Welcome to Buster's Blog

Irregular commentary on whatever's on my mind -- politics, sports, current events, and life in general. After twenty years of writing business and community newsletters, fifteen years of fantasy baseball newsletters, and two years of email "columns", this is, I suppose, the inevitable result: the awful conceit that someone might actually care to read what I have to say. Posts may be added often, rarely, or never again. As always, my mood and motivation are unpredictable.

Buster Gammons

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Folly Of Term Limits

Pardon me, but I call Bullshit!
Hardly a day goes by that I don't see some grumpy old fart on Facebook railing against "career politicians" and claiming that a constitutional amendment establishing term limits for members of the U.S. Congress will solve all our problems, and I should "like" and "share" if I agree.

Well, I disagree.  This is the same bright logic which leads some to push for things like mandatory sentencing and installing a private-sector businessman as president.  (That businessman-in-the-White House thing is working out great, isn't it?)

While "throwing all the bums out" might make some misguided folks feel better, it has not had a track record of success and the reason is simple -- such a forced turnover generates a stream of rookies, which limits experience and reduces institutional/cultural knowledge.  Why mandate a constant crop of newbies who don't know where the bathrooms are?

By and large, experience is the best teacher.  Term limits forcibly thin the herd of its useful experience level.  Were you better, smarter, more valuable in your chosen field of endeavor when you first started or after you had some time on the job?  Imagine if you were required to leave your job every 8 years and go find a new one?  What if John Wooden were term-limited at UCLA?

Sure, there can be exceptions to the general experience-is-a-good-thing rule.  (Strom Thurmond leaps to mind.  And we'd all like to term-limit those we dislike.)  But in the big picture, I'll take the old pro over the young tyro every time.

Another reason why political term limits are counterproductive is that they tend to promote a certain laziness in legislators.  Why bust your ass if you're outta here in a couple years?  *The recent study "How Do Electoral Incentives Affect Legislator Behavior?" by Alexander Fouirnaies of the University of Chicago and Andrew B. Hall of Stanford found that when a term-limited legislator is serving his or her last term, that legislator tends to slack off:

"Once term-limited, incumbents sponsor fewer bills, provide less committee service and are absent for more roll-call votes, on average.  Incumbent state legislators work harder when anticipating future elections." 

In other words, lame ducks usually get pretty damn lame.  Term limits and forced retirements are ill-advised.

*The legislatures of 16 states, including Ohio, have some form of term limits.  But the fad is dying out.  In the 22 years since 1996, no state has term-limited its legislature.

*Cited by columnist Thomas Suddes in the 7/22/18 Columbus Dispatch

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