Monday, April 07, 2008

Do Term Limits Help or Hurt Government?


I used to be a staunch supporter of term limits. Get 'em out of there! We don't need career politicians! However, the more I've learned about how government works, the more I've had to question whether the benefits of term limits outweigh the drawbacks.

Pros:
  • Gets rid of corrupt politicians - The main advantage to term limits is it keeps individual people from having too much power for too long. You don't have the "entrenched" politicians to try to deal with. You have less corruption because the corrupt politician doesn't have enough time (hopefully) to do any real damage. No matter how good the bad guy hides his true nature, eventually, he'd kicked out.
  • Brings in fresh ideas/perspectives - By insuring that you constantly have new people in government, you get a constant influx of new ideas, new ways of solving problems, and new perspectives. This can create a more vibrant government that really is concerned with helping the people.
Cons:
  • Throws the baby out with the bathwater? - Although effective at getting rid of bad politicians, term limits also get rid of good politicians. Those people that are truly dedicated to our city/state/country are also removed from office to make way for some unknown person to take over. Is this what we want?
  • Loss of experience - They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Well, if your maximum tenure in government is 10 years, how many issues would be needlessly revisited because nobody knew that it was tried and didn't work 15 years ago? How much do we lose when the most experience people in government are the journalists and the lobbyists?
  • Limits the rights of the people - Term limits remove from the people their right to decide who goes and who stays. If somebody is doing a bad job, the people should vote that person out. If somebody is doing a good job then the people can keep voting for that person. Do we trust the people to make their own decisions?
As I have thought about it more and more, I've come to realize that term limits can potentially do more harm than good. We need experienced politicians in government. We need people that understand the details of our laws - people who can see the long term effects of proposed legislation. Perhaps on a national level, where the doings of government are harder to track for the average voter, term limits might be a good thing, but for state and local governments, I think we should still trust that the voters will be able to discern who it truly helping and who isn't.

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