Dictators, also known as autocrats, despots, or tyrants, are totalitarian absolute rulers with very few checks on their power. They tend to be brutally corrupt and repressive.
Despite being generally opposed as a method of government, dictatorships have support from across the world, although only when it suits people. The former Soviet Union, itself a highly authoritarian government for most of its history and a full-blown dictatorship under Stalin, supported dictators in its satellite, puppet, and client states. The United States has a history of supporting dictators when it is in their interests.
 Problems with dictatorship
While many people in democracies begrudgingly (or enthusiastically) seem to tolerate dictatorship because it seems to 'work' better in times of emergency, dictatorships have numerous, numerous problems associated with them. For the purposes of this list, 'dictatorship' refers to any anti-majoritarian government such as monarchies, theocracies, oligarchies, etc.
- Dictatorships have regularly had violent competitions for power either on behalf of the dictator or the would-be usurper. To the victor goes the spoils and when the prize is absolute power, there's very little people wouldn't do to protect or obtain it. Many examples abound through history from Josef Stalin's Great Purges to the many wars of succession for the British crown in the pre-Industrial era. Even if the dictator lays out clear rules about who is supposed to succeed him or her, oftentimes rivals or pretenders just flat-out ignore it and you have conflict anyway. Democracies by contrast have much more peaceful transitions of power.
- Going with the above problem, dictatorships also waste enormous resources on establishing security. In order to prevent challenges to their rule, dictators must obtain control of the media, army and police force, spy on the populace, etc. Classic example: North Korea. That state police and hundreds of thousands strong standing army ain't paying for itself, ya know. The money needed to keep a democracy functioning (polling places, franking privilege, etc.) is much lower in contrast.
- A corollary of the above two problems is that dictatorships rarely select for competence or vigour in the leadership below the dictator -- quite the opposite. An underling who is too competent, too popular, too effective, or too vigorous will usually be eliminated, leaving incompetent nonentities. This creates security for the dictator -- no rivals for power -- but it plays merry hell with succession and the period after.
- Also going with the first problem, the skills required to successfully seize power and to actually govern successfully are rarely guaranteed to reside in the same person. Mao Zedong for example was a downright brilliant guerilla and military leader. This guy was able to outfox both Chiang Kai-shek and the genocidal Japanese Imperial Army (contrasting craven milksops such as Stalin) so was obviously a shoo-in for dictator once establishing the People's Republic of China. But in a very cynical and horrifying application of the Peter Principle his personal badassery did not translate into prosperity for China, as he was totally fucking incompetent at actually running a country. But since he was dictator, thus holding absolute power, what were the Chinese gonna do? And despite all this the guy, criminally incompetent douchebag or no, undoubtedly earned his position. Many hereditary or yes-man dictators can't even give us the assurance of at least being good at kicking some butt. In a democracy, if you're good at getting put into office but not at governing, you get kicked out. Simple as that.
- Because dictators have absolute power, they often find themselves completely unable to forgo using their own power to enrich themselves and their supporters at the expense of their subjects. See: the disgustingly sybaritic buildings of the Catholic Church at a time when folks didn't even have closed sewers (even the Indus Valley civilization that came thousands of years before that had that!) or the special Communist Party shops or the opulent palaces of the tsarist government that they used as a hypocritical justification for overthrowing. What makes this especially ironic is that even though dictatorships benefit in the short term by looting their subjects and hoarding the wealth, in the long term they'd be even richer by letting a portion of that capital escape to their subjects. Monarchs in Medieval Europe and governors in pre-modern China held ridiculous amounts of power and wealth relative to their kingdoms, but an upper middle-class Westerner from this era would laugh right in their faces at how small and weak their wealth really is. Regardless, the ruling class in dictatorships just can't break the cycle of robbing Peter to pay Paul once it's established, so even after an initial period of increasing the welfare of the populace above and beyond the base trickle the march of technology allows the average prosperity hits a brick wall. Democracies put a hard limit on how much wealth the government is allowed to accumulate, voting in policies such as progressive taxation to funnel some of the money back down to the masses.
- It's downright impossible for dictators to get a handle on the entire government. It's no accident that as history marches on dictatorships steadily grow more incompetent; that's because government (and business) has become increasingly more complex both in form and the number of people they need to serve. To 'solve' this problem dictators have to end up delegating some of their power to underlings. It's already bad enough in democracies where people are encouraged to scream at bureaucratic fuck-ups--John F. Kennedy was famously completely floored at Nikita Khrushchev's demand to remove missiles in Turkey, since he had ordered them removed a long time ago and they hadn't gotten around to it. If it's that bad in democratic governments, how much worse do you think it will be in a government where delegates are immune to criticism from the masses, have the ability to reward themselves at the expense of the group, AND have an incentive not to piss off Dear Leader by doing something contrary to the wishes of their leader for the good of their people?
