Politics Encyclopedia

Politics Encyclopedia

If you would like to prepare for school subjects or simply increase your general knowledge, then enjoy our politics encyclopedia. We tried to focus only on very important terms and definitions. We also kept our terminology very brief so that you absorb the concept more quickly and easily.

Politics Glossary (Page 2)

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CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED: People's acceptance of the form of government under which they live.
CONSERVATIONISM: The attempt to manage natural resources in order to maximize benefits over a long period of time.
CONSERVATISM: 1) The disposition to preserve tradition and resist change. 2) A political philosophy calling for reduced government and greater individual freedom in the private sector.
CONSOCIATIONALISM: A form of democracy in which harmony in segmented societies is maintained through the distinctive roles of elites and the autonomy of organized interests.
CONSTANT DOLLARS: Also called real dollars. These are dollars that have been adjusted for inflation, necessary for comparing the true prices of things across years. For example, your grandfather may remember buying a candy bar for 5 cents back in 1945. Today, the same candy bar costs $1.00. The difference is due to inflation - after all, it's the same candy bar, and you exchange the same amount of your labor for it. So in constant dollars, candy bars in any year cost the same thing. Constant dollars are expressed in specific benchmark years. For example, economists would say that your grandfather's candy bar costs $1.00 in "1996 dollars," and today's candy bar costs 5 cents in "1945 dollars." Economists devise huge tables to convert consumer prices into constant dollars, called the "Consumer Price Index." (See also current dollars; consumer price index.).
CONSTITUENCY: A electoral district with a body of electors who vote for a representative in an elected assembly.
CONSTITUTION: A document describing the governing principles of a nation or organization, as well as the rights and responsibilities of individuals. The difference between the constitution and law is only one of degree; the constitution describes very general principles, rights and responsibilities; the law describes highly specific ones.
CONSTITUTIONALISM: The belief that governments will defer to the rules and principles enshrined in a constitution and uphold the rule of law.
CONSTRUCTIVE VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: A system in which the majority in the lower house can bring down the government, but not until that majority approves another government (e.g. In Germany).
CONSUMER PRICE INDEX (CPI): A chart that converts consumer prices from any given year into constant dollars. These conversions are based on a typical "market basket" of consumer-purchased goods - food, appliances, rent, transportation, etc. For example, economists know that a consumers usually spend 15 percent of their income on food and 30 percent on housing, regardless of inflation. They can then compare the prices of things across years to calculate both inflation and the CPI. (See also constant dollars; current dollars.).
CONTAINMENT DOCTRINE: U.S. policy that sought to contain communism during the cold war.
CONTRACTING OUT: The hiring of private organizations to provide public services.
CONVENTION: A practice or custom followed in government although not explicitly written in the constitution or in legislation.
CORPORATE SPECIAL INTEREST SYSTEM: The pro-corporate lobbying culture that arose in Washington D.C. after the 1975 SUN-PAC decision, which essentially legalized corporate political action committees. Because corporations have more money than other lobbying groups, they quickly came to dominate the political process, forming 67 percent of all pacs and donating 79 percent of all "soft money" to political parties by 1992. (See also lobbying; political action committee.).
CORPORATE WELFARE: A somewhat disputed term in politics and economics. Liberals define it as unjustified government subsidies, unjustified tax breaks, or pork-barrel spending given to corporations. The difference between "justified" and "unjustified" depends on the economic benefit of the program. When Eisenhower's Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 paved the nations with highways, the construction companies that won these contracts were not receiving "corporate welfare" because the program's economic benefits were obvious. But when Congress awards $500,000 to a lobbyist to build an unneeded Lawrence Welk Museum, the result is a waste of both the taxpayers' money and the nation's limited labor and material resources.
CORPORATISM: The organization of liberal democracies in such a way that the state is the dominant force in society and the activities of all interests in society are subordinate to that force.
CORRELATION: A mutual relation between two or more things. In a positive correlation, both things increase together. For example, the hotter the weather, the more people go swimming. In a negative correlation, one rises as the other falls. For example, the hotter the weather, the less people wear jackets. A correlation should never be confused for causation. Sometimes the arrow of causality is easy to determine, as in the above examples, where the cause is obviously warmer weather. But sometimes the arrow of causality is difficult to determine. For example, poverty and social problems are correlated, but scholars argue over which causes which. Sometimes correlations form a vicious circle of causality, as when an alcoholic can't keep a job, but joblessness drives an alcoholic to drink. Sometimes correlations are not caused by each other at all, but by yet a third factor. For example, birds flying south are correlated with leaves changing their color, but neither is caused by other; the true cause is the onset of autumn.
