iconoclastic - literally, refers to the breaking or destroying of images. Thus an iconoclastic person is one who who attacks or ridicules society's traditions or traditional institutions and cherished beliefs when he feels they do not live up to their ideals, have become corrupt or have outlived their usefulness. Martin Luther, who founded the Reformation by denouncing abuses in the Roman Catholic church, was a classic iconoclast.


idealism - the belief that politics should be governed by high ideals, based on the perception of how things should be rather than how they actually are. The term usually suggests impracticality, something that does not take into account the inherent imperfections and limitations of human nature and society.


ideology - the political doctrine of a party or group, as in communist ideology.


immigration - the movement into a new country of a person who is not a citizen of that country, to live there permanently.


impeachment - an accusation of misconduct brought against a person holding public office. The House of Representatives has the sole power to bring charges of impeachment, and the Senate has sole authority to try the case. Conviction requires a two-thirds majority. President Richard Nixon (1913-94) resigned as president in 1974 rather than face impeachment over his part in the Watergate scandal. The only U.S. presidents to be impeached was Andrew Johnson in 1868 and William Jefferson Clinton in 1998. Johnson was acquitted by the Senate. The case against President Bill Clinton followed a report by independent counsel Kenneth Starr that accused Clinton of perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and abuse of power. These were in relation to Clinton's affair with former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Those who supported impeachment of Clinton claimed that any violation by the President of the laws of the country are an impeachable offense, since the President takes an oath to uphold those laws. Others argued that perjury by itself does not rise to the level of a "high crimes" or "misdemeanors" that, according to the Framers of the constitution, was the sole justification for the impeachment of a president.


imperialism - the policy that aims at building and maintaining an empire, in which many states and peoples, spread over a wide geographical area, are controlled by one dominant state. Imperialism is the opposite of the principle of self-determination, which is the more generally accepted creed today. As such, although imperialism has existed from the times of Alexander the Great, it is not currently fashionable. Much of the twentieth-century history of the Third World, for example, was of the dismantling of the legacy of nineteenth century European imperialism.


implied powers - powers that are not stated explicitly in the U.S. constitution but can be inferred, based on the interpretation of the powers that are expressed.


import - to bring goods or services from a foreign country into one's own country for purposes of sale. The opposite of export.


import quota - a form of government control over the number of imported goods. It may apply to a specific nation only, or to all imports of a certain item. It is designed to protect domestic industries.


in vogue - fashionable. If a political idea is considered in vogue, it simply means that a lot of people are currently talking about it and advocating it.


inalienable right - a right that is derived from natural law, a God-given right that cannot be taken away. The Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."


incentive - something that acts as a spur to action. In economics, for example, a system of incentive pay, in which wages are based on production, rather than a fixed rate per time, may improve output. Salesmen who work on commission are also on an incentive system.


income tax - a tax levied by the government, at federal and state level, on personal and corporate incomes. Its main purpose is to finance goverment operations.


incomes policy - any government policy that exerts some kind of control over wages and prices. This is usually done to keep inflation down, and can take various forms: a wage freeze; voluntary controls; voluntary controls where the government sets a norm; a wage norm backed up by extra taxes on companies that exceed it.


incorporation - the creating of a corporation by going through the legal formalities. Applicants must apply for a charter, which is issued by the state, and which sets forth the powers, rights and privileges of the corporation. Also refers to the application of the protections of the Bill of Rights to the states, a process also known as absorption. See also corporation.


incrementalism - a cautious type of decision-making, often used in budgeting, in which a limited range of gradual changes to a given policy are discussed, and then tested by implementation one at a time. Incrementalism can be frustrating to those who want radical change, because it means that governments tend to carry on the policies of their predeccessors with only small deviations.

independent counsel - also known as special prosecutor. An independent counsel is appointed on the recommendation of the Attorney General to investigate possible wrongdoing by senior officials in the executive branch, including the president. The appointment itself is made by a panel of three federal appellate court judges. A special prosecutor is considered necessary toavoid a conflict of interest that might otherwise occur if the case was investigated by Justice Department prosecutors. The current independent counsel statute was created as part of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, following the Watergate scandal in 1974. In 1998, in the wake of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's four-year investigation of President Clinton, the statute has been criticized for allowing prosecutors too much power. The independent counsel law expired in 1999, and was replaced by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel.


