Term Limits: An Attempt To Limit You
This is part 1 of a series of discussions designed to point out the fallacies behind some modern Amendment ideas. As the drive towards a Constitutional Convention heats up, it is a good idea to examine the many Amendment proposals that are being discussed. Term Limits is a perpetual favorite among the conservative-minded electorate. It is often connected with a convention call because it is believed that the Congress would never approve an Amendment that will place limits upon itself.
Term Limits Limit You
There can be no argument. The fact is, a term limit on elected officials would remove power from the hands of the people. Simply stated, it would limit your options at the polls.
Term Limits: A Deficiency in The Articles of Confederation
Gouverneur Morris pointed to term limits as a defect in the Articles of Confederation when he said that imposing ineligibility “tended to destroy the great motive to good behavior, the hope of being rewarded by a reappointment.”
Roger Sherman on the Rewards of Reappointment
“Frequent elections are necessary to preserve the good behavior of rulers. They also tend to give permanency to Government, by preserving that good behavior, because it ensures their re-election.” — James Madison’s record of the Convention of 1787
Alexander Hamilton on Term Limits
The Federalist, No.72: “Nothing appears more plausible at first sight, nor more ill-founded upon close inspection….”
Term Limits and the Presidency
Ask yourself this question: Has a term limit on the president of the United States produced better presidents? Afterall, this is a perfectly good example of term limits in action. It is the only example we have presently to study. It is interesting to note that the Congress has not declared war since this Limit was put in place. That’s not to say that we haven’t been at war, however. Quite the contrary, we have fought many times since.
Eligibility vs. “Lame Duck”
In a system of a fixed number of terms, a certain percentage of the Congressmen are lame ducks during their final congressional term, and the people lose their leverage to keep their Representatives on good behavior. Could you imagine a Congress with term limits set a three terms? We could have 1/3 of our House and Senate in “Lame Duck” perpetually. What impact could that have? Consider all the lobbyists providing retirement money for these out-going Congressmen. This hardly sounds like a recipe for representative government.
An elected official who faces term limits will have absolutely no inducement during his final term to listen to his constituents. He will be inclined to seek arrangements while in office that will benefit him when he is forced to leave. Is this the route to good government? Term limits will also send home good, capable, and honorable men and women who have performed admirably and who we desperately need to stay in office.
The lack of Term Limits in our Constitution is not a deficiency. It was a debated decision that considered the goal versus the results attained via the Articles of Confederation. It was identified as one of the deficiencies requiring a remedy. Short terms of office and frequent elections was determined to be the most prudent and effective means of attaining the desire goal of good government. The term limit debate seeks to treat a symptom rather than cure the disease.
UsTermLimits.org has a suicidal facebook campaign promoting a two term limit on the Senate. I did a quick analysis to see what that might accomplish:
As you can see, assuming a 75% re-election rate (and that is conservative), you could be looking at 75 of 100 senators or more in Lame Duck at the same time.
Resources: (Pdf Articles)
- Revolving Socialists
- A False Alternative (Sept 1992)
- Why Not Term Limits (July 1995)
- Term Limits and Beyond (Nov 1996)
- Term Limits Limit You (Feb 1997)
- Term Limits Tide Recedes (Mar 2002)
- Term Limits – Still A Bad Idea (June 2010)