Russ Roberts

The Political Economy of Power

EconTalk Episode with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
Hosted by Russ Roberts
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Russ Roberts talks with Hoover Institution and NYU political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita about his theory of political power--how dictators and democratically elected leaders respond to the political forces that keep them in office. This lengthy and intense conversation covers a wide range of topics including the evil political genius of Lenin, the dark side of US foreign aid, the sinister machinations of King Leopold of Belgium, the natural resource curse, the British monarchy in the 11th century, term limits and the inevitable failure of the standard methods of fighting world poverty.

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Readings and Links related to this podcast

Podcast Readings
  • About Political Economy and the economic way of thinking about politics and politicians:
  • About King Leopold II of Belgium (1835-1909; assumed the throne 1865)
      Q: Was King Leopold II the benevolent early constitutional monarch he's often portrayed as, motivated by an enlightened knowledge of economic principles, or was he motivated and constrained by personal, financial, and political gains as presented to him at the time, gains that left a legacy of corruption which persist today in the Congo from when he monarchically owned it? Weigh and consider these contemporary economic views and resources that were available to Leopold II:
  • About Foreign Aid:
  • About the Natural Resource Curse:
  • Bruce's recent book:
  • Comments and Sharing

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    COMMENTS (6 to date)
    Lauren writes:

    Don't miss these insightful comments

  • Brian Micklethwait on King Leopold II of Belgium, at
  • Lars Smith on foreign aid at Conservation Finance
  • --Econlib Editor, taking note of some of the best of trackbacks and comments on other websites

    sa writes:

    this was an excellent podcast. loved it.

    Stuart Berman writes:

    Very insightful podcast. There is so much thought provoking content it needs to be listened to several times especially when considering how this theory could be applied to foreign policy.

    Arnold Kriegbaum writes:

    This is riveting. This is why I wade through a couple dozen podcasts, because I every so often am shown a kernal of new insight that changes my thinking about how the world works.

    By the end, Russ seems rather depressed about the implications for humanity, as if being reminded of a high school date that went very badly. Still, I would bet that while the coalitions of control etc. are not new ideas to economists, they were very new to me.

    Thank you for this excellent podcast, which proves that there is huge value in all the energy put into this computer stuff.

    Isaac Crawford writes:

    A great podcast. Thought provoking and gave me a new way of thinking about things. Studying political economy is one of the surest ways to make one cynical and/or libertarian minded. Thanks for the great info!


    Erik Guffy writes:

    Fascinating podcast. Cheers to Roberts and Bueno de Mesquita.

    Comments for this podcast episode have been closed
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