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 Audible.com/Grey 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 audible.com/grey 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. Audible.com/grey Thanks to them for supporting this channel.

100 thoughts on “The Rules for Rulers”

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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

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

  9. 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.

  10. Good Dictatorship = Threaten, Kill or punish special keyholders so you always have control. They should feel like their 'keys' are what's granting them their life. Then they'll keep providing them out of fear of death.

  11. Rule 0: Without power, you can affect nothing.

    Rule 1: Get the key supporters on your side.

    Rule 2: Control the treasure.

    Rule 3: Minimize key supporters.

  12. Without Power you can affect nothing, Gandhi, Bruce Lee, Wright Brothers, Einstein, and so many more artists and inventors and social activists have done so much without this videos take on politics and power, why and how? Out of two hugely over looked human concepts faith and love. Why are these concepts over looked because of media and real world problems derived from politics. They try and ring this idea out of people like a wet towel with violence knowledge or simply by saying its corny or doesn't exist , but you can't remove this core concept from people because these things rest within the soul and are natural urges from within every single person and with faith and love you can change the world.

  13. When I imagine having power, keeping power would be one of the things I would most want to avoid. I would change the institutions, and then retire ASAP. The question then, is not how to minimize my keys and keep them from finding a better offer, but how the institutions of political influence might hypothetically be configured other than how they are, and what the effects would be.

    One partial answer is familiar to many readers. It's DuVerger's Law, describing what happens in a system of winner-take-all plurality voting, with voters' opinions arranged on a one-dimensional spectrum: Only the median voter is a key voting block, and only a two-party political system can persist. But many systems are possible, other than winner-take-all plurality voting. We could have "super-districts" that elect three representatives, or five. We could elect them on a ballot where citizens vote for at most two, or on a ballot where citizens vote for only one, and the top three or five (however many representatives the district has) are elected. We could do away with geographical districts. We could have yes/no voting. We could have runoff elections. We could have offices that remain vacant unless a supermajority vote is reached on the first ballot, without a runoff. We could have elections where every candidate who gets over 20% of the vote is a representative for the district, so districts that split their vote get more representation. We could have indirect elections, where members of parliament choose the prime minister.

    The possibilities are practically endless, and we don't have counterparts of DuVerger's law for most of them.

  14. China is a country that has crossed the chasm from dictatorial to the other side… the other side does not have to democratic, but the main distinction is the reliance on citizen productivity. This cross happened once China decided to let go of the planned economy in favor of capitalism, to favor productivity over equality. According to the video, the Chinese Communist party actually stabilizes its power more, and lowers the chance of a coup. Fascinating video and ideas, really well done!

  15. For 18 minutes I got to imagine myself as the most ruthless interested key player in deciding my loyalty and support. Whew, glad it was just 18 minutes because I'm hungry.

  16. It sounds like any successful benevolent dictatorship needs to be united around some kind of ideology. So that the keys understand the reasoning behind giving more wealth to infrastructure and peasants.

  17. "When the approval rate couldn't be lower, but the election rates couldn't be higher, you will know you've won" Trump watches CGP Grey

  18. Democratic systems also overthrown by larger Democratic countries when they don’t do what they want. The larger country has no voters in that country after all.

  19. You forgot at least one way to power. If you are holding a nuclear device, or ability to inflict terror upon the population through guerilla tactics or ied's, you don't need any of the current keys to power, you just nullified them. They will have to come to you, based on the only promise you'll let them live, or face the consequences.

  20. I must be heavily retarded, because I have always viewed a democrat-mindset dictatorship would work best out of two
    I mean it's starting to work in Poland it does

  21. That actually explains the situation in Libya. The guy was just trying to be a good dictator but the Arab spring screwed everything up, and now some people actually wish he came back

  22. I'm so glad we have videos like this, plz do one on central banking, fiat currency, the private federal reserve bank dominating every aspect of life through the manipulation of the money supply.

  23. All the reasons we need hivemind to really get anything done. Democracy is just a big bunch of fools selecting from a bunch of other kinds of fools.

  24. This video makes the allready disgusting system even more depressing
    Well you know what fuck human politics

  25. This Excellently sums up the authoritarian outlook on state/social power, however it omits the actual practical 'cause' of the means to accumulate social power.

    None of this would be possible without the human social instinct to build up perceptual pseudo identities 'Communalism' . 'we the people' 'my family', 'my tribe', 'my political party', 'my nation', 'my race', 'my team' 'my GOD' etc.. these are all forms of deception many self inflicted. although the maintenance of power looks something like what is depicted. its actual foundation is fundamentally one of implicit consent that occurs at the level of the individual. slavery for example 'chains,fetters,blackmail' , as a phenomenon could never have been widely practiced if every person 'or nearly' every person who you sought to put into fetters fought until their death. no reason to spend your life collecting corpses. unfortunately the societies with cultures that resisted enslavement simply had some other overriding collective identity.. that represented some other kind of social coercion. "Americans" believe in "democracy".

    on a final note, notice every-time you hear someone use the phrase 'we' and you will have identified a pseudo identity.

    there is no 'I' in team. despite being literally idiotic 'teams are made up nothing but individuals and there is in fact no team without 'I"', perfectly sums up the mentality of slave.

    They feel honor not only in their own bondage, but in perpetuating the bondage of those around them. thus making them True "hero's" thy fight for 'social justice' or whatever..

  26. My question is how do benevolent dictators such as Tito keep power? Do they align the interests of their keys with those of the masses? Or do they make themselves so popular with the masses that of the elite were to overthrow them they would be essentially committing suicide?

  27. Sorry im too dumb to understand..
    What if the treasure doesnt exist? Or we get rid of the money system thing..
    What would happen? I dont know, can you tell me

  28. I only just watched memes and i got here

    I'm not into coup or politics but

    You do know
    Humans are retarded to the point the saying "Ignorance Is A Bliss" is accurate

    Suffering is what they call lesser or greater depend on someone's perspective
    Pleasure is a lie

    Everyone kinda is doomed thanks to the old habit of our old selves

  29. So we need to systematically and independently kill off one or two of the keys and government figures at time simultaneously to make a difference… ok I'm in, when??

  30. This reminded me of Julius Caeser, the man is an awesome emperer, but he fucked up and many of his key hated him. Thats why he got murdered even though the people loved him

  31. Can’t you just keep people in line by fear and terror against the keys. Like Stalin. Only that Stalin terrorized too much.

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