90

People are resources, dictators (and oppressive regimes in general) don't want them to defect to other countries because they want them working for their regime. Some of them are going to be people that the regime has put their resources into, like scientists and doctors, but even laborers are valuable for actually gathering and assembling the resources the ...


88

The only obstacle between a government by the people and a dictatorship are the people.


84

tl;dr: Because the middle ages are over. You no longer want to be King - you want to be President Most of the world used to be ruled by kings and emperors, but today the only remaining absolute hereditary monarchies in the world are Saudi-Arabia, Brunei, Qatar, Oman and Eswatini. There are still lots of countries which are still officially hereditary ...


79

Most democratic countries have a constitution which says how the state functions and what kinds of laws can and can not be made. Laws which contradict the constitution are usually declared invalid by a constitutional court. However, most democracies also have a process by which they can modify the constitution. This usually requires a larger majority than a ...


57

This is a question that the selectorate theory tries to answer. Essentially: As a dictator, you need to identify the people who are essential to you remaining in power. For example: the controllers of the army, the police, etc. Then, you need to establish control of the revenue stream. This can take the form of taxes from the people, or natural resources ...


54

I am old enough to have caught the communism era within one Eastern-European country (Romania). Trying to leave the country was a criminal offence and many died trying to do so. Many people that had to leave the country for business/sport events reasons were typically supervised by Security to ensure that they come back. A dictator is usually interested ...


46

It is not necessary. The army generals are OK taking orders from "Colonel X", because he is the head of state, whether or not he is a higher rank. (If they weren't, the Colonel wouldn't be head of state). Generals are used to taking orders from civilians outside the military chain of command. A dictator's power doesn't depend on his rank. ...


42

A good example of a system trying to prevent this is the Constitution of Norway. The constitution has various ways to protect itself from being altered in undesirable ways. Changes to the constitution require a 2/3 majority in parliament, and perhaps more importantly, they require two consecutive parliaments to confirm the changes. This means that if a ...


41

The short answer would be: Because even dictators cannot simply do whatever they want. Let's for example take a look at one of the oldest dictators of history: Caesar Augustus. Now, technically Augustus was a king in all but name, but couldn't effectively call himself one, because the Romans, since having deposed of their last king centuries ago, despised ...


38

The term 'democratic' literally means 'rule by the people'. In the West we normally associate that with a particular set of institutions — capitalist property rights, free and fair elections, open press, etc — but those are not the only form of rule that can be attributed to the people. Nations that derive from socialist principles are often predicated on ...


34

An excellent example is the German Democratic Republic. In the view of the leading socialists they were the worker's paradise and a counterexample to the fascist Germany in the West (that was not really the untruth in the first years because many Nazis survived unscathed). While in the West the Marshall Plan caused a fast recovery of the economy, Soviet ...


33

Sovereign debt is not cancelled by a change in regime. But sovereign nations cannot be compelled to do anything. If I have a personal or business debt that I can't or won't pay, then there is a system of law that my creditor can use. They can go to the court and get a order that is given to bailiffs. The bailiffs can then come to my home and take my ...


31

What makes you think there is a common secret? There are parallels and differences between all those cases. A government will not hold unless it is supported by a significant part of the population. That does not have to be a majority as long as there is no clear majority against the government which can unite behind an alternative. A government which ...


29

"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." A dictatorship can always manipulate terminology towards whatever they say it is. It's not like democracies can't manipulate opinion, as pointed out in Manufacturing Consent. It's just that a dictatorship can legislate it and punish dissent. And in the case of China, it can pretend to be ...


28

In both the French and British militaries, colonel is the highest rank short of general. Colonels generally command regiments; generals are in charge of larger groups like divisions, corps, or entire armies. This has two implications: Colonels usually have more direct exposure to the men under their command, since they tend to be more directly involved in ...


20

I don't know anything about the Chinese constitution, but the original meaning of the word dictator came from the Roman republic. The idea was that the democratic assembly was good for peacetime leadership, but in states of emergency where decisive action was needed, there would be no time for debate, compromise and consensus, and so the assembly should ...


