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Authoritarianism is used to describe forms of government where the citizen is subject to state authority in many aspects of their life, including many that other political philosophies would see as matters for personal choice.

Typically, the leadership (government) of an authoritarian regime is ruled by an elite group which uses repressive means to stay in power. However, unlike totalitarian regimes, there is no desire or ideological justification for the state to control all aspects of a person's life, and the state will generally ignore the actions of an individual unless it is perceived to be directly challenging the state.

Some people believe that countries ruled by authoritarianism can be economically successful. They give the example of Singapore which they cite as one of the most successful countries in the world, although it is ruled by an authoritarian regime. In Singapore's case, justification was given to its strict social behavior laws as "a way to force civility onto a third-world country", which it was at the time of its separation from Malaysia.

Another country once considered authoritarian in this sense was Spain, under Franco.

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