indexation - a policy in the government pegs wages and unemployment benefits, etc., to inflation rates. As prices go up, so do wages. Countries that have tried indexation have often found that it drives up inflation even higher.


indictment - a document submitted by a grand jury to a court, accusing an individual of a specific crime.


individualism - the idea that the individual should be allowed to shape his or her own destiny, without having governments interfering and deciding on their behalf what is in their interests. Individualism is the opposite of toatalitarianism, in which individuals are subordinate to the state. Individualism developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: the Founding Fathers all believed in individualism, which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The free enterprise economic system is also based on the idea of individualism: if everyone pursues their own interests, the community as a whole will flourish.


indoctrination - instruction in or teaching of dogma, doctrine, principles, or beliefs. The term is usually used in a negative sense, to imply a rigid absorption of ideas or theories, without critical evaluation or intelligent thought or discussion.


industrial revolution - the industrial and technological changes that started in England around 1760 and spread rapidly to other countries. The industrial revolution laid the foundations of the modern industrial system. Its main features were the invention of new machinery, which led to large-scale factory production; the rise of industrialists who headed large enterprises; the rise of a wage-earning class; the expansion of trade; the growth of cities and the depopulation of the countryside.


industrialization - being industrialized, that is, to establish or develop industrialism.


INF Treaty - Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This was an arms control agreement signed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union in 1987. Both sides agreed to eliminate intermediate- and short-range nuclear missiles from Europe. The agreement was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1988.


infidel - a person who does not believe in any religion; an unbeliever. Someone who adheres to a religion different from one's own, particularly if that religion is non-Christian (similar to pagan). Now almost always used in a derogatory sense.


infiltration - penetration, in the sense of troops penetrating enemy occupied territory, or of spies gettng a foothold in a hostile organization, or, in an totalitarian society, the spreading of new political ideas which may be perceived as subversive by the authorities.


inflation - an economic situation characterized by steadily rising prices, and falling purchasing power. It is in part caused by wage rates increasing faster than productivity.


infrastructure - the structure that underlies and makes possible all economic activity in a country. Infrastructure includes utilities, and communications and transportation facilities. Sometimes the term is extended to include such assets as the level of education among a country's citizens, as well as their industrial and administrative experience and skills.


injunction - a legal order from a court that prevents an individual or group from carrying out a certain action.


insurgence - a revolt or uprising, as in, there was an insurgence in Iraq following the U.S. invasion in 2003.


insurgent - rebelling against the government or other form of political authority.


insurrection - rebellion or revolt, similar to insurgence.


integration - the opposite of segregation, integration means encouraging the free and equal mixing of different races, in education and public places. Integration in education was ordered by the Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954.


intellectuals - similar to intelligentsia, those who are perceived by themselves and by others as forming an intellectual or learned class. Karl Marx thought that the support of at least some members of the intellectual class was necessary for a successful socialist revolution. It is sometimes claimed that American society is on the whole suspicious of intellectuals, because intellectualism smacks of elitism, which is contrary to the American democratic tradition. It is a rare politician who admits to having intellectual interests; the down-home, man-of-the-people image is considered a better vote-getter.


interest - a group of people with a common cause, as in business interest; extra money paid for the use of money that is lent; benefit or advantage, as in it is in his interest to go.


interest group - a group that lobbies for the interests of its members. This activity is protected by the First Amendment, "the right of the people peacably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances." Interest groups mediate between individuals and the state. They may promote their interests by working to elect officials who are sympathetic to their cause. They may make donations to election campaign funds, for example-a practice that has recently come under fire, as the public perception has grown that many elected officials are virtual prisoners of special interest groups. Others say that the activities of many different interest groups that influence policy are a healthy sign of a pluralist system. See also lobby.


intermediate-range missiles - missiles that can carry nuclear warheads over a distance of 600-3,000 miles. These include U.S. cruise missiles (range of 1,600 miles) and Pershing II missiles (range of 1,100 miles.) The numbers of these missiles was greatly reduced by the INF treaty in 1987.


