autocratic form of government which is ruled by a sole leader

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.


  • 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).
  • Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy.
  • 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.
  • If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.
  • Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.
  • Under dictatorship, the people in prison are always superior to the people who put them there.
  • 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.
  • People ask about dictators, "Why?" But dictators themselves ask, "Why not?"
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • Do you realise, for instance, that no one in England under 26 now has a vote and that so far as one can see the great mass of people of that age don’t give a damn for this? Secondly there is the fact that the intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. On the whole the English intelligentsia have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history, etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side. Indeed the statement that we haven’t a Fascist movement in England largely means that the young, at this moment, look for their fuhrer elsewhere. One can’t be sure that that won’t change, nor can one be sure that the common people won’t think ten years hence as the intellectuals do now. I hope they won’t, I even trust they won’t, but if so it will be at the cost of a struggle. If one simply proclaims that all is for the best and doesn’t point to the sinister symptoms, one is merely helping to bring totalitarianism nearer.
  • For two decades the supporters of Bolshevism have been hammering it into the masses that dictatorship is a vital necessity for the defense of the so-called proletarian interests against the assaults of counter-revolution and for paving the way for Socialism. They have not advanced the cause of Socialism by this propaganda, but have merely smoothed the way for Fascism in Italy, Germany and Austria by causing millions of people to forget that dictatorship, the most extreme form of tyranny, can never lead to social liberation. In Russia, the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat has not led to Socialism, but to the domination of a new bureaucracy over the proletariat and the whole people. … What the Russian autocrats and their supporters fear most is that the success of libertarian Socialism in Spain might prove to their blind followers that the much vaunted "necessity of dictatorship" is nothing but one vast fraud which in Russia has led to the despotism of Stalin and is to serve today in Spain to help the counter-revolution to a victory over the revolution of the workers and the peasants.
  • [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. In other words, it is urged now that in time of peace we shall confer the power of conscripting men by force of dragging them from their homes and putting them into the Army. That is a very different thing to my mind, from doing the same thing in wartimes. In wartimes a democracy temporarily creates a dictatorship. But it is recognized that when the war is over the dictatorship will end, although there always may be danger that at the end of the war it may not end. It has ended with us after every war. I say that if Congress can declare an emergency like this in time of peace, now, it can declare it in time of peace after the war. There is no way to draw the line. No one can see the distinction. War is war, and when war is over there is peace, and everyone knows that is the time when the emergency power should end.
    • 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

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