treasure must be split among fewer. A dictator that sways the right keys, takes control of the treasure, cuts unnecessary spending, kills unnecessary keys, will have a long and successful career. Seeing the structure unveiled, you might be excited to get started and control a country to the benefit of you and your cronies,… …or you might be exhausted, wishing to do good but seeing the structural difficulties, now turn to democracy for salvation. So let us discuss rulers as representatives. You again might have grand dreams of the utopia you wish to build, but: no man rules alone. And never more so than in democracy. Presidents and Prime ministers must negotiate with their senates and parliaments and vice versa. And they all have their own key supporters to manage. In a well-designed democracy, power is fractured among many, and is taken not with force but with words,… … meaning you must get thousands or millions of citizens to if not like you on election day, … …at least like you better than the alternative. With so many voters and such fractured power it’s impossible to, as a dictator would,… …follow these rules and buy loyalty. Or is it? Of course not. Don’t think of citizens as individuals with their individual desires, but instead as divided into blocs: …the elderly, or homeowners, or business owners, or the poor. Blocs you can reward as a group. Democracies have wildly complicated tax codes, and laws, not as accident but as reward for the blocks that get and keep the ruling representatives in power: Farming subsidies, for example, have nothing to do with the food a nation needs, … …but entirely with how key the vote of the farming bloc is. Countries where farmers’ votes don’t swing elections, don’t have farming subsidies. If a bloc doesn’t vote, such as younger citizens, then no need to divert rewards their way. Even if large in number, they are irrelevant to gaining power. Which is good news for you: one less block to sway and the treasure you give to your key blocks has to come from somewhere… If you want long years in office, rule three is your friend in a democracy just as much as a dictatorship. You can’t eliminate those who don’t vote for you, but there is still much you can do. Once in power, make it easier for your key blocks to vote and harder for others. Establish voting systems that reduce the number of blocs you need to win the more rivals you get,… …very handy indeed. Draw election borders to predetermine the results for you or your cronies, … …and have party pre-elections with Byzantine rules to determine who blocs even *can* vote for. Mix and match the above for even better power perpetuation. When approval ratings couldn’t be lower, yet re-election rates couldn’t be higher,… … you’ll know you’ve succeeded. Now, enough with thinking about the citizens. Even in a democracy there still are very influential individual key supporters …you need on your side because their money or influence or favors keeps you in power. While you can’t just promise to give them treasure directly, as a dictator would,… …you can create loopholes for their investments, pass laws that they’ve written, … … or print get out of jail free cards for their actions. Not a wheelbarrow of gold to the door, but contracts for their business. You as ruler do have roads to build or computers to maintain or buildings to reconstruct. No man rules alone, after all. Or you could take the moral path, and ignore the big keys. But you’ll fight against those who didn’t. Good luck with that. Corruption is not some kind of petty crime, but rather a tool of power, … …in democracies and dictatorships, but more on that another time. So, accept the favors, sway the key blocs and you will get into power, … … ruling with actions that look contradictory and stupid to those who don’t understand the game — privately helping a powerful industry you publicly denounced, … … or passing laws that hurt a bloc that voted for you. But your job isn’t to have a consistent understandable ruling policy, … … but to balance the interests of your keys to power, big and small. That is how you stay in office. Now with all this headache of being a representative, you may wonder,… … looking at rule three why couldn’t you skip all this bloc-building, favor trading nonsense … … and just bribe the army to take power? We must finally turn to: taxes and revolts. You must understand rule two and how the treasure is raised and used to hold a country together. If we graph the tax rate of countries vs the number of key supporters the ruler needs, … … there’s a clear relationship. More democracy, lower taxes. If you’re sitting comfortably in a cushy democracy you may scoff at this, … … but your fellow citizens who don’t earn enough don’t pay income taxes and get rebates, … … bringing the *average* tax rate down. In dictatorships, this doesn’t happen. Dictatorships often forgo tax paperwork in favor of just taking wealth directly. It’s common for the dictator to force farmers to sell their produce to him for little, … … then turn around and sell it on the open market, … pocketing the difference at an unthinkably high equivalent tax rate. So taxes in democracies are low in comparison to dictatorships. But why do representatives lower their take? Well, cutting taxes is a crowd pleaser. Dictators have no need to please the crowds and thus can take a large percentage from their poor citizens to pay key supporters. But representatives in a democracy can take a smaller percentage … from each to pay their key supporters, … … because their educated, freer citizens are more productive than peasants. For rulers in a democracy, the more productivity the better. Which is why they build universities and hospitals and roads and grant freedoms, … …not just out of the goodness of their hearts but because it increases citizen productiveness,… … which increases treasure for the ruler and their key supporters, even when a lower percentage is taken. Democracies are better places to live than dictatorships,… … not because representatives are better people,… … but because their needs *happen* to be aligned with a large portion of the population. The things that make citizens more productive also make their lives better. Representatives