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Another rationale for term limits
Posted by: Billy Hollis on Saturday, December 01, 2007

Don Surber makes an interesting point:
Term limits would save taxpayers at least $4.3 billion in pork alone.
He backs that up by analyzing how much more is spent by Congressmen and Senators who have been in office the longest.

I'm sympathetic to his argument, but I can't get excited about it. $4.3 billion is peanuts. Though I'll take any reductions in government spending that present themselves, I can no longer get excited by anything less than $100 billion. Which, of course, means I very rarely get excited by news of reduction in government spending...

But I do like the idea of term limits, and I wish they would return as a campaign issue.

I don't think there is a consistent libertarian position on term limits. I've heard libertarians oppose them because they reduce choice. The argument goes roughly like this: Why should voters lose the chance to keep sending, say, a Tom Coburn back to the Senate for decades?

That strikes me as a great example of the fallacies of purist libertarian thinking. The hidden assumption is that voters really have an open choice in who they vote for. But that choice is already quite limited. Our two-party system ensures it.

I'd posit instead that term limits increase choice in politicians, because it throws open races that would otherwise be foregone conclusions because of the money and power of the incumbent. I find it difficult to believe that a legislature with 11% approval but 95% plus re-election rates offers the electorate anywhere near the optimal amount of choice.

However, the main reason I favor term limits is because I think career politicians become utterly detached from the real world. Many (most?) of them go from law school to some short law career to politics, and then spend decades in a fantasyland. Washington is like Hogwarts to these people. They are induced by the culture there to believe they can perform magic by passing laws. Inside the Beltway, that magic actually works; they get great press from newspaper reporters than have an extreme bias in favor of activist government, and they get treated like royalty on an everyday basis.

I don't see any cure for this problem that does not involve forcing these people into the real world, and that means term limits. I agree with former senator and presidential chief of staff Howard Baker, who believes that our system simply does not work well with career politicians. He prefers what he calls a "citizen legislature". That makes a lot of sense to me.

The pessimist in me says it's all academic anyway. These power hogs are not going to allow anything to stand in the way of their lifetime career in politics.

The optimist in me says that with 11% approval ratings, and the other signs of complete lack of confidence in our political leadership, that the time for dramatic change has never been better. I sure wish I knew how to capitalize on that.
 
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I doubt term limits would save a dime. Rather, I would expect spending to soar.

When I was a young and naive, I once overheard a fellow co-worker say that "the supervisors in his township are crooks." Like I said, being naive, I responded "so why don’t you throw them out of office." The man smiled at me and said "You don’t understand .. these guys already have their pockets full .. if we elect new supervisors they will have to start all over again filling their pockets".

So there you have it. Politics at the ground level.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
the non-term limit government is a testament to how much a populace likes to vote itself free cake, most people are just too naive to understand that an enforced limit is there to prevent corruption and dictatorship. all they want is their damn cake year after year. Otherwise an enforced term limit would not be needed as we could simply vote in such a way as to make it so.
 
Written By: josh b
URL: http://
The only time I’ve ever contributed to political campaigns was 1994. I was revved up over the "Contract with America" and the promises to dismantle organizations like the Dept of Education, IRS reform, etc. We need to get back to those days and then hold some toes to the flame. Is Steve Largent still in Congress?
An interesting post here from the National Taxpayers Union.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
The argument against term limits is not a libertarian argument, it is a democracy argument. Term limits are not an issue upon which there is a principled libertarian position.

The libertarian take depends on whether there will be more government with term limits or not. There are arguments both ways, but a libertarian realizes that most of the kind of people who are attracted to "public service" are not going to be friendly to liberty, whether they are term limited or not.

A citizen legislature may be more responsive to the majority, which is not a good thing if you are a minority (which taxpayers are rapidly becoming).
 
Written By: newshutz
URL: http://
The government is the government. We are allowed to put limitations on what they can do. Term limits are a form of limiting government so to speak.
 
Written By: Jimmy the Dhimmi
URL: http://www.warning1938alert.ytmnd.com
I agree with Neo. Term limits would just make Congressmen even more short sighted. Now Representatives would just be ogling that Senator position even earlier, and pandering as fast as they can to get there. Since they’d have even less time in DC now, they’d feel the pressure...to soak up as much moolah as possible! Law of unintended consequences would strike here, I think.
 
Written By: James O
URL: http://
The problem with hard term limits, it that half a politician’s career he’s answerable to no one. The opportunity to buy a politician gets easier if half of them are not beholding to anyone and they can take a job with you soon.

I’d say that the best thing would be a compromise. Soft term limits where two terms in office is followed by two terms ineligible for office.

This would force one particular office to have at least two or more active candidates per party. Old politicians would lose the advantage of being the incumbent and be re-elected for the previous record whether it was good or bad.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
That strikes me as a great example of the fallacies of purist libertarian thinking. The hidden assumption is that voters really have an open choice in who they vote for.

Anyone who can recognize the potentiality for purist libertarian thinking to contain assumptions that are not replicated in reality, is someone who will at least sometimes write things worth reading. Thumbs up.

Of course, the contrary point is ridiculously easy to argue, that voters really do have the choice of voting for literally anyone they want to vote for, as long as the ballot contains the space to write in a name - or even a mechanism for registering candidates that does not specifically prohibit any individual or category of them.

The fact that 99.9 percent of the candidates actually voted for are one of two individuals funneled out of the system can be discarded as totally irrelevant, since it’s easy to see that people have the physical choice to vote for anyone they want.

All you have to do is discard and ignore all behavioral influence mechanisms short of outright physical coercion - like a libertarian or a neoclassical economist - and the system is perfect.

I’m also a fan of term limits.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I’d posit instead that term limits increase choice in politicians, because it throws open races that would otherwise be foregone conclusions because of the money and power of the incumbent. I find it difficult to believe that a legislature with 11% approval but 95% plus re-election rates offers the electorate anywhere near the optimal amount of choice.


Contrary position - for purely selfish reasons it is better for your representative to be powerful rather than weak. If you find a good one it is better to keep him/her around to mature into power. However can certainly see the benefit of limiting the terms of all the rest of the crooks.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
I used to think that term limits should probably be considered as part of the essential tool-kit for enforcing reasonable behavior on politicians, but in retrospect I’ve come to believe that they’ll cause more trouble than they’re worth. The "law of unintended consequences" in this case seems to be awfully easy to predict if all of Congress was term-limited: K-Street will dominate all of congressional politics, immediately, beyond even the current state of affairs, and the Congressional staff will be the vector through which Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy will act. It’s moved that way since (effectively) the 1920’s and ’30’s, term-limiting the politicians will simply make this phenomenon the dominant force in all political questions, not just the "regulatory-capture" state that is currently the case.
 
Written By: kd
URL: http://

 
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