International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - UN agency which works for the acceleration of the peaceful use of atomic energy in order to create peace, health and prosperity throughout the world; it encourages research and development on the peaceful uses of atomic energy. Headquarters is in Vienna, Austria.


International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the United Nations - the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, sometimes known simply as the World Court. Its jurisdiction covers cases that are submitted to it by U.N. members; it gives advisory opinions and renders judgments. The Court has 15 judges, elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council, for 9-year terms. It sits in The Hague, Netherlands.


international law - rules, principles and conventions that govern the relations between states. International law has been built up piecemeal through agreements, tribunals, international conferences, long-established customs. There is no international law-making body, as such, and national governments themselves decide whether they will adhere to the principles and conventions of international law. The Statute of the International Court states the basis on which international law rests, and on which it adjudicates in cases brought before it: "(a) international conventions, whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states; (b) international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law; (c) the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations."

International Monetary Fund (IMF) - the IMF was established in 1946, with 39 members. In 2010, membership stood at 186 countries, which included all the major countries of the world. One of the newest members is Kosovo, which joined in 2009. Each member contributes to a pool of funds which are made available, under certain conditions, to countries that need temporary help. The United States, with the world's largest economy, contributes most to the IMF, providing about 17 percent of total quotas. Financial assistance is usually accompanied by requirements designed to get the recipients' economy onto a more secure footing. The goal of the IMF is to keep currencies stable so that financial weak spots do not unbalance the world economy or allow individual nations to go bankrupt.


internationalism - the belief that the greatest possible cooperation between nations in trade, culture, education, government, etc. is the best way to build peace. This is the opposite of isolationism and nationalism. In the twentieth century the founding of the League of Nations (1919) and the United Nations (1945) were great steps forward for internationalism. See also isolationism; nationalism.


intervention - interference of one state in the affairs of another, as in the question sometimes asked in the first decade of the twenty-first century, should the U.S. intervene in Sudan?


interventionism - the policy that advocates intervention in the affairs of other nations in specific instances or as a general principle. Intervention can be military, as when the U.S. threatened to invade Haiti in 1994, or humanitarian, as when the U.S. led a mission to Somalia in 1992.


investment - in terms of economics, investment is the spending of money on capital equipment, suchas factories or machinery. In a more general sense, investment refers to purchasing an asset which can produce more money (buying shares, for example), or to any expenditure that involves a temporary loss in the hope of future benefit.

invisible hand - a term coined by Adam Smith in his classic text, The Wealth of Nations (1776). The idea is that if everyone in a society is pursuing their own economic self-interest, an "invisible hand" ensures that they will also be serving the interests of society as a whole. Self-interest is equated with universal interest. Such a notion is at the heart of the free enterprise system. Smith's phrase is that a person guided by self-interest will be "led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."


iron curtain - a phrase made famous by British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, in a speech at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri in 1946, when he said, "An iron curtain has descended across the continent." The iron curtain divided democratic Western Europe from the communist Eastern bloc, consisting of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.


Islamic fundamentalism - a movement designed to return Muslim countries, many of whom are ruled by secular governments, to a system of government based on the principles of the Koran. Islamic fundamentalism made its first impact in recent history in 1979, when it was responsible for the overthrow of the Western-backed Shah of Iran, replacing him with a virulently anti-western government that was strongly influenced by conservative Islamic clerics. Islamic fundamentalists oppose the Westernization of their countries because they believe it undermines the traditional religious values of their society. They want to install Islamic law, shari'a, under which, for example, alcohol would be outlawed, and sexes would be segregated in the workplace. Islamic law is also known for its harsh penal code, including the amputation of hands and feet of criminals. Islamic fundamentalists waged an unsuccessful civil war against Algeria's secular government in the 1990s. Fundamentalism in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood is also a force in Egypt and other Arab countries, and amongst the Palestinians, in the form of Hamas. There is a widespread fear in the West that Islamic fundamentalism in its militant form could become a strong destabilizing force in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Some even suggest that now that the Cold War is over, Islamic fundamentalism has replaced the Soviet Union as the greatest danger to the West. This is an extreme view, and ignores the diversity amongst Muslim groups, not all of whom are a threat to Western interests. However, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001, fear of Islamic radicalism has only increased in the West.


