Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More On Term Limits

More On Term Limits

Term Limits alone may not eliminate all the conflicts of interest, but they are a necessary first step.

A most obvious example of the corruption caused by a conflict of interest is deficit spending. Our legislators seem so addicted to power that they can not bring themselves to explain to the people the calamity that lies ahead if we continue to spend more than we take in (see Germany in the 1920s and Brazil and Argentina more recently). Talk about a PONZI scheme! And the people don't want to hear it because they are living their lives in just such a scheme--borrowing and spending until the lenders stop lending. Then comes the collapse with tragic losses. While the Ponzi scheme is working, everything seems rosy. Nobody wants to hear about the bad news ahead. They may not "kill the messenger", as people used to do, but they just don't re-elect him/her---which is worse than death for the power-addicted careerist.]

Some have said that, even with term limits, there would still be conflicts of interest, such as catering to big money in order to be hired as their lobbyist after leaving office. But, I wonder will there be any use for lobbyists if terms are limited? The influence lobbyists have is that of money and votes for a re-election. If no re-election, what influence can a lobbyist have?

Some have said that our legislators rightly do what their constituents want them to do. Yes, I understand this, and it scares me. This means that we are being governed by the will of the majority, i.e. the average thinking. And this is democracy's weak spot. Do we really want average thinking to make the decisions which affect our lives? Or do we want above-average, intelligent, informed minds to make such decisions---untainted by any conflicts of interest? Our government was established as a republican (representative) form of government, and we are losing it.

Some have said that under term limits the legislature would consist of a bunch of inexperienced newcomers, and that the power would be in the hands of their staff members who have been there awhile and "know the ropes". While this is true up to a point, any legislator worth his salt should be able to lay out to his/her staff how he/she does business and see to it that he/she gets from them what he/she wants. The game of "you scratch my back and I will scratch yours" is definitely how politics has been played up to now, but it is corrupt and does not have to be this way. Term limits will help correct this, IMO.



At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 , Anonymous Philip Bitar said...


I think that you hit the bullseye at the beginning of the article when you identify unrestrained spending as a fundamental problem.

As you know from my post to your About.com thread on term limits, I propose a solution to this problem, namely, a price ceiling (an income ceiling) on the government, established by the people. Under this scheme, deficit spending would become self-regulating because debt would have to be financed within the price ceiling.

For more info, click "Political Action" at www.philipbitar.com. Also see the subsection summaries for section 5.1 at the website.

Regarding lobbyists, normally the favors sought are to obtain government money. A price ceiling would limit the money available, forcing members of Congress to carefully allocate what is available.

Regarding satisfying constituents, the fundamental problem is that without a ceiling on the price of government (the cost of government), the members of Congress collude with each other in getting as much government money as they can for their constituents, thereby driving up the price of government without limit.

With a price ceiling in place, the people could change the price ceiling via a national ballot, but they wouldn't run the government.

Regarding "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours", this really amounts to making the compromises that are necessary in order for democracy to work. The problem is not compromise per se, but the absence of a ceiling on the price of government, thereby allowing collusion in driving up government costs, as covered above.

The intuitive argument for term limits is that power corrupts, making everyone subject to the corrupting influence of power, no matter how moral they start out. Under this model, everyone should be term-limited in order to cut short their inevitable pathway toward corruption.

However, the main source of corruption is the ability to allocate money in one way or another. And with a price ceiling in place, rather than colluding with each other in spending money, the members of Congress will tend to compete with each other for limited resources. Hence, a price ceiling will tend to replace the motivation to collude in spending money with the motivation to compete in allocating it. Hence, with a price ceiling in place, the members of Congress will tend to limit each other's spending goals rather than collude with each other in driving up government spending.

Philip Bitar


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