Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Senior Fellow, Emeritus
Awards and Honors:
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is an emeritus senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Silver Professor of Politics at New York University (NYU).

An expert on foreign policy and nation building, his current research focuses on political institutions, economic growth, and political change. He is also known for his research on policy forecasting for national security and for business concerns.

His most recent books include The Spoils of War: Greed, Power, and the Conflicts That Made Our Greatest Presidents, with Alastair Smith (Public Affairs Press, 2016); The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics (Public Affairs Press, 2011); The Predictioneer's Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future (Random House, Inc., 2009); The Strategy of Campaigning, with Kiron Skinner, Sirhey Kudelia, and Condoleezza Rice (University of Michigan Press, 2007); and The Logic of Political Survival, with Alastair Smith, Randolph M. Siverson, and James D. Morrow (MIT Press, 2003). He is the author of twelve other books, numerous policy pieces, and more than 120 academic articles. He has been profiled in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the Economist Magazine. Foreign Policy magazine has recognized him as one of the top one hundred global thinkers.

Bueno de Mesquita is a former Guggenheim Fellow and in 2001–2 was president of the International Studies Association. He is an elected member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1999, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Queens College in New York recognized him in 1998 as one of its one hundred "alumni stars." From 1983 to 1986, he was chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Rochester; from 2002 to 2006 he chaired the Politics Department at NYU. He currently directs the Alexander Hamilton Center for Political Economy. He has been a visiting professor at Yale University, Cornell University, University of California at Berkeley, and NYU.

Bueno de Mesquita received his BA degree in 1967 from Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY); his MA degree in political science in 1968 from the University of Michigan; and his PhD degree in political science in 1971 from the University of Michigan.

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Recent Commentary

Political Instability as a Source of Growth

by Bruce Bueno de Mesquitavia Analysis
Wednesday, March 1, 2000

The U.S. government emphasizes the importance of stable political leadership as a necessary condition for economic growth. Contrary to this view, I show that high leadership turnover is strongly associated with high economic growth both in autocracy and in democracy. The effect of "unstable" leadership is stronger in democracies than autocracies because democratic political systems have institutions that promote competition over policy ideas rather than over the distribution of private benefits to cronies. Two institutions are shown to be particularly important in promoting such public goods as a fair legal system, transparent decision making and accounting, a strong national defense, and a healthy, growth-oriented infrastructure. These two institutions are a large selectorate (the set of people with a say in choosing leaders) and a large winning coalition (the set of people whose support keeps the incumbent in office).

Political leaders are eager to stay in office and, contrary to the neoclassical economic model, are not benign agents of the people in whose name they lead. Because autocrats depend on small groups of supporters, they emphasize the use of private benefits to their cronies as the means to gain political loyalty and stay in office. This means that they generally have little incentive to pay attention to the overall quality of their public policies.

Democrats, in contrast, require the support of a large coalition to stay in power. Because private rewards have to be spread thinly to many people, democrats find it easier to compete for office by providing public goods that benefit everyone rather than private benefits for a few cronies. This means that, in democracies, political competition is over policy ideas. Two effects follow from the fact that democratic leaders must build large coalitions: Democratic leaders provide better policies to improve their chances of surviving in office, and because competition is over policy ideas, they are more easily turned out of office in favor of a political challenger than are autocrats. Thus, autocrats have longer terms in office and produce less-efficient economic growth. The U.S. government emphasis on stable leadership as a necessary condition for growth is mistaken and can lead to global economic contraction rather than expansion.

Analysis and Commentary

Why Politics Should Not Stop at the Water’s Edge

by Bruce Bueno de Mesquitavia Hoover Daily Report
Monday, November 15, 1999

Presidential election seasons inevitably lead to calls for bipartisanship in foreign policy.

The International Monetary Folly

by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Hilton L. Rootvia Hoover Digest
Saturday, October 30, 1999

Despite its instability, Russia shows no signs of adopting prudent economic policies. Yet the IMF recently agreed to lend the country another huge sum of money. Hoover fellows Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James D. Morrow, and Hilton L. Root on a gigantic act of folly.

North Korean Economic Reform and Political Stability

by Bruce Bueno de Mesquitavia Analysis
Saturday, June 1, 1996

Using a model with a strong track record of predictive accuracy, we posit the unraveling of Kim Jong-Il's hold over power in North Korea. Our analysis suggests that the North Korean military and leaders of heavy industry in North Korea are pivotal powers who control North Korea's destiny over the next few years. We infer from the evidence that Kim Jong-Il's family and the second generation of leaders are opportunists who are likely to break ranks with Kim Jong-Il to secure their own well-being. The result of their anticipated break with Kim Jong-Il is likely to be a slowing of economic reform and of economic openings to South Korea. North Korea is expected to enter a period of political instability that will render Kim Jong-Il little more than a figurehead. Barring strategic efforts by the partisans and some others with credible leverage, North Korea is unlikely to improve its economy or stabilize its government in the next two or three years.


by Alvin Rabushka, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, David Newmanvia Hoover Digest
Tuesday, January 30, 1996

On July 1, 1997, the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong will cease to exist, becoming instead the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Will the new Hong Kong continue to flourish or stagnate? Hoover fellows Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alvin Rabushka and their coauthor, David Newman, assert that we will all be able to learn a great deal by watching the value of a single, critical item, the Hong Kong dollar.