isolationism - the policy of detaching one's country as much as possible from international affairs. American foreign policy in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and then again between the two world wars, was dominated by isolationism. It was made possible by America's relative physical isolation, with oceans on either side of it. This policy was abandoned after World War II, in part because of the decline of British power, the rise of the Soviet Union, and the technological revolution in weaponry that rendered the U.S. vulnerable to attack as never before. In today's interdependent world it would be hard to imagine a situation in which America, or any major power, could pursue a pure isolationist policy. However, in recent years isolationist tendencies have surfaced in some right-wing quarters, under the guise of a lack of support for the United Nations, and opposition to American participation in it.


ivory tower - used figuratively to refer to a place cut off from the real world. If a professor at a university, for example, comes up with a controversial idea to solve some social problem people will be quick to say that he lives in an ivory tower and does not understand the nature of the real world.


Jacobinism - the political doctrines of the Jacobins, a society of revolutionary democrats in France during the time of the French Revolution (1789-1794). The term can be used to refer to any political radicalism.

Jeffersonian democracy - refers to the principles held by President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), some of which, such as the belief in the inalienable rights of the indivdual and the hatred of despotism, can be found in the Declaration of Independence, of which he was the principal author. Jefferson's ideal was an agrarian society, made up of self-sufficent farmers, under the leadership of natural aristocrats by means of republican institutions. Jefferson disliked industrialization and the growth of big cities. He also preferred a weak federal government, with authority vested in state and local government, as a protection against government abuse of power.


jihad - an Arabic term meaning "striving" or "effort" in the service of God, which was applied to political conquest on behalf of Islam. Thus a jihad is a holy war.


jingoism - aggressive and warlike patriotism. Usually used in a derogatory sense. A politician might advocate a jingoistic foreign policy, but he would not call it that???a task which would be left to his opponents.


judicial review - the power of the Supreme Court to decide whether a law is consitutional or not.


judiciary - the branch of government, and the system of courts, that interprets the law.


junta - the term for a military government.


jurisdiction - the right of a political or legal authority to exercise that authority over a territory, subject or person, as in the case came under the jurisdiction of the district court.


jurisdictional dispute - a dispute between government bodies over which one has authority over a particular area, for the providing of services, taxation, or prosecution in a criminal case.


jurisprudence - the science of law, or a system of laws.


just war - a war which is supported by the overwhelming majority of people in the country that is fighting the war, because they believe that they are in the right. World War II is considered a just war, because it was universally known amongst the U.S. and its allies that Nazi Germany was evil. The war in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s would not generally be referred to as a just war, because the lines between good and evil were not so easy to determine.


Keynesianism - the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), and his followers. The Englishman Keynes's best known work was the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936 at the height of the Great Depression. Keynes shifted the attention of economists from microeconomics to macroeconomics. Much of his book is on the causes of unemployment. Keynes stated that the economy had no self-balancing equilibrium that resulted in full employment, as classical economics insisted. On the contrary, it could be in equilibrium at less than full employment (the first time this theory had been proposed). Keynes believed it was therefore the job of government to stimulate spending through deficit financing to ensure full employment. Keynes's theory was vastly influential. Since then governments have tended to accept a responsibility to provide full employment, although they have not always been successful in doing so. See also classical economics; neo-classical economics.


keynote - the main point in a lecture or discussion, as in the keynote of the President's address was the importance of moral values.


kitchen cabinet - the closet advisors of a president or prime minister. A kitchen cabinet may well consist of people who are not members of a formal cabinet. They may be close friends or cronies of the president, who trusts and values their advice.

© copyright 2013 by Executive Clarity. All Rights Reserved • email: editor@iamericanspirit.com