In 2011, John Quiggin hypothesized that we were on the verge of eliminating old fashioned tyranny, “in the historical sense of absolute rule by an individual who has seized power, rather than acquiring it by inheritance or election.”
I can understand his optimism. In the below photo, I am standing atop an abandoned monument to the absolute dictatorship of Enver Hoxha in Albania. There are a lot of former dictatorships in the world.
In 2011, in response to a post by John Quiggin, Doug Muir pointed out that there were still quite a few dictatorships left. We defined dictators as (1) a solitary leader, who (2) wields tremendous personal power, and (3) rules in a generally illiberal manner, and (4) will not leave office or surrender power unless compelled by force majeure, and (5) is not a traditional monarch. So we do not include Arab monarchies (like Saudi Arabia), collective one-party states (like Vietnam), illiberal democracies (like Hungary), elected governments formally limited by unelected bodies (like Iran), or military juntas (of which there seem to be none at this moment.)
Still, back in 2011, you could see a pattern. The New World was free of dictators outside Cuba. Every other dictatorship other than Syria was either in post-colonial Africa or the post-imperial Soviet space. And the Syrian dictatorship, many thought, was not going to be with us for much longer.
Another but ...
Today that pattern no long exists. Dictatorship is everywhere. Consider the countries that were dictatorships in 2011 and are still dictatorships in 2018: Angola, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Congo Republic, D.R. Congo, Cuba, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Rwanda, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and Uzbekistan.
The only two three countries to leave are Gambia, Zimbabwe and South Sudan ... the latter by dint of falling into prolonged civil war. (In comments, J.H. pointed out that Gambia is no longer a dictatorship.)
What about newcomers? Well, we have Fiji, Maldives, Nicaragua and Tanzania, and Togo ... plus Egypt, Russia, Turkey and Venezuela. It seems as though China has joined them and Honduras is making a play after the incumbent got the Supreme Court to nonsensically overrule the constitution and then blatantly stole an election.
In total we have six small newcomers and five major ones. Only two are in sub-Saharan Africa. Two have nuclear weapons.
The world is still more peaceful than ever before. But inasmuch as you believe that said peace is due to the spread of democracy, we may have some frightening years ahead.
I would like to be wrong. Please tell me that I am wrong.