Democracy's theoretical purpose is to prevent the abuse of individual rights by unrestricted autocrats - for which history has too many precedents - but, in its current Western form, all it does is encourage the infringement of individual rights rather than prevent it, because it's seen as an end in itself rather than as a means to an end. To make matters worse, the mechanisms it has to prevent abuse -slowing and spreading the decision process- also make it impossible or very hard to reform once corrupt, and the alternative -violent revolution- has too many risks.
Ironically, the first example to come to mind when one thinks of modern democracies - Republican France - was from its very beginning probably worse than the preceding Ancien Régime. As noted in >>1287
, French Republicans created conscription as we know it; they also introduced to Western modernity hypercentralization, ethno-linguistic repression, mass political violence (see the Terror and the Vendée war) did you know Basque culture had far more freedom under Louis XVI than under Robespierre? did you know the Third French Republic brutally repressed minority languages in schools in the name of "Liberty Equality Fraternity"?
and other wonderful things.
Three other things to consider: >18th century absolute monarchs, due to limitations of technology, had less power over their subjects than modern democratic states do>The 20th and 21th centuries' genocidal despots (see >>1288, >>1291) almost invariably used promises of sweeping social change and the "we represent the masses" rhetoric to justify their cruelty. True reactionaries in that century were relatively merciful compared to these angels of change of revolution. >The Ancien Regime evolved organically over centuries of struggle between the King, the nobility and other groups, containing a patchwork of local institutions and laws; parts of it had a higher level of autonomy because they weren't even considered part of the de jure Kingdom of France! The First French Republic, on the other hand centralized all power to radically transform society according to the artificial projects of an enlightened elite. This distinction between organic and artificial regimes is important.
While, much unlike most people, I despise the French revolutionary ideal of democracy, there's a democratic model I admire - the Anglo-American one, developed organically out of centuries of struggle between the King, the gentry, the bourgeoise, the aristocracy etc. (are you beginning to see a pattern?) which recognizes that limitations to democratic impulse are just as important as limitations to the leader's power. This tradition gave us Victorian Britain, Rhodesia, early America, etc. but just as British liberalism was abandoned, never to return, in favor of central planning in the 20th century, so did the Anglo-American democratic tradition go through so much change that, in the current year, it is indistinguishable from the more common kind of democracy, and perhaps that's inevitable with that kind of system - the franchise expands, welfare is established, freedoms are curtailed, judges are corrupted, and soon the system's virtues are over.
I have read some absolutist political theory and heard of the arguments in favor of absolute monarchy -that it forces rulers to think in the long run, that as long as there's it's very clear who's de facto ruler there'll be more efficient governance, that even an absolute ruler has rational reasons to be benevolent, etc. and they leave me open to the possibility, but not enough to be enthusiastic about it. On the other hand, I've been indoctrinated since birth about the virtues of republican democracy, yet I see its decadence all around me. So which is the ideal system of government? I don't know, I have to read more political theory to have a clearer picture.