The Art of Political Manipulation

by William H. Riker

A short book about political maneuvers using real life examples primarily based in US politics. Overall, the book veers heavily into rational choice and showed some techniques to influence voting results. However, I found that these techniques often leaned heavily on rational actors and rarely mentioned non-logical parts of politics, in particular non-rational voting. I think it’s a great introduction book that sets an solid systematic foundation for futher education about politics.

The most memorable part of the book was the description of Lincoln in the Freeport election. Using a question to clarify his opponent’s position on slavery, Lincoln was able to exploit the polar opposite between beliefs at the local level and opinions at the larger party and national level.

More boardly, in rational decision making, everyone’s incentives are just so slightly different that no one truly has the same preferences as another. Using a myraid of techniques such as voting order, choices, and questions, these preferences can be divided such that the strongest blocs dissolve. The question here is about the non-rational elements such as emotions and how best to wedge into those. I’ll likely be reading a psychology book soon so stay tuned!


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