This post continues the discussion of things that need to change to make our political system more efficient. The last post was a discussion of campaign finance reform. Here we will discuss another important topic which is term limits.
- Term Limits
The first question is why would term limits help to make government more efficient? There are a number of reasons:
- By encouraging turnover, we would open up government to new ideas from new people from outside of the government (“Citizen Legislators”).
- If we minimize the number of reelection cycles we minimize fundraising which will make more good people, who don’t care for that sort of thing, willing to run for office.
- With higher turnover we would also minimize the impact of money on decision making.
- With experience, people become better at playing any system. This would seem to give career politicians an unfair advantage in elections.
Presently there is only a term limit for the President which was set at two 4 year terms by the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1951.
Interestingly, Article V of The Articles of Confederation dating to 1781 includes a statement on Congressional term limits. Thomas Jefferson made the recommendation “to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress.” Those Founding Fathers were pretty smart!
Article V also specifies that “no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years.” However, to be truly efficient, it should be considered as to whether term lengths should be increased and reelection cycles eliminated altogether. In other words, if people in Congress only had one term in office it would totally eliminate the need for follow-up fundraising which, in turn, would further minimize the impact of money on decision making.
According to a Gallup poll from 2013, about 75% of adults would vote for term limits, including 79% of independents. Unfortunately, even with such overwhelming support from the public, the imposition of term limits will likely not happen.
A 1995 5-4 Supreme Court decision ruled that having either Congress or the states pass a term limit law for Congress is unconstitutional. To pass a Constitutional Amendment requires passage by either a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate or a constitutional convention by two-thirds of the state legislatures, and that probably won’t happen the way things are now.
So unfortunately, what we have does not reflect the will of either the majority of the people or the Founding Fathers.
Next: Gerrymandering Next post – January 3rd, Happy holidays!