A dictatorship is a form of government characterized by a leader or group of leaders that hold government power with few to no limitations. The leader of a dictatorship is called a dictator. Politics in a dictatorship take place between the dictator, the inner circle, and the opposition, which may be peaceful or violent. Dictatorships can be formed by a military coup that overthrows the previous government through force or by a self-coup in which elected leaders make their rule permanent. Dictatorships are authoritarian or totalitarian and can be classified as military dictatorships, one-party dictatorships, personalist dictatorships, or absolute monarchies.
A dictatorship is a form of government characterized by a single leader or group of leaders and little or no toleration for political pluralism or independent programs or media.
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- DICTATOR, n. The chief of a nation that prefers the pestilence of despotism to the plague of anarchy.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
- Throughout our history, we've learned this lesson: When dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos; they keep moving; and the costs, the threats to the America—and America, to the world keeps rising. That's why the NATO alliance was created: to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War II. The United States is a member, along with 29 other nations. It matters. American diplomacy matters. American resolve matters.
- Joe Biden, 2022 State of the Union Address
- Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy.
- Jorge Luis Borges, Statement to the Argentine Society of Letters (c.1946).
- You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier.
- George W. Bush, responding to the difficulties of governing Texas, "The Taming of Texas", Governing Magazine (July 1998); also cited in Is our Children Learning?: The Case Against George W. Bush (2000) by Paul Begala.
- Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.
- Sir Winston Churchill, letter dated November 11, 1937, Step by Step: 1936-1939 (London: Odhams Press, 1949) p. 174.
- Dictatorship – the fetish worship of one man – is a passing phase. A state of society where men may not speak their minds, where children denounce their parents to the police, where a business man or small shopkeeper ruins his competitor by telling tales about his private opinions; such a state of society cannot long endure if brought into contact with the healthy outside world. The light of civilised progress with its tolerances and co-operation, with its dignities and joys, has often in the past been blotted out. But I hold the belief that we have now at last got far enough ahead of barbarism to control it, and to avert it, if only we realise what is afoot and make up our minds in time. We shall do it in the end. But how much harder our toil for every day’s delay!
- Winston Churchill, Broadcast to the United States and to London, 16 October 1938
- Under dictatorship, the people in prison are always superior to the people who put them there.
- Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes.
- Until modern times, royal birth was the easiest route to tyranny, but after the French Revolution the field became far more open. Among earlier tyrants, Caesar, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, and Shaka had to fight their way to the top. Herod and Cesare Borgia had an easier time, being installed by the Romans and the Pope respectively. From her roots as a lowly concubine, Wu Zetian manouevred her way to dominance. The rest more or less legitimately succeeded to power. Modern tyrants, however, usually rise through the military or politics. Napoleon, like most of the Latin Americans or Africans, commanded armies before he became dictator. The politicians campaigned for votes and won elections, like Hitler or Mussolini, or manouevred through the apparatus of an already ruling party, like Stalin or Saddam. Peron, anomalously, was a military man who was freely elected, while Solano Lopez, not especially skilled at war or politics, had the advantage of being the son of a dictator. Revolution and civil war also help: Robespierre, Lenin, and Khomeini led or exploited vast popular movements; Caesar, Franco, and Mao conquered their countries. A lucky few (Kim Il Sung, Trujillo, Sukarno) were helped into office by powerful foreign backers.
- Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption, London: Quercus Publishing, 2006, ISBN 1905204965, p. 5
- *In situations of de facto diversity, attempts to impose a single way of life on an entire population is a formula for dictatorship.
- Francis Fukuyama, "Liberalism and its Discontents: The challenges from the left and the right" (5 October 2020), American Purpose
- Dictatorship—A system of government where everything that is not forbidden is obligatory.
- Mirza Mohammad Hussain, Islam Versus Socialism, Lahore, Pakistan: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf (1970) p. 167. Originally published in 1947.
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- First of all, I have to say as somebody who was born and raised in a Communist country, I cannot criticize any action that led to the destruction of dictatorship.
- Garry Kasparov, interview with Bill Kristol (April 2016)
- People ask about dictators, "Why?" But dictators themselves ask, "Why not?"
- Garry Kasparov, as quoted in "Is Putin Popular?" (2018), by Jay Nordlinger, National Review
- Dictatorship rests on control of the military.
- Timothy K. Kuhner, Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution (Stanford Law Books: 2014), p. 261. The cited definition is from Michael Walzer, Spheres Of Justice: A Defense Of Pluralism And Equality (Basic Books: 1984), p. 316.
- The dictatorships, whether Fascist or Bolshevist, have been able to conceal their innumerable defeats only by ruthlessly using both the gag and the lie.
- Lucien Laurat, Marxism and Democracy, 1940, published by the Left Book Club, Victor Gollancz Ltd, London; translated by Edward Fitzgerald. Text online at the Marxists Internet Archive.
- Dictatorship... is devoid of humor. The basic reason why Americans will never endure a dictator is... their sense of humor.
- Emil Ludwig, Three Portraits: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin (1940)
- Attacking the press is a common ploy of autocrats and dictators who want to hide the truth. They oppose an open press that holds them accountable—and you know a country is in trouble when its leader tries to challenge and undermine press freedoms.
- Cindy McCain, Stronger (2021)
- [A]s a practical matter, the President is nearly always made a dictator in wartimes. But if we begin to do that every time Congress thinks there is an emergency, which is the theory we have pursued for some years, it takes very little, after a while, to make an emergency.
- Robert A. Taft, as quoted in Stathis, S. W. 2009. Burke-Wadsworth Bill (Selective Training and Service Act of 1940) ∗ 1940 ∗. In: 2009. Landmark Debates in Congress: From the Declaration of Independence to the War in Iraq, Washington, DC: CQ Press. pp. 327-336
- There was a time when all world leaders were dictators, when all leaders gained power through inheritance or through violence. Even the Athenian democratic period of the seventh to fourth centuries BC would not meet modern standards of universal suffrage. Because three of the major figures during World War II, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin, were vicious tyrants, they defined our current understanding of what a dictator is. In the second half of the twentieth century, democracy spread rapidly around the world and became accepted as an almost universal value that now even dictators feel compelled to placate public opinion by staging phony elections.
- David Wallechinsky, Tyrants: The World's 20 Worst Living Dictators (2006), p. 2
- Many people who are losing faith in the prospects of liberty look for a paternalistic dictator instead. Authoritarian leaders often rise by evoking the imagined glories of the past and stoking resentment both old and new. At the end of the Cold War, the world seemed to be traveling on a natural "arc" to a more democratic future, but today's new world order has instead become a promising springtime for dictators.
- Joel Kotkin, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (2020), p. 9
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