COUNCIL OF MINISTERS: The Council of the European Union involved in political decision making.
COUNTRIES IN TRANSITION (CITS): Former communist countries such as Russia whose economies are in transition from socialism to capitalism.
COUP D’ÉTAT: A forceful and unconstitutional change of government, often by a faction within the military or the ruling party.
CPI: See Consumer Price Index.
CRANK: A person whose beliefs lie outside the scientific mainstream, but does not attempt serious or extensive debate with those in the mainstream. Martin Gardner, who invented the term, identified two distinguishing features of a crank. The first is that cranks do not participate in scientific conferences or peer-reviewed journals, but instead write for journals they themselves edit, and speak before groups they themselves founded. Second, they believe that the failure of the scientific community to adopt their beliefs represents widespread stupidity or corruption on behalf of the entire scientific community. Not to be confused with unorthodox scholars who do participate seriously in the formal channels of academic discussion. (See also scientific consensus.).
CREATION SCIENCE: A school of thought which believes that there is scientific evidence for the literal interpretation of Genesis. This includes a six-day Creation week, a young earth (6,000 to 10,000 years old) and Noah's Flood. Critics charge that it fails as science because its claims are neither predictable nor falsifiable. (See also science; scientific method.).
CREDIT: Any transaction which brings money into the country (e.g. Payments for the export of goods).
CRISIS SITUATION: A circumstance or event that is a surprise to decision makers, that evokes a sense of threat (particularly physical peril), and that must be responded to within a limited amount of time.
CROWN CORPORATION: Corporations owned by the government that assume a structure similar to a private company and that operate semi-independently of the cabinet.
CULTURAL IMPERIALISM: The attempt to impose your own value system on others, including judging others by how closely they conform to your norms.
CURRENT ACCOUNTS SURPLUS: A state selling more to the world than it is buying.
CURRENT DOLLARS: Also called nominal dollars. These are dollars that represent the price of things for a specific year, unadjusted for inflation. For example, a new car in 1920 might cost $100; today it might cost $20,000. Both figures are expressed in current dollars. Expressed in constant dollars, however, they would be roughly the same price. (See also constant dollars; consumer price index.).
CUSTOM: A generally accepted practice or behaviour developed over time.
CUSTOMARY LAW: Rules of conduct developed over time and enforceable in court.
DEBIT: Any transaction which sends money out of the country (e.g. Payments for the import of goods).
DEBT: 1) Something owed to someone else. 2) On a national level, the sum total that the government owes to the bearers of U.S. bonds. Not to be confused with the deficit, which is only the yearly total added to the debt. In other words, each year's deficit adds to the overall debt. (See also deficit.).
DEBT SERVICE: The total amount of money due on principal and interest payments for loan repayment.
DECISION MAKING: The process by which humans choose which policy to pursue and which actions to take in support of policy goals. The study of decision making seeks to identify patterns in the way that humans make decisions. This includes gathering information, analyzing information, and making choices. Decision making is a complex process that relates to personality and other human traits, to the sociopolitical setting in which decision makers function, and to the organizational structures involved.
DECISION-MAKING ANALYSIS: A means of investigating how countries make policy choices.
DEEP ECOLOGY: A form of environmentalism holding that nature and the natural order should be valued over individual human happiness.
DEFICIT: Occurs when the value of a state's imports is more than the value of its exports.
DELEGATE: A representative role in which the individual subordinates his/her views to those of their constituents.
DEMOCRACY: A government in which supreme power derives from the people. This power is exercised either through direct democracy (in which the people vote directly on legislation) or representative democracy (in which the people's elected representatives vote on legislation). Representative democracies are also known as "republics." So many governments have described themselves as "democracies," however, that the term has clearly become abused. For example, the former East Germany described itself as the "German Democratic Republic," on the fiction that its dictators were ruling according to the will of the people.
DEMOCRACY/DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT: The most basic concept describes the ideology of a body governed by and for the people; also the type of governmental system a country has, in terms of free and fair elections and levels of participation.
DEMOCRATIC CENTRALISM: The concentration of power in the leadership of the communist party, which in theory acts in the interests of the people.