- Elaborating on that last clause some, making the delegation problem significantly worse is that underlings are tempted to sugarcoat bad news and avoid criticizing the dictator's plans or interventions and thus shield them from the truth. Which (notice how dictatorships are like a multi-layer marble cake of bat, dog, horse, Whores, chicken, and bullshit; the deeper you go into it the shittier it gets) leads to the next problem:
- Dictatorships invariably come to believe in their own propaganda and become increasingly separated from reality. You'd think that they would have the sense to keep their prolefeed separate from the reality of their situation, but - George Orwell's Party strawmen in Nineteen Eighty-Four aside - few dictators actually want to hear news that their policies are making people desperately unhappy for no good reason. Furthermore, this effect combined with the effect of dictators almost automatically trying to inflict their personal delusions and viewpoints onto the populace (rather than collecting it from the masses/bureaucracy) leads to cognitive dissonance and ignorance both self-inflicted and not. Again picking on Stalin and Mao because they really really deserve it, this descent into a fantasy world leads to catastrophic events like the the great Soviet famine or the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Democracies are much better about knocking some sense into the people that rule them, both because the trustees have to listen to them to know what they want and also to knowingly avoid taking actions that will piss off the populace. Margaret Thatcher and George H.W. Bush were very rudely jolted out of office in their succeeding elections because of ideologically-driven groupthink that led them to make unpopular decisions. This doesn't happen in dictatorships short of extraordinary crises such as the February Revolution - long after years or even decades of misery and which have a high chance of tearing the country apart.
- Let's have a quick aside for a second. While the 'tyranny of the majority' is often cited as a problem with democracy, the oppression of minorities is exponentially greater in dictatorships. In democracies everyone belongs to a minority group of some form (white male middle-class heterosexual Protestant, while a majority in individual categories, is a minority demographic taken as a whole) and have to form alliances to protect their rights; this is why, for example, Italians and Irish in the United States are viewed as 'white' even though they weren't in the late 19th century. It's no accident that, for example, the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s saw an explosion in rights for the underclass and minority as a whole because they formed alliances. Which unfortunately broke down going into the 70s, but that's another story. In a more contemporary example, even though in the 1990s American racial minorities had a more negative opinion of gay marriage than their white counterparts, recent polls in the 2010s show them as having more support for it than whites. It's not hard to see that, for example, if a surge of dominionism were to infect a portion of the populace it'd be crushed at the polls not only by non-Christians but by women and minorities who saw their rights threatened next. Sexism and racism are greatly reduced because political actors, if not exactly wanting the votes of the minority groups they're opposed to, don't want them to align with other factions and crush them and in the process ruin unrelated interests like tax cuts.
- By contrast, persecution of minorities is always worse in dictatorships. Dictatorships just plain do not need the support of anyone other than a small proportion of the population; rulers find it absolutely irresistible to persecute and crush rivals and minority groups perceived as a threat in some way or another and if they can't oppose them politically then how are they going to fight back? To make this problem significantly worse, after one minority group is disposed of dictatorships tend to look for the next minority group they can separate and crush, which allows them to steadily shape the populace in the form that they want. This process is almost inevitable in dictatorships, either by design (such as with the Nazi Party) or by trying to look for new enemies to keep the politics of fear gravy train going. Martin Niemöller puts the process succinctly and poetically:
|They came first for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
All in all, want to know why religious persecution is much less intense in Turkey than in other Middle Eastern countries despite having a similar religiosity index? Because it's a democracy. Duh.
 Examples of Dictators
These are all from the "modern" era; that is, the last hundred years or so.
 Axis powers in WW2
- Adolf Hitler - Germany
- Francisco Franco - Spain (OK, unaligned during WWII, but partially dependent on German support for his victory in civil war)
- Benito Mussolini - Italy
- General Hideki Tojo - Japan
- Ante Pavelić - Croatia
- Philippe Pétain - Vichy France
- Ion Antonescu - Romania
- Ferenc Szálasi - Hungary
- Vidkun Quisling - Norway
 Soviet powers, satellites, and leftovers
Not all of these remained aligned with the USSR, in particular Albania and Yugoslavia went their own way.
- Joseph Stalin - Soviet Union
- Fidel Castro, Raul Castro - Cuba
- Islam Karimov - Uzbekistan
- Wojciech Jaruzelski - Poland
- Erich Honecker - East Germany
- Nicolae Ceaușescu - Romania
- Enver Hoxha - Albania
- Josip Broz Tito - Yugoslavia
- Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi" Niyazov, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow - Turkmenistan
- Nursultan Nazarbayev - Kazakhstan.
- Askar Akayev - Kyrgyzstan.
- Emomalii Rakhmon - Tajikstan.
- Ioannis Metaxas, Georgios Papadopoulos, Theodoros Pangalos - Greece
- Slobodan Milošević - Yugoslavia
- António de Oliveira Salazar - Portugal
- Aleksandr Lukashenko - Belarus (Though his first election was democratic, there have been no free and fair elections since then, and all power has been consolidated into bat'ka [father].) (currently in power)
- Miklós Horthy - Hungary.