want everyone productive, so everyone gets highways. The worst dictators are those whose incentives are aligned with the fewest citizens, … … those who have the fewest keys to power. This explains why the worst dictatorships have something in common. Gold or oil or diamonds or similar. If the wealth of a nation is mostly dug out of the ground: it’s a terrible place to live… … because a gold mine can run with dying slaves, and still produce great treasure. Oil is harder, but luckily foreign companies can extract and refine it without any citizen involvement. With citizens outside this cycle, they can be ignored while the ruler is rewarded and the keys to power kept loyal. Thus we live in a world where the best, smartest democracies are stable, … …the worst, richest dictatorships are stable, and in between is a valley of revolution. The resource-rich dictators build roads only from their ports to their resources and from their palace to the airport, … … and the people stay quiet not because this is fine or even because they’re scared, … … but because the cold truth is: starving, disconnected, illiterates don’t make good revolutionaries. Now a middling dictator without resources must, as mentioned before, take a large amount of wealth directly from his poor farmers and factory workers. Thus two roads won’t do, and so he must maintain some minimums of life for the citizens. But keeping the work-force somewhat connected and somewhat educated and somewhat healthy … … makes them more able to revolt. Now understand: the romantic image of the people storming the gates and overthrowing their dictator is mostly a fantasy. If you run a middling dictatorship, the people only storm the palace when the army *lets them* to remove you, … … because you lost control over your keys and are being replaced. This is why after ‘popular revolts’ in middling dictatorships, the new ruler is often the same as the old, if not worse. The people didn’t replace the king, the court replaced the king, using the peoples’ protest they let happen to do it. The very things a benevolent dictator wants to build to cross this valley … … take treasure away from the keys to power and make the citizens more able to revolt, … … often ending in a stronger ruler less likely to build bridges and more loyal to his keys. On the other side, the best democracies are stable not just because the large number of keys… … and their competing desires makes dictatorial revolt near-impossible to organize, … … but also because the revolt would destroy the very wealth it intended to capture. The high productivity of the citizens. Plus: those helping the would-be dictator in a democracy know he plans to cull key supporters once in power. That’s what’s a coup is. So potential key supporters must weigh the probability of surviving the cull and getting the rewards, … … versus the risk of being on the outside of a dictatorship they helped create. In a stable democracy, that’s a terrible gamble: maybe you’ll be incredibly wealthy, … … but probably you’ll be dead and have made the lives of everyone you know worse. The math says no. Being on the right side of a coup in a dictatorship means having the resources to get you and your family what the peasants lack. Health care, education, quality of life — this is what make the competition for power so fierce. But in a democracy most already have these things, so why risk it? So the more the wealth of a nation comes from the productive citizens of the nation, … … the more the power gets spread out and the more the ruler must maintain the quality of life for those citizens. The less, the less. Now if a stable democracy becomes very poor, … … or if a resource that dwarfs the productivity of the citizens is found, … … the odds of this gamble change, and make it more possible for a small group to seize power. Because if the current quality of life is terrible or the wealth not dependent on the citizens, coups are worth the risk. When democracies fall, these are usually the reasons. *somber music* These rules for rulers explain not only why some men are monsters and others are merciful, … … but everything about politics: from war to foreign aid, to political dynasties, to corruption. All of which, we can talk about at another time. But for now, you aspiring ruler, may be disgusted by the world of politics, … … and have decided to avoid it entirely, but you cannot, for rulers come in many forms. Yes, Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers but also Deans, Dons, Mayors, Chairs, Chiefs. These rules apply to all and explain their actions: from the CEO of the largest global corporate conglomerate … … who must keep his board happy, to the chair of the smallest home owner’s association, … … managing votes and spending membership fees. You cannot escape structures of power. You can only turn a blind eye to understanding them, and … … if you ever want the change you dream about, there is a zeroth rule you cannot ignore. Without power you can affect nothing. You may not like these rules, but surely, better you on the throne than someone else. And who knows, maybe you’ll be different. *somber piano music, slowly fading* This video and its follow-ups are based largely on The Dictator’s Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alistair Smith, … … which is simply the best book on politics written. There is far more detail and far more examples in it than I could ever hope to cover any series of videos. Every citizen should read this book, and… … if you want to support the channel, you can get a copy of it at which is how I first came across the book years ago. If you sign up at Audible with that URL, you can get a free thirty-day trial, and give the book a listen. So if you want to understand human politics, if you want to understand the rules for rulers as applied to everything, … … go to and download a copy of The Dictator’s Handbook. You will not regret it. Start your free thirty-day trial membership, listen to this book, listen to one of the 180,000 other audiobooks… … and spoken audio products that Audible has. They’re a fantastic service. They’re how I get and listen to all of my audiobooks and you should too. Thanks to them for supporting this channel.