19

To some extent because the Kims have fully embraced being despots and successfully coopted their military in supporting them. A lot of the successful rebellions, or at least protest movements, in the 20th century ultimately came down to the military refusing to shoot their own citizens at scale. People power sounds great, except it ultimately cannot ...


17

If you really want to know the details, the best resource I know of for the layman is the Cannonical Arab Tyrant's Manual. It was started as a hashtag during the beginning of the Arab Spring by online activist Iyad al-Baghdadi, and was built collaboratively by contributors. I'll quote some of the highlights below (skipping similar entries) Blame it on a ...


16

An example from Romania: Before the fall of socialism, it was very difficult to travel into capitalist countries. It was not completely impossible, but very difficult, so it was practically impossible for the majority of the population. There was an old lady we knew, who managed to get an approval to travel to the USA, because she had close relatives there (...


16

(I'll assume that these dictators you're referring to actually want absolute power. It's not obvious that this is the case in general.) The following quote is from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. For context: Lord Voldemort is the "big bad guy", the Ministry of Magic is effectively the government, and the Minister of Magic is the head of that ...


16

This is possibly a vestige of the term "dictatorship of proletariat", re-assessed. The Marxist-Leninists believe that any form of state (government) is the dictatorship of the ruling class. Thus, any capitalist regime is the dictatorship of bourgeoisie, any feudal regime is the dictatorship of the nobility, any slave-owning society is the ...


14

First, one needs to understand that no autocratic ruler rules alone. They always need key supporters. These key supporters might be called generals, dukes, ministers, cardinals, corporations, senators, advisors or something else, but fact is, whatever an autocratic ruler decides will only have effect when the supporters act on them. Now what if the ruler ...


14

There are, but what exactly those things are will depend on the specific political context the autocrat and democratic government find themselves in. The Theory A government of any kind is constrained to a certain set of actions. They may be constrained by formal institutions (laws, branches of government, specific scopes of operation) or informal things (...


14

One of the primary characteristics of leadership is legitimacy: a leader needs to present him/herself as as having a legitimate right to hold the powers of authority granted to leaders. Up until the late 18th century or so, legitimacy was tied to deeds and birth. Someone would commit a 'deed' — usually a military victory that demonstrated a capacity to exert ...


13

Many answer focus on resources (people and the money/products they can generate) and blocking of outside information (preventing people having other comparatives or being able to compare their country with others). One answer mentioned **cognitive disonnance*", and I want to take that as a starting point. I grew up in the era of the Soviet Union. Many ...


13

Other answers are right at explaining why a dictator shouldn't want to proclaim himself king. However, it isn't exact to say that they don't because even in the 20th century some of them did or tried to do, although most of them failed - which seems to confirm the answers that say that they shouldn't have tried. A few examples: Yuan Shikai (as Hongxian ...


12

Given your stated party affiliation, the implication is that you want to know how the US could become a dictatorship under a flawed but idolized executive who is beloved by the masses. First, you need an extreme popular support (at a 30-40% approval rating, you're no where close with present executives, so there). Next, you need to be able to get a super-...


12

@hszmv's excellent answer already alludes to this - there is also another major factor, to whit, the guys with big sticks. AKA, the military. Obviously, how the military feels about things has a very large effect on success of any major national transformation. If the majority of the military opposes your bid for power, no matter how "legal"/"democratic", ...


12

I don't know as much about internal politics of Belarus', but I can answer how it works in Russia. It's no secret, really. There is a strong cult of personality aimed specifically at Putin. A lot of state propaganda aims at creating an image of "good Tzar and bad boyars". I.e. anything good that happens happens because of Putin, but anything bad ...


12

There is the opposite concept, called odious debt. The new democratic government argues that the debts of the old dictatorship are not legimitate. Creditors are obviously not happy with the idea and fight strongly against it.


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible