For example what's in North Korea right now - people are given minimal privileges - why is this?

Aren't there some country which is both democratic and dictatorship? Like there is a single person which rules it but which doesn't take away most of the normal human rights. Or which have similar law as most other democratic countries - except who can change those laws - only a single person.

Maybe there is a historical example of such country?

  • Yes there is such a country : Singappore. It's a kinda rare/weird exception, though.
    – Bregalad
    Mar 16, 2016 at 12:57
  • 1st French republic?
    – Matt
    Mar 16, 2016 at 12:58
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    @JDoe Dicratorship means a single guy and/or a party have absolute power. They don't have to torture or execute people in order to be dictators, technically. Although in the real world, they might need to do that to continue to be dictators in the long run.
    – Bregalad
    Mar 16, 2016 at 21:37
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    @SVilcans No, Sweden is not a dictatorship. It is a constitutional monarchy. Please go educate yourself.
    – Bregalad
    Mar 17, 2016 at 10:27
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    For historical background, the term dictator originally came from a position in the government of the Roman Republic. The top executives were the two consuls, but a dictator could be appointed in times of crisis in order to circumvent the inefficiencies of decision making in a republic. At the end of the Roman civil war, Julius Caesar was appointed dictator for life (NB: not "imperator"-- Octavian was the first Roman Emperor).
    – Era
    Mar 17, 2016 at 14:33

2 Answers 2


Most dictatorships are extremely oppressive because a population that is struggling to stay alive is easier to control and present less of a threat of revolution. History has proved the masses can be very dangerous if they organize and unite against corrupt leadership. An effective way to prevent this from happening is making sure that most people spend the majority of their energy to keep their family fed and safe.

No there aren't any modern countries that could be considered democratic and a dictatorship. A dictatorship requires all power to be in the hands of one person, which is opposite a democratic system where power resides with the masses.

Historically ancient Rome is closest to a democratic nation with a dictator, since they would elect a temporary dictator. However this ended when Cesar used the power to make himself a true dictator.

  • 1
    On the flip side, a happy and well-fed populace is also less prone to revolution, but dictators who try to make their people happy are likely to fail in that effort, resulting in a people who are well enough fed to revolt but not fed well enough not to revolt.
    – Era
    Mar 17, 2016 at 14:38

This is really difficult to answer, because while these terms seem well defined, they really are not. Is Putin a dictator? By some metrics and definitions, he can be labeled that. Is Obama? Again, depends on your metrics, definitions and views. Are Iranian rulers? Are rulers of Singapour dictators?

The same goes for "repress". Is it "repression" when people have broad economic freedom like in Singapour? What about (claimed) broad political freedom but very limited economic freedom like is the ideal of Western socialists? What if the "repression" is only targeted at direct political enemies, like in Putin's Russia, but not as much at the broad populace? What about Sunni Gulf monarchies where people live the life of luxury (well, did before the oil price crashed) but are extremely restricted on a personal level both socially/religiously, and politically; but aren't typically brutally oppressed on the latter dimension in good times when nobody's revolting?

Having said that, there's definitely a strong correlation between oppression and dictatorship, which can be traced to a couple of reasons:

  1. Dictatorships frequently (though, as you can see in the laundry list above, not always) arise in resource-poor countries.

    As such, repression is needed to ensure control of said limited resources, to benefit the people in power and their supporters (the ruling clans and Sunnis like in Saddam's Iraq or Alawites in Al-Assad's Syria or North Korea).

    Of course, human nature being human nature, this doesn't even need to happen in resource-poor areas, see the house of Saud in KSA; or any of the empires of the past.

  2. Dictatorships can frequently lead to poor governance (since there's no incentive to govern well at the risk of losing political power), which increases people's discontent. Political repression allows the rulers to keep the power against that discontent.

  • 1
    1. Is the oposite of reality, dictatoships often arise in resource rich countries. If you have oil or precious stones, the likehoud of having a dictatorship is much higher than if you just have wood. stones and cheese as country's production.
    – Bregalad
    Mar 16, 2016 at 15:26
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    Do we have stats to prove whether authoritarian regimes are more common in poorer or richer countries? Mar 16, 2016 at 16:45
  • Number two doesn't make much sense. If they repress more, they get more problems, so they repress more to solve it, then get more problems. That's only a motivation to oppress more if they already intend on being oppressive, and shows a limited skillset. Mar 16, 2016 at 16:52
  • @PointlessSpike - Hard to say, especially since poorer or richer is also not exactly easy to define. GDP or even IPC are both poor metrics (in a lush tropical paradize where you can fish for food and don't need good shelter, existing on $1/day is likely easier than middle-class existence in Manhattan). But eyeballing, a vast majority of countries with high democracy/freedom indexes seem to be clustered around upper quartiles of wealth (which doesn't really address causality)
    – user4012
    Mar 16, 2016 at 16:53
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    @user4012 The problem with many dictatorships (like contemporary Russia) is that we cannot know if people support the official gov/party because they fear them, or because they genuinely support them. So it's impossible to tell whether they feel repressed or not. (the same is true abuout North Korea, by the way)
    – Bregalad
    Mar 16, 2016 at 21:35

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