100 Replies to “The Rules for Rulers”

  1. You do know the usa is sitting on massive natural resources too. The reason it doesnt become a dictatorship is the same reason even resource poor nations will. Not all people are the same value, while some nations have citizens with high value creation other nations cant ever get that because their citizens are too low iq to be worth more than gold and oil.

    Also gold doesnt hold value in imporished countries because their citizens cant aford to waste money on nonessentials.

  2. Some issues with this video. You still have to deal with the little people because if you upset the little people, then you get a revolution, and it apparently takes about 10% support for a successful revolution. Note that the US is not a Democracy, but an Oligopoly since the rich control the country (look at support of bills vs. them being passed relative to popularity). Roosevelt was able to make the changes he did because the people were really upset with the Great Depression. It is true that many US puppets are able to exist because of American foreign aid to the militaries.

  3. It is nauseating to think that someone has the arrogance to "rule" over anyone. That's the first problem. The second problem is having a standing army. Militia only.  The third problem is the absence of term limits. Idiots and sellouts must be removed…easily. The only thing that insures a stable society is an "iron clad constitution", like the US one. People that are "progressive" must be removed…. to a far off island. Left with no boats.

  4. Or you can just Stalin it and kill everyone from the top down and replace them with people blindly loyal to you, who will do what you want no matter how badly you mistreat them.

  5. Man this is why the middle east is such a shitty place, you basically exposed the entire game they're playing

  6. This is game theory at an elaborate level. But there is much more to politics than that. I dare you to explain Norway, which has been a very stable democracy albeit drawing much of its wealth from natural resources that don't need (much of) the labour of the citizens.

  7. "No king can rule alone. A king can't build roads alone, enforce laws alone, can't defend his nation nor himself, alone."

    God: am I a joke to you?

  8. Can you do an updated version that places the epic failure that is "stupid watergate" of the Drumpf saga into focus?

  9. This Machiavellian propaganda! It’s obvious that our country is going downhill. Corruption is rampant and people are saying whatever they need to to get into office. If I am elected president I promise to make things better!

  10. Well… all that goes out the door if the US comes knocking on your door even though you're a fair and elected democracy. yay….

  11. This is why Trump is so effective, like him or not his fortune leaves him beholden only to the voters and the office.

  12. i prefer monarchies, avoid the rubbish of bureaucracy. plus your rule is determined by divine right so no one from the outside can claim rulership(technically)

  13. That… was a cold calculated speech. I find myself depressed and mildly disturbed. Amazing information… reality is a bitch.

  14. I don't think I have the right mental health in order to rule a land with being basically left to my own devices qwq

  15. This is such a deeply cynical view of politics. As a progressive, and as an American, I wholeheartedley disagree with it.

