by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
What about the idea of “term limits” bothers Thomas Sowell? The “s” at the end of “limit.”
What are advocates of term limits trying to accomplish? If they are trying to keep government from being run by career politicians, whose top priority is getting themselves reelected, then term limits on given jobs fail to do that.
When someone reaches the limit of how long one can spend as a county supervisor, then it is just a question of finding another political office to run for, such as a member of the state legislature. And when the limit on terms there is reached, it is time to look around for another political job — perhaps as a mayor or a member of Congress.
Instead of always making reelection in an existing political post the top priority, in the last term in a given office the top priority will be doing things that will make it easier to get elected or appointed to the next political post. But in no term is doing what is right for the people likely to be the top priority. …
… If we want term limits to achieve their goals, we have to make the limit one term, with a long interval prescribed before the same person can hold any government office again. In short, we need to make political careers virtually impossible.
There are many patriotic Americans who would put aside their own private careers to serve in office, if the cost to them and their families were not ruinous, and if they had some realistic hope of advancing the interests of the country and its people without being obstructed by career politicians.