DEMOCRATIC PEACE THEORY: The assertion that as more countries become democratic, the likelihood that they will enter into conflict with one another decreases.
DEMOCRATIZED DIPLOMACY: The current trend in diplomacy where diplomats are drawn from a wider segment of society, making them more representative of their nations.
DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE: The government department that has overall responsibility for the government's finances and its role in the economy.
DEPENDENCIA THEORY: The belief that the industrialized North has created a neocolonial relationship with the South in which the less developed countries are dependent on and disadvantaged by their economic relations with the capitalist industrial countries.
DEPRESSION: An especially severe recession. Depressions suggest that fundamental corrections are occurring in the economy, much more so than in the normal fluctuations of the business cycle. Keynes believed that depressions were further distinguished by what he called the "liquidity trap." This occurred when people hoarded their money, refusing to spend, no matter how much the central bank tried to expand the money supply. In order to get the circulation of money moving again, Keynes advocated that government should do what the people were unwilling to do: spend. Economists widely credit the defense spending of World War II for eliminating the Great Depression. (See also business cycle; recession; fiscal policy; monetary policy; Keynesianism.).
DEPUTY MINISTER: The Canadian public servant who heads each government department, manages the department, and advises the minister.
DEREGULATION: A government policy designed to remove regulations on market activity.
DESPOTISM: An individual ruling through fear without regard to law and not answerable to the people.
DÉTENTE: A cold war policy involving the United States, the Soviet Union, and China, which sought to open relations among the countries and ease tensions.
DETERRENCE: Persuading an opponent not to attack by having enough forces to disable the attack and/or launch a punishing counterattack.
DEVELOPMENT CAPITAL: Monies and resources needed by less developed countries to increase their economic growth and diversify their economies.
DEVOLUTION: A system of government in which the sovereign central government devolves (delegates) power to regional governments.
DICTATOR: In Roman Law, an appointed individual given exceptional powers in times of crisis.
DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT: A revolutionary seizure of power by the "vanguard" of society, the communist party, which then rules in the name of the working class.
DIPLOMACY: A system of formal, regularized communication that allows states to peacefully conduct their business with each other.
DIRECT DEMOCRACY: A form of democracy in which citizens vote directly on the bills and legislation being considered, without elected representatives or legislators. State initiatives and referendums are an example of direct democracy. Proponents claim it is the best way to circumvent corrupt politicians to enact the true will of the people. Critics claim that the public is not educated or informed enough to be voting on the nuts and bolts of government policies. (See also democracy; initiative; referendum; republic.).
DISALLOWANCE: A power given to the federal government in the Constitution Act, 1867, under which the cabinet can nullify any provincial law, even though it has received royal assent from the lieutenant-governor of the province.
DISCRETION: The flexibility afforded government to decide something within the broader framework of rules.
DISTRIBUTIVE LAWS: Laws designed to distribute public goods and services to individuals in society.
DOWNSIZING: Reduction of the size and scope of government.
DOXA: Greek word for an opinion that may be at least partly true but cannot be fully expounded.
EAST-WEST AXIS: A term used to describe the ideological division between hemispheres following World War II. The East was associated with communism, while the West was associated with democracy.
ECONOMIC INTERNATIONALISM: The belief that international economic relations should and can be conducted cooperatively because the international economy is a non-zero-sum game in which prosperity is available to all.
ECONOMIC NATIONALISM: The belief that the state should use its economic strength to further national interests, and that a state should use its power to build its economic strength.
ECONOMIC STRUCTURALISM: The belief that economic structure determines politics, as the conduct of world politics is based on the way that the world is organized economically. A radical restructuring of the economic system is required to end the uneven distribution of wealth and power.
ECONOMICALLY DEVELOPED COUNTRY (EDC): An industrialized country most often found in the Northern Hemisphere.
EFFECTIVE TAX RATE: The "bottom line" of what you pay in taxes. In other words, it is the true percentage of total income paid in taxes, ignoring such things as exemptions, credits, etc. More formally, it is the tax liability that a person actually pays, divided by total stated income. (Compare to marginal tax rates.).
EGALITARIAN SOCIETY: A social system which rewards everyone equally, despite their different talents and inputs. Such systems are created by expanding the rules. (See also meritocracy.).
ELECTORAL COLLEGE: The body which formally chooses the president of the United States.
ELITE: A small group of people with a disproportionate amount of public decision-making power.
