Compare and contrast democracy, authoritarianism, and totalitarianism.

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Authoritarianism and totalitarianism are very similar forms of government.  Democracy has essentially nothing in common with these two types of governments.

Democracy is the form of government that allows its citizens to have the greatest amount of freedom and the most control over their government.  In a democracy, the people...

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Authoritarianism and totalitarianism are very similar forms of government.  Democracy has essentially nothing in common with these two types of governments.

Democracy is the form of government that allows its citizens to have the greatest amount of freedom and the most control over their government.  In a democracy, the people are sovereign.  They are able to control their government because they get to elect its leaders.  For a country to be a real democracy, these elections must actually feature multiple candidates who are not just picked by the government.  The candidates must be elected to positions that have real power and authority.  In a democracy, the people have political rights. They have the right to speak their minds and criticize the government.  They have the right to assemble to protest.  In other words, they have the right to make their voices heard in ways other than just voting.  In a democracy, the people have personal rights.  They have the right to marry who they wish.  They have the right to live where they want to.  They have the right believe in any religion of their choice or not to believe at all.  In these ways, and many others, democracy affords its citizens more power and more freedom than any other form of government.

Both totalitarian and authoritarian governments deny their citizens many or all of these rights.  In both sorts of government, there are no meaningful elections.  For example, people in China do officially get to vote for some government officials.  However, these elections do not feature real competition and the officials who are elected do not have real power.  In both of these types of government, the people are not guaranteed many rights, if any.  Again, we know that countries like China do not guarantee the freedom of speech for their people.  They certainly do not guarantee the right to criticize the government.  In fact, they do not even guarantee seemingly innocuous things like the freedom to live where you want or the freedom to belong to whatever religion you choose.  Both authoritarianism and totalitarianism are completely different from democracy.

It is very hard to say how totalitarian and authoritarian governments differ.  There is no really clear distinction between them.  Instead, it is impossible to know exactly where a government stops being simply authoritarian and becomes totalitarian.

Textbooks usually distinguish between the two by saying that totalitarian governments try to control their people’s lives completely.  This is why they are called “totalitarian:” they try to have total control over their people.  An example of a totalitarian government today would be North Korea.  There, the government tries to make sure that every aspect of their people’s lives conforms to what the government wants.  By contrast, China is more of an authoritarian government.  People in China can travel abroad and have contact with foreigners.  They can speak their minds at times (as seen in the criticisms of the government in this link).  The government is more likely to allow them rights than the North Korean government is.  However, this is a matter of degree.  In both countries, people don’t really have rights.  They can only speak when the government says it’s okay.  The difference is that it is more often okay to speak in China than in North Korea.  This is the basic difference between authoritarian and totalitarian governments.

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