Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a professor of political science at New York University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is also called by many, with a straight face, the “New Nostradamus.”
The previous Nostradamus was a 16th Century Frenchman who used astrology and visions gotten from meditations and then wrote the resulting predictions of the future down in a series of obscurely worded quatrains that have been the subject of controversy and discussion for centuries. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita uses a mathematical formula based on years of research in political science and using games theory to predict future political developments. While Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and his mathematical formula, kept secret for propertorial reasons, are controversial, his results are not. They tend to be dead on accurate.
The story of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and his formula are a little like the idea of “psychohistory” invented by the fictional Hari Sheldon in the Isaac Asimov Foundation series. The differences is that future developments as predicted by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s technique can be changed if politicians make the “right” decisions.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and his work was featured in a rather turgid History Channel documentary “The Next Nostradamus” as well a more serious article in GOOD Magazine. Among Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s successful predictions have been:
“Forecasted the second Intifada and the death of the Mideast peace process, two years before it happened.
“Defied Russia specialists by predicting who would succeed Brezhnev. “The model identified Andropov, who nobody at the time even considered a possibility,” he says.
“Predicted that Daniel Ortega and the Sandanistas would be voted out of office in Nicaragua, two years before it happened.
“Four months before Tiananmen Square, said China’s hardliners would crack down harshly on dissidents.
“Predicted France’s hair’s-breadth passage of the European Union’s Maastricht Treaty.
“Predicted the exact implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement between Britain and the IRA.
“Predicted China’s reclaiming of Hong Kong and the exact manner the handover would take place, 12 years before it happened.”
One aspect of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s formula that makes it controversial is that it is based on the idea that decision makers always act in their own self interest, making a “rational choice” according to their perspective. One could question how that would apply to clearly irrational actors, such as Al Qaeda, who probably cannot to influenced by appeals to their self interest. It is at this point that war becomes inevitable, as it did after 9/11.
As for future predictions, according to the History Channel documentary, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita suggests a number of problems on the horizon.
General war could break out in the Middle East unless the Israelis and Palestinians settle their differences. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita suggests an incentive package based in tourism revenues. The less violence, the more tourism, the more tourism revenues.
Iran, not surprisingly, is another flash point. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita suggests that war will be inevitable if Iran gets a nuclear bomb. He suggests a diplomatic approach involving appeals to moderates in the Iranian political establishment.
Speaking of nuclear bombs, North Korea is also the possible source for a calamity. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita advises offering North Korea a firm treaty commitment not to invade the country as well as economic incentives if North Korea pledges to give up its nuclear weapons.
Despite the controversy Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and his formula causes in the academic world, he does have supporters. The CIA and the Defense Department have both used their services. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s new company, Mesquita & Roundell, charges a hefty sum to advise private companies on matters concerning litigation, mergers and acquisitions, and regulation.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita will not use his formula to predict the outcome of political campaigns for ethical reasons, at least on a commercial basis. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has, however, recently published a book, The Strategy of Campaigning, co-written with none other than Condelezza Rica, examining the political careers of Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin to demonstrate how political change can occur in situations where it is not thought to be possible.
Sources: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Hoover Institution
The New Nostradamus, Michael A. M. Lerner, GOOD Magazine, April 17th, 2008
Bruce Bueno De Mesquita:The Next Nostradamus, TVSpreadit.Org, November 30th, 2008