Governments around the world come in many different forms. One system of government is a democracy, which is based on the principle of political and legal equality. Democratic governments value civil liberties and hold competitive elections. The United States is a representative democracy, which means the government is elected by citizens, and government officials represent the citizens' concerns and objectives and pass laws for them. A non-democratic government vests power in a nation's rulers, rather than its citizens.

Democratic vs. Non-democratic Government

A good democratic government definition is a government in which power is held by citizens or exercised on their behalf by elected officers. On the other hand, a non-democratic meaning is a government run by officials who are not elected by citizens and are not accountable to citizens. A non-democracy is used to describe any system of government other than a democracy.

EIU Democracy Index

There is a sliding scale when it comes to democracy. Each year, the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index ranks the countries of the world according to how democratic they are. In 2017, the five most democratic countries were (from first to fifth) Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Denmark. North Korea, Syria, Chad, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo were found to be the five least democratic countries.

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The Index also classifies countries into four categories: full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime. This means a government may not be completely democratic or non-democratic but somewhere in between the two.

Forms of Authoritarian Regimes

The specific type of authoritarian state depends on who wields the power. One common form is totalitarianism, which features a leader or small group of leaders who ruthlessly seek to combine the economy, society and state according to a powerful central ideology. North Korea is a modern-day example of a totalitarian regime.

Another type of authoritarian regime is military rule, where the government is administrated by military forces. Countries under military rule in 2018 include Thailand, Libya and Sudan.

A dictatorship is an example of personal rule, where absolute power is exercised by a dictator. Dictatorships in 2018 include Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan and North Korea. When Adolf Hitler was elected leader of Nazi Germany in 1934, he established an absolute dictatorship. In his role as dictator, Hitler started World War II in Europe with the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and was central to the Holocaust.

About the Author

Claire Gillespie has been writing and editing for 18 years. She has written about high school and higher education for private clients and various websites, including SheKnows and Reader's Digest.