Few would argue that most of our systems need an over haul. Certainly, with the recent shenanigans in Congress the political system is one of these. The Occupy Movement has created the 99% Declaration as a list of changes they would like to see. Grievance Number 4 is Term Limits. Here is why this is a bad idea.
First; there are term limits – they happen when people vote. If you don’t like someone throw them out. By the same token, if you like someone, you should be able to keep them.
Second; anyone who has ever run for any office of any kind knows that it takes at least a year to learn the ropes. It takes at least a year to learn how to be effective. It takes longer than that to make a difference. The constant churn we see in most offices, from your local Rotary to Congress guarantees nothing significant will happen, as there is simply not enough time to address deep issues. What is also true and even more damming is that short tenures ensure no one will learn about the results of their actions. I’ve written about this before in regards to executive positions. Short terms ensure that caring is at a minimum.
The real leverage for changes in politics comes through finance reform. When Nancy Pelosi attends more than one fundraising event a day one has to wonder how any work gets done. Everyone who runs for political office in Washington spends most of his or her time raising money. This is no way to run a government. I’ve not even talked about the corruption this engenders.
In complex situations where negotiation is the name of the game we need experience. I believe that a big part of the debacle in the congress was because we elected a bevy of folks with no understanding of governance, but strong beliefs and misplaced loyalties. My preference is to vote them out, however I have no doubt that if they stayed for several terms we would see a dramatic shift as they learn how to work effectively in the system. If they were no beholden to folks with money, then they might even learn something about how government runs and whom it is supposed to serve.
Term limits tell me we don’t trust those we elect. This is a symptom of a much deeper issue that will not be solved by churn. People learn to lead and that learning takes time and is only achieved through experience. If people have good intentions and run to serve then they will learn how to be effective, if given time. If they are running for other reasons, then churning just play into those ulterior motives.