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Hardcover | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780262025461 | 550 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 13 illus.| August 2003
Paperback | $36.00 Short | £26.95 | ISBN: 9780262524407 | 550 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 13 illus.| January 2005

The Logic of Political Survival


The authors of this ambitious book address a fundamental political question: why are leaders who produce peace and prosperity turned out of office while those who preside over corruption, war, and misery endure? Considering this political puzzle, they also answer the related economic question of why some countries experience successful economic development and others do not. The authors construct a provocative theory on the selection of leaders and present specific formal models from which their central claims can be deduced. They show how political leaders allocate resources and how institutions for selecting leaders create incentives for leaders to pursue good and bad public policy. They also extend the model to explain the consequences of war on political survival. Throughout the book, they provide illustrations from history, ranging from ancient Sparta to Vichy France, and test the model against statistics gathered from cross-national data. The authors explain the political intuition underlying their theory in nontechnical language, reserving formal proofs for chapter appendixes. They conclude by presenting policy prescriptions based on what has been demonstrated theoretically and empirically.

About the Authors

James D. Morrow is Professor of Political Science and Senior Research Scientist at the University of Michigan.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is Professor of Politics at New York University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Randolph M. Siverson is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis.

Alastair Smith is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics at New York University.


The Logic of Political Survival takes up the big question that has long puzzled social scientists of all stripes—why do governments that cripple or destroy their own societies survive in office for so long? The authors offer a detailed and convincing theory and subject that theory to withering examination by the data. A must-read for anyone who seeks to understand the fate of nations.”
William Easterly, Professor of Economics, New York University, and author of The Elusive Quest for Growth


CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2004