Friday, October 22, 2010

A succinct argument against career politicians

As a personal preference, I've never been a fan of forced term limits because I believe the people voting should make decisions based upon performance rather than favors received, though I know many people don't pay enough attention to be able to do such.

I have supported individuals who self-limit their terms and believe that is a good way to address the issue without passing laws that would harm good legislators. But this quote below details the existing system and how it has been corrupted by career politicians and makes a good argument for term limits.

"Legislators like pork because it helps them get reelected. They are interested in administrative details because long tenure promotes narrow specialization. The constituent service racket allows lawmakers to ignore big problems by fixing small ones. In becoming ombudsman -- glorified errand boys, -- incumbents build up enough good will for most to survive even a watershed year like 1992. By ending Congressional careerism, term limits will encourage attention to larger legislative issues. By changing the understanding of the legislator's role, term limits are probably the most effective single reform that can be imposed on Congress. And imposed it will have to be: While great majorities of the American people support term limits, lawmakers oppose them in even larger proportions. With a career Congress, voters face a dilemma: They do not like paying taxes to Washington and hoping to get them back in the form of pork and entitlements, but as long as the system is rigged, it makes sense to vote for the incumbent to maximize your own take. Congressmen face a similar dilemma: Take the easy road to reelection or face the often difficult choices of balancing local and national interests. Take away the career mindset and both representatives and voters can make choices based on the merits of each case. ... In fact, one of the biggest benefits of non-professional legislators is that they would be unlikely to join with the bureaucrats and special interests in blowing smoke at the voters." ~ Eric Felton


skeeter1107 said...


When you talk like that, it makes me all warm inside.

Tim Higgins said...


I too feel uncomfortable with the concept of term limits, though like Mr Felton am concerned about politics as a profession. I believe that like many other artificial limits, such a law might have unintended consequences.

I still believe that eliminating pensions for elected officials would go a long way to driving office holders back to the private sector more quickly.

Members of Congress for example, were originally only paid for the days it was in session.

skeeter1107 said...

I too am not comfortable with the idea of term limits. However, the other alternative is to simply change the compensation of the elected officials.

Stop providing pension benefits to elected officials. Provide a salary and medical benefits, but nothing else.

I don't find it surprising that at their current compensation and benefit levels, they would want to keep the job.

Mad Jack said...

The problems do not exist because of pension benefits, salaries or various perquisites. The problem is the size and scope of the Federal government, which exists because of the overall moral character of the US Congress, President and USSC. State governors can also take their share of the blame for kowtowing to the Federal government and its Draconian legislation.

skeeter1107 said...

Mad Jack,

I agree with you on the Macro level that the overriding problem is the size and scope of government.

But I truly believe on the Micro level that you can't provide what is clearly a lucrative alternative to private sector jobs for some of these people and simply believe they will walk away.

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