Pros and Cons of Term Limits

Topic: LawGovernment
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Last updated: April 10, 2019

| | |TERM LIMITS | | | | |Arguments in favor… |Arguments against… | | | | | |A failure by what standard?The procedures established by the Founding| |The current Congress is a dismal failure and is desperate need of new |Fathers have served us very well for over two hundred years, thank you| |ideas, procedures, and influence. |very much, and have made the U.

S the strongest, most prosperous | | |country in the world. | | | | |Political machines make it very difficult to remove incumbents from |The founding fathers established a system of checks and balances that | |office. |deliberately made it difficult to remove officeholders such as judges | | |and legislators.

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This was intended as a check on the people, a way of | | |preventing “mob rule” from destabilizing the life of the nation. | | | | | |Term limits kick out the good leaders who may deserve to stay in | | |office for excellent work. | | | | | Every job has a learning curve, and Congress is no exception. Any new | | |politicians would have to go through that when they come into office. | | | | | |Politicians who leave office take with them a lot of experience and | | |contacts that are essential to get things done.

New leaders would have| | |to develop these from scratch. | | | |Lobbyists and big-money campaign contributors usually direct their |In a 2005 study, U of I political science scholar Chris Mooney found | |efforts at those in power, making it difficult for a new candidate to |that term limits tend to increase the power and number of lobbyists, | |get off the ground. |and also lead them to act less ethically than would otherwise be the | | |case, due to the lack of long-term, trust-based relationships between | | |the parties involved. | | | | | | | | | |Politicians are less likely to be focused on special interests and |Quite the opposite: politicians who know that they will not have the | |pork-barrel spending if they cannot stay in office indefinitely.

|opportunity to build a long-term, financially rewarding career will be| | |tempted to “cash in” while they still can. | | | | |Lack of term limits leads to a ystem of seniority, meaning those who |Chris Mooney’s 2005 study, mentioned above, found that states with | |have spent the most time in office gain more power (in committees, |term limits typically experience a massive growth in the number of | |procedures, etc. ); consequently, politicians focus on staying in |registered lobbyists, who can no longer afford to concentrate on | |office, districts and states don’t receive equal power in Congress, |committee heads and thus need larger staffs to persuade newly elected | |and fresh new elected officials have limited ability to make changes. |officials to support their position. | | | | |Incidentally, the Founding Fathers did not intend for states to have | | |an equal voice in the legislative process; hence the House of | | |Representatives, wherein representation is apportioned on the basis on| | |population. | | | | |Term limits lead to a “citizen” Congress, rather than one filled with |Not true. Even if particular individuals are forced out of the office,| |lawyers and career politicians. |the parties to which they belong will seek to replace them with people| | |who hold the same views and will tow the party line no matter what.

| | | | |In addition, a 2006 study of all fifty states (by Carey et al. ) found | | |that legislators subject to term limits are no less likely to be | | |driven by concerns about their careers, while the overall level of | | |professionalism decreases in term limit states. | | | | |Finally, a 2008 study by Hays and Sowa found that term limits have | | |helped to rupture long-standing alliances between legislators and | | |public managers, with some evidence suggesting that public agencies | | |have high turnover and less employee security in term limit states, | | |with a resulting deficit in agency performance.

| | | | | | | | | |There is less chance for corruption of government officials if time in|And this lack of knowledge of basic governmental processes means that | |office is limited; new politicians are less likely to have the |new leaders will be “flying blind,” making decisions on the basis of | |knowledge to exploit the system for personal gain and are more |emotional and ideological rather than reason and deliberation. | |skeptical of lobbyists and special interests. | | | | |Term limits reduce the power of the bureaucracy. |As Katherine Naff (2002) points out, once term limits are in place, | | |fewer and fewer legislators become inclined to undertake the hard work| | |of civil service reform, since this sort of reform takes a long time | | |and requires a thorough knowledge of pubic human resource management.

| | |Naff’s point was seconded by | |John Thomas (1993), who noted that term limits could simultaneous | | |stymie change at the lower levels of the bureaucracy, which enjoy | | |union protections, while endangering the career of otherwise qualified| | |public managers, who get caught in the crossfire of electoral | | |turnover. | | | | |Politicians in their last term of office are more likely to ignore |Politicians who are in the last term of office are more likely to | |politics and media criticism to target what’s best for the country, |ignore the will of the people since they don’t face the wrath of the | |and they can work to establish tangible accomplishments that will |electorate in the future. | |build on their legacy. | | | | |Overwhelmingly, voters prefer term limits. |Individual rights, including the right of citizens to stand for public| | |office, cannot be abrogated simply because they are unpopular. | | | | |Increases competition, encourages new challengers. New challengers require money if they are to win elections, and such | | |money will only be forthcoming if candidates agree to follow the | | |dictates of established political parties.

| | | | |Improves tendency to vote on principle. |Legislators should not be voting based on principle; they should be | | |voting based on facts. | | | |Gets reelection rates back to near 50%, versus the current 99%. |Historically—Andrew Jackson is an example—rotation in office has | |Founders called this “rotation in office.

” |resulted in am embrace of the spoils systems, whereby long-term civil | | |servants are replaced by political insiders who may not know anything | | |about the art of governance. | P


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