Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Case Against Term Limits

     In this time of political and cultural upheaval, many are looking for a magic bullet that they say will fix all our problems and return us to a constitutional society. In the effort to do this many on the Right have been transfixed on term limits for members of congress. They say it will mitigate corruption in Washington and provide a more responsive congress to the needs of the people rather than the desires of the well-connected capitalist cronies of the current system.
     Many of the defenders of congressional term limits proffer the argument that the Founders never intended for there to be career politicians running the government by, for, and of the people. These termies ignore the fact that many of the Founders themselves were career politicians. Three fourths of the first congress was comprised of men that had spent most of their adult lives up to that point serving in their states' legislatures under British colonial America. James Madison, Father of the Constitution, never had employment outside of government, and Thomas Jefferson spent most of his adult life in public service.
     So can we finally dispel the myth that the idea of career politicians is somehow unconstitutional or inherently bad for the country? Even if the termies get their way and congress becomes a revolving door, the poisonous well of our culture will still exist. One can not simply ladle out clean, pure water from that well by dipping into it more frequently. Our leaders are culled from the culture that produces them, no term limits will change that fact.
     Besides the aforementioned, is the fact that term limits limit the people's choice of representation, which I am against. The theory of term limits basically says, "We have some bad leaders, so we must therefore rid our government of all leaders through the force of law, because the voter can no longer be trusted to do so."  And if this last part is true, then we have lost something in this country which will not be returned simply by limiting the amount of time someone can serve in the government.
     It is strange that the termies claim to want to change the constitution in order to save it. Sort of like when George W. Bush during the 2008 financial crisis said he had to "abandon free market principles in order to save the free market." The Founders were wise enough and had every confidence in the American people to select their own representation in congress. That is why they did not include term limits in the constitution. If we are saying that the Founders' confidence is no longer valid, then we have admitted that the republic which they built is no longer relevant.

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