  16. I hate to be a bitch nut you've been talking about the AK50 since I first subscribed. That's the only reason I subbed. You suck and it's been almost two years. Get your shit together.

  17. Make better people and you will make better keys and better leaders – highly paraphrased by someone you are not ready to hear about just yet, unless you look for yourself.

  18. I love how you have a lot to say about the UK maybe you should have used this'll to show how the US has placed many dictators in power so you can siphon there natural resources and then when they stop playing ball you pepper your propaganda news with the crimes they committed before going in murdering them and replacing him with like.

  19. This video explains exactly why I don’t like any form of gov. It shows the deep nastiest parts of the human condition. It’s all about the self when government is suppose to be for country and truly trying to improve it.

  20. What can a dictator do to improve his/her people's living conditions without risking his/her position of power

  21. The problem I have with this video is that it only uses wealth to forge loyalty. But what about propaganda and education? Look at world War 2 and the hitler Jugend young teenagers and children driven by their ideals fighting to the end for their dictator.

  22. What about automation? Wouldn't that make citizen happiness irrelevant because it is the machines and bots, not the people being productive.

  23. Starve the rich and feed the poor who have no true understanding of how politics work and they'll find something to complain about ( because you can't ever please the crowd) and overthrow you with, whilst you're at your most unprotected and vulnerable state.

    Starve the poor, feed the rich and you'll be hated even more but hey at least your security and protection will be there.

  24. Thes little rulers are soon going to find out who are TRUE RULER IS very soon and they are going to beg the the rocks and mountains to fall down on them when it happens too. Especially these PIGS who think their gods because they wear a state issued costume!

  25. Daenerys Targaryen experienced this problem first-hand when she conquered Mahreen. She overthrew the entire nobility, crucified all the slave masters, and freed all the slaves.

    Yes, she was loved by all the freed slaves and commoners, they even carried her in celebration and called her "mother", but she made powerful enemies out of the noble houses who's heads she just crucified. Their sons were not happy. At all.

    Her kingdom was on the verge of collapse as the rich hired mercenaries and recruited loyal followers to attack her and her supporters. They were even able to recruit some former slaves and supporters, because money talks and they have children to feed.

    Tyrion addressed this directly with her:
    "Yes, you have the love of the common people, and ONLY the common people. How have you faired so far ruling without the support of the rich and powerful?"

    She would've lost her kingdom during a fullblown invasion if she didn't have 3 dragons who's loyalty to her is unquestionable.

  26. I like your content but this time it´s just imcomplete, the model you present of the success of only the "good democracies" and the "best dictatorships"(or worst depending of how you want to call it) It excludes models like Colombia or Mexico, that Neither cualifes as a Democracy nor a dictatorial goverment, I get the basic idea, of the "keys" but that model only applies for both ends of the expectrum, not the whole, and also it considers the country a closed system, considering the key only localy and not considering the blind trust from the people to "caudillos", that let them get to the power or maintan it ignoring the other conditions even if they lack somes keys.

  27. Hierarchy is natural. when the old order is overthrown, a new one comes to take it. It usually uses the same methods as the old system. Human society has always been like this. from tribal man to chieftain, from serf to lord, and eventually Proletariat and bourgeoisie. There is always some one top, and they use dirty ways to gain and maintain power. when someone replaces them, the new order acts like the old one

  28. The thing about the treasure is, it have to be taken from the people in the form of taxes, and the less a government takes, the more productive the people are

  29. "The message of the CROSS is foolishness to the perishing….." Prayer is unfathomable power when to an AWESOME GOD!

  30. this video explains why I have such a big problem with socialists/communists. They NEVER seem to understand this side of human nature. "The People" are supposed to handle distribution of the treasure, eh? but they never seem to understand why that makes no sense. every single one I've talked to just repeats "the people" or tells me I need to read more. but that's just it, I've researched it plenty. it's literally code for "the government" when a socialist uses it, but they never realize that (which is why they're socialists, they wouldn't call themselves that if they understood). It bothers me so much.

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