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Politics on Point: What's a Dictatorship?

Dictatorships are notorious for being scary, evil, and dangerous, but they still exist today. Nick runs through the basics of this government type.

Class Discussion Questions:

1) Create a Venn diagram comparing a dictatorship and a democracy.

2) How are monarchies similar to dictatorships? How are they different?

Read the Script:

[Nick] I'm in charge now and I'm going to tell you what to do. Okay, maybe not. But if you would kindly listen for a minute as I explain dictatorships, that would be great.

A dictatorship is a form of government in which all the power lies within one person. Some power can be shared with others close to the dictator, but the overwhelming majority of power resides with that one person. Dictatorships are notorious for being scary, evil, and dangerous, but they still exist today. 

If it sounds like a monarchy, that's because the two forms of government have a lotta similarities. However, there are some characteristics that set the two forms of government apart. Dictators tend to take power and not let go. They don't look out for their people's best interests, whereas a monarch does or at least is supposed to. 

A dictator may claim that's what they're doing, but their actions usually tell the truth. In fact, they usually take a different title because they don't like being called a dictator. 

One of the most well-known examples of this being in World War II, when German dictator Adolph Hitler was referred to as the fuhrer, meaning guide or leader. Hitler ordered the murders of millions of Jews, including citizens of his own country. 

Living in a dictatorship doesn't sound pleasant, so you may be wondering, how do they start and how do they stick around? There are plenty of ways dictators have risen to power, but a large number of them result from violence, taking advantage of a need for change in the country. 

In times of need, countries will sometimes give up authority to a singular leader for a time in order to settle a problem quickly. While it may have been the intention to be temporary, dictators can take advantage of this power in certain instances and hold onto it. 

Dictators hold onto their power by suppressing their people. They limit rights and only allow people to have information that they want them to know. This can include propaganda. Propaganda is any misleading information that's used to promote a political cause or view. This can be anything from lies about a country's wellbeing to fictional stories about a dictator and their supposed greatness. 

Because of these reasons, it can become confusing when a country is truly a dictatorship. Normally, outside countries will be the ones to label nations as dictatorships because of the lack of influence dictators have on citizens other than their own. 

Some of the most notable dictatorships have sprouted up in just the last hundred years. During and after World War II, the world couldn't help but focus on the cruel and unbelievable tragic dictatorships of Germany and Russia. Germany was controlled by the Nazi Party, led by the aforementioned Adolph Hitler. And Russia was at the time known as the Soviet Union and controlled by Joseph Stalin. 

Numerous crimes against humanity occurred under both men's lead, and yet many were still led to believe that they were each great leaders who would bring prosperity to their respective countries. 

Still today, dictatorships continue to rule over various nations without truly being recognized as one. Some use different labels such as "communist state" to distinguish themselves from being a dictatorship. 

As history shows with all forms of government, it's important to be aware of government officials and know when they have abused their power.