Democracy or Dictatorship: What’s Best for the People?

On the surface, this question seems to have a simple answer. Democracy! After all, it’s the government of the people, by the people and for the people. The famous words from Abraham Lincoln have been considered the definition of democracy for almost two centuries now. Yet, some historic and circumstantial evidence suggests that a country can fare better in a dictatorship than a democracy.

In this article, we look at some of the reasons why some people may prefer dictatorship over a civilian government. Also, there are studies that support which form of government is ultimately better.

Democracy or Dictatorship: The Fundamental Differences

They are both systems of government but this is where the similarities end. In a democracy, the leader comes through a voting process where the people decide who should govern them. In a dictatorship, public opinion or choice doesn’t matter in who has control. Typically, one man sits at the helm with unlimited power. Democracies are lenient while dictatorships restrict a number of basic human rights.

Throughout history, numerous countries around the world have witnessed dictatorships. These rules have even brought economic prosperity at times but most leaders have eventually faced resentment and dethroned through agitation. The primary reason behind this is the fact that dictators refuse to abdicate control and rule with iron fists for decades.

Why the Debate?

Nations around the world are experiencing tumultuous times with regular protests and uprisings. These instances are even recorded in countries where governments are democratically elected. These scenarios have led some people to comment that maybe the general population is more suited to dictatorships because this system of government can at least ensure consistency.

Are There any Benefits of Dictatorship?

In the past, there have been rulers, who although not elected, have ushered in new eras of economic prosperity in their countries. King Idris who ruled Libya from 1951 to 1969, provided a 9.78x jump to the GDP per capita of the country. Singapore owes its current economy to Lee Kuan Yew who ruled from 1959 to 1990 leading a 6.5x rise in GDP per capita. Then there was the ‘Shah of Iran’ who gave the GDP per capita a 3.03x boost between 1953 to 1979.

Today, countries like North Korea, Oman, Egypt and other mostly African countries still have dictators in power. Most of these regions are unstable in one way or another. Reasons can include strict regulations or sanctions from other countries etc. This makes it difficult to analyze the true picture of progress in these countries and thus provide any benefits for dictatorships.

Research Studies and Their Findings

There have been several studies comparing which of the two forms of government is better. One recent report by Georgy Egorov, Professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences provides evidence as to why a democracy fares better in the real world.

The findings of the report indicate that empirically, democratic countries may not be better than dictatorships. There have been examples of unsuccessful democracies and successful dictatorships. Prosperity for the people comes from the government that is flexible and overall, democracies have a better tendency to provide that.   


So, democracy or dictatorship? At the end of the day, there isn’t enough evidence to give a definitive verdict on which form of government is better but democracy remains the more acceptable one. In the global perspective today, it is hard for dictatorships to fare well because of resentment from other civilian rulers.

Also Read: How Politicians Decipher Public Behavior: 3 Books that Help you Understand


What do you think?