Term Limits are an American Tradition

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

This week an Oregonian letter writer objected to a measure on November’s ballot which would re-impose term limits on our state legislators. Commenting on a statement made by the measure’s chief spokesman, the letter writer said that “Regular rotation of citizens in office doesn’t sound like anything I remember from American history.”

This is more a statement on the sad state of affairs in America’s public schools than it is an argument against term limits.

Term limits were part of the earliest democracies in ancient Greece and Rome. They were written into the Articles of Confederation which preceded the U.S. Constitution.

The Library of Congress has an extensive discussion of the concept on its web site. Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders believed that government is in safer hands when regular people “rotate” in office rather than allowing power to accumulate in the hands of professional politicians.

Both the President of the United States and the Governor of Oregon are constitutionally limited to just two terms in office.

There is no natural right to keep electing our favorite politicians term after term after term. Elections are a rule of the game. These rules should be tilted in favor of the people, not the career politicians who accumulate more power the longer they stay in office. That’s all that term limits are trying to do.

Steve Buckstein is senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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