Friday, August 21, 2009

Of Corruption and Term Limits

David Miller briefly discusses term limits in this post about the 22nd Amendment that instituted term limits for our nation’s chief executive. Should term limits be extended to other offices?

David admits to being somewhat ambivalent on the subject. I too have long been indecisive about broader term limits. On the one hand, incumbency carries with it tremendous advantages for staving off challengers. On the other hand, shouldn’t voters be able to elect whoever they want, even a long-tenured incumbent? Shouldn’t they be allowed to vote their belief that there is value in experience? Shouldn’t voters get the natural consequences of whoever they elect?

In response to David’s post, I asked two questions that I think are quite pertinent.
  • How many really good elected leaders — so good that you wouldn’t want to replace them with ANY of the other people in that jurisdiction — have you seen during your lifetime?

  • How many elected officials that stay in office for a long time do not become part of the problem they originally campaigned to fix?
I don’t mean these as simply rhetorical questions. I ask them in sincerity.

Interestingly, it always seems to be the political class that most strongly opposes term limits. They discount Lord Acton’s axiom that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

It seems to be the basic nature of just about all politicians that the longer they are in power, toying with control over people’s lives, the more corrupt they become. The system in which they operate is so rife with distortions that they are often incapable of sensing its steady negative influence.

While I agree in principle that people ought to be left to vote for whomever they wish and that they ought to bear the consequences of their votes, we live in a very imperfect world. It is a world where power corruption has resulted in systems that overwhelm attempts by those outside of the power structure to significantly affect our political systems.

Looking back at my two questions, I suggest that the combined number of the objective answers to these two questions is “so incredibly small that the loss of such valuable service after a few years due to term limits would not be too heavy a price to pay for the benefits that could be derived by limiting service terms.”

Are there valid arguments against term limits? Of course. But does permanent incumbency really bring us good government?

1 comment:

RD said...

Term limits are a good idea, would love to see a 2 or 3 term limit on congress. I would love to see proportional voting on the house of rep's, to allow the 50% plus of American's that are not republican or democrat to have a voice in their own government.