While democracy has spread to many parts of the world since 1945, and many people now live in democracies, about as many still live under authoritarian rule. This means centralized government, power for the elite, and limits on the rights and freedoms of citizens. These conditions are not only widespread today, but have been the norm for most of human history. The last century will be remembered at least as much for the dictatorships it spawned – including Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and Mao’s China – as for the democratic transitions at its close. And in spite of the spread of democracy, the most prominent authoritarian states remain globally signifi cant, whether judged by their economic reach (China), as incubators of terrorism (Afghanistan), by their natural resources (Russia), or by their actual or seemingly intended possession of nuclear weapons (Pakistan and Iran).
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