EMINENT DOMAIN: The government's right to take private property for public use, reimbursing the previous owner with the fair market value of the land. Eminent domain is commonly used for building roads. Liberals argue that without eminent domain, roads would be crooked or not even built at all, due to the refusal of some private owners to part with their property, even at any price. Libertarians argue that the market will determine the best use of the land.
EMPIRICAL: Political analysis based on factual and observable data in contrast to thoughts or ideas.
ENTITLEMENT: Any government benefit paid to individuals, organizations or other governments that meet eligibility requirements set by law. The largest entitlement program in the U.S. is Social Security. Middle class entitlements comprise the vast majority of the U.S. budget.
ENVIRONMENTAL OPTIMISTS: Those analysts who predict that the world population will meet its needs while continuing to grow economically through conser-vation, population restraints, and technological innovation.
ENVIRONMENTAL PESSIMISTS: Those analysts who predict environmental and ecological problems, based on current trends in ecology and population pressure.
EPISTEME: Greek word for knowledge that can be demonstrated by logical argument from first principles.
EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY: The equalization of life chances for all individuals in society, regardless of economic position.
EQUALITY OF RESULT: The equalization of outcomes of social and economic processes.
EQUALITY OF RIGHT: Application of the law in the same way to all.
EQUALITY RIGHTS: A section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (s. 15) that prohibits governments from discriminating against certain categories of people.
ESCALATION: Increasing the level of fighting.
ETHNIC GROUP: A group whose common identity is based on racial, national, or religious association.
ETHNONATIONAL GROUP: An ethnic group that feels alienated from the state in which it resides and that wishes to break away from that state to establish its own autonomous or independent political structure or to combine with its ethnic kin in another state. Many ethnic groups, such as Italian Americans, have no separatist leanings; some nations, such as the United States, are composed of many ethnic groups.
ETHOLOGY: The comparison of animal and human behavior.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION: A 20-member commission that serves as the bureaucratic organ of the European Union.
EUROPEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY (EEC): The regional trade and economic organization established in Western Europe by the Treaty of Rome in 1958; also known as the Common Market.
EUROPEAN OMBUDSMAN: A mediator between government agencies and citizens who bring complaints to the European Union offices.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: The 626-member legislative branch of the European Union. Representation is determined by population of member-countries, and is based on five-year terms.
EUROPEAN UNION (EU): The Western European regional organization established in 1983 when the Maastricht Treaty went into effect. The EU encompasses the still legally existing European Community (EC). When the EC was formed in 1967, it in turn encompassed three still legally existing regional organizations formed in the 1950s: the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the European Economic Community (EEC), and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).
EUROWHITES: A term to distinguish the whites of Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and other countries whose cultures were founded on or converted to European culture as distinct from other races and ethnic groups, including Caucasian peoples in Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia, and elsewhere.
EVENT DATA ANALYSIS: A study of interactions, called events and subsequent events, used to analyze the reactions and counter-reactions of countries.
EXCHANGE RATE: The values of two currencies relative to each other-for example, how many yen equal a dollar or how many lira equal a pound.
EXECUTIVE: A small group of elected officials who direct the policy process, and oversee the vast array of departments and agencies of government.
EXECUTIVE BRANCH: In a government with separation of powers, this is the branch responsible for "executing" (that is, applying, administering) the law. That is, the legislative branch passes laws, and the executive branch puts them into action through its many various agencies. (See also judicial branch; legislative branch.).
EXECUTIVE FEDERALISM: A federal process directed by extensive federal-provincial interaction at the level of first ministers, departmental ministers, and deputy ministers.
EXTERNALITY: Also called the Spillover Effect. This occurs when someone other than the buyer must share the benefits or costs of a product. The classic example is pollution. Factories can either treat pollution, which costs money, or dump it for free into the air or water. If the latter, customers may pay a reduced price for the product, but local citizens also pay a price in higher mortality and disease rates, less fertile land, environmental catastrophes, etc. Sometimes the spillover effect is both positive and negative. An airport benefits its customers, but it also subjects the local neighborhood to various externalities. Positive ones include increased local business; negative ones include noise pollution. The problem of negative externalities is a significant one for those who believe in the efficacy of free markets. The Coase theorem is an attempt to resolve it. (See also Coase theorem.).
EXTRACTIVE LAWS: Laws designed to collect taxes from citizens to pay for governing society.
FACTION: An association of individuals organized for the purpose of influencing government actions favourable to their interests, now known as interest groups.

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