- Engelbert Dollfuß - Austria.
- Konstantin Päts - Estonia.
- Miguel Primo de Rivera - Spain.
- Kārlis Ulmanis － Latvia
- Antanas Smetona － Lithuania
For Western Asia, see Middle East
- Mao Zedong - China
- Chiang Kai-shek - China/Taiwan
- The Kim dynasty: Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong-un - North Korea (currently in power)
- Pol Pot - Cambodia
- Ferdinand Marcos - Philippines
- Suharto - Indonesia
- Lee Kuan Yew - Singapore
- Luang Pibul Songgram and Thanom Kittikachorn - Thailand
- Ngô Dình Diệm and Nguyễn Văn Thiệu - South Vietnam
- Syngman Rhee, Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan - South Korea
- Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, Khorloogiin Choibalsan - Outer Mongolia.
- Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Pervez Musharraf and Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq - Pakistan.
- Hossain Mohammad Ershad - Bangladesh.
- Than Shwe - Myanmar/Burma.
- Hassanal Bolkiah - Brunei.
 South and Central America
Dictatorships in the Americas are a rather sticky subject for the apologists of American imperialism, as many of them were supported at some point or another by United States authority.
- Carlos Ibañez del Campo and Augusto Pinochet - Chile
- The Somoza family: Anastasio Somoza García, and Luis and Anastasio Somoza Debayle - Nicaragua
- François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, and his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier - Haiti
- Maximiliano Hernández Martínez - El Salvador
- Manuel Estrada Cabrera and Efraín Ríos Montt - Guatemala
- Tiburcio Carias Andino, Oswaldo López Arellano - Honduras
- Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro - Cuba
- Manuel Noriega - Panama
- Alfredo Stroessner - Paraguay
- Alberto Fujimori - Peru
- René Barrientos and Hugo Banzer Suárez - Bolivia
- Juan Vicente Gómez and Marcos Pérez Jiménez - Venezuela
- Porfirio Díaz - Mexico
- Ulises Heureaux and Rafael Trujillo - Dominican Republic
- Getúlio Vargas, Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, Artur da Costa e Silva, Emílio Garrastazu Médici, Ernesto Geisel and João Baptista Figueiredo - Brazil
- Gustavo Rojas Pinilla - Colombia
- Juan Perón and Jorge Rafael Videla - Argentina
Dictatorship has been the curse of Africa, post-colonialism. Many of these dictatorships have not lasted long.
- Idi Amin - Uganda
- Robert Mugabe - Zimbabwe (currently in power)
- Muammar al-Gaddafi - Libya
- Nasser, Hosni Mubarak - Egypt
- Jean-Bédel Bokassa (a.k.a. "Emperor Bokassa I of Central Africa") - Central African Republic/Empire
- Ibrahim Babangida; Sani Abacha - Nigeria
- Laurent-Désiré Kabila - Congo (DR)
- Mobutu Sese Seko - Zaire
- Haile Selassie; Mengistu Haile Miriam - Ethiopia
- Hastings Kamuzu Banda - Malawi
- Samuel K. Doe; Charles Taylor - Liberia
- Yahya Jammeh - The Gambia
- Francisco Macías Nguema - Equatorial Guinea
- Maumoon Abdul Gayoom - Maldives.
- Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir - Sudan
- King Mswati III - Swaziland.
- José Eduardo dos Santos - Angola
- Blaise Compaoré - Burkina Faso.
- Idriss Déby Itno - Chad.
- Omar Bongo Ondimba - Gabon.
 Middle East
See also Africa, Asia
- Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi; Ruhollah Khomeini; Ali Khamenei - Iran/Persia
- Several generations of guys named "Saud" - Saudi Arabia (currently in power)
- Several generations of guys named "Al Sabah" - Kuwait (currently in power)
- Saddam Hussein - Iraq
- King Hussein (no relation) - Jordan
- Assad dynasty, current ruler Bashar al-Assad - Syria (in power at time of writing)
- United Arab Emirates
- Ali Abdullah Saleh - Yemen
 Pacific Islands
- Sitiveni Rabuka, Josaia Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama - Fiji
 Not quite dictators
- Hugo Chávez - Venezuela (sought absolute power, but it was rejected by the Venezuelan people)
- Princess Grace - Monaco (said to rule with a rod of iron).
- Hans-Adam II - Liechtenstein (Yeah, the locals voted against curtailing his powers)
- Hu Jintao - China (he was in charge of a highly authoritarian government, but didn't have absolute power)
- Kwame Nkrumah - Ghana
- Vladimir Putin - Russia (almost, but just barely democratic enough to avoid the label) Lately, hiding behind the "democratic" curtain and pulling the levers.
- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - Iran (does not have all the power and is not the head of state).
- Indira Gandhi - India
- The Pope.
- The Dictators, they're a rock group.
“”Your conscience might force you to vote Democratic, but in truth you want a Republican who will lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and RULE YOU LIKE A KING.