Term Limits: Part 1


Tom Garrett 5 years, 10 months ago

Before I begin I think I should clarify what my position was when I began. Why? Because I was dumb enough to say that I was "not opposed to term limits" and that I was "opposed to term limits."


What I should have said is that I was opposed to term limits the same way I would be opposed to any change major in government that had no evidence to support it, but I wasn't opposed to them for any political or philosophical reason.

So I went looking for evidence to see how well term limit worked.

I'm going to tell you what I found, but I want you to understand that the only time I'll be giving you an OPINION is right at the beginning when I'm talking about the four books I bought. Everything else is taken FROM the books. The conclusions are theirs, not mine.

What I'll do today is tell you about three of the books. Tomorrow I'll talk about the fourth one. It'll take a whole post to do it.

After that we'll get into what the studies found. And you'll be able to spend as much time as you like discussing that as you like, of course.

Some background:

Before I ordered the books I found out that term limits were a big issue back in the early to mid 1990's.

Two of the books I bought were written then, one was strongly for term limits and one strongly against. There wasn't any evidence yet though. All those books could do was argue for or against term limits and say what they thought they would do, good or bad.

Back in 1992 Michigan passed term limits laws for state legislators. California did it in 1996. They tried passing limits for federal legislators too, but the Supreme Court ruled against them.

The other two books I bought were studies done after term limits started.

One of them studied what happened in Michigan and California when they instituted term limits.

The other one studied two countries which have had term limits for some time to see what effects term limits had. It also mentioned some studies done here in the United States.



Tom Garrett 5 years, 10 months ago

About the books:

  1. "The Political and Institutional Effects of Term Limits. Written by Five Professors of political science I won't bother naming. MacMillan. 2004.

This is a study done of California and Michigan after they passed term limit laws for their state-level elected officials. It is a well done study.

Written in 2004 it looked at 10 years before term limits, and 8 to 12 years after. It is accurate and unbiased, perhaps because five people worked on it and they had to discuss each point and come out with something they all believed to be accurate.

  1. "Term Limits and Legislative Representation" by John M. Carey. Cambridge University Press. 1998.

This book is quite good. It is not as clear-cut as the other study, but it is unbiased and accurate. Writing in 1995, the author had no chance to look at term limits in action in the United States. It was too soon. So he compared two very similar Latin American nations--Costa Rica and Venezuela--one of which has term limits, and one of which doesn't.

I think the study is as well done as it could be considering the fact that it did not deal directly with our country except on occasion. Surprisingly enough, it came up with strikingly similar results and reached the same conclusions as the study done here, although it did not address all of the goals of term limits.

  1. "Giving Up On Democracy: Why Term Limits Are Bad For America," by Victor Kamber. Regnery Publishing. 1995

This was the worst of the four books. It was written too early to provide evidence, so it is basically one long-winded set of arguments against term limits. I read it. It was interesting, but I got very little evidence out of it.

It did contain some enlightening looks into who sponsored and paid for the term limits movements in Oklahoma and Washington State.

In Oklahoma it was Edward L. Gaylord, the owner of the "Daily Oklahoman" newspaper and the richest man in the state, allied with Lloyd Noble II, a wealthy Tulsa oil man.

In Washington State it was out-of-state money, including that of Charles and David Koch, two libertarian brothers from Wichita, Kansas, who are among the 20 richest men on the planet.

Obviously, the purpose of mentioning who paid for the term limits movement in those two states was an attempt to prejudice people against term limits. I will readily admit that having rich libertarians push an issue through an election with massive amounts of money is not the American way, but in the final analysis it does not affect our discussion.

The question is do term limits work or don't they? We'll stick to that.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the fourth book, which is for term limits. And then we can get into what the two studies said.


Michael Alexander 5 years, 10 months ago

Hey Tom... this sounds like it could be interesting. You already got my hackles up when you said that rich Libertarians pushing the issue would prejudice people AGAINST term limits. I would submit that the Libertarian position is for a smaller, less intrusive, and arguably more transitory government, less entrenched and more in touch with their constituents in the real world, which to me would seem to prejudice some folks FOR term limits. Anyway, maybe you're human and your bias is showing. ;)

Another thing... have you seen or heard from Dean Shields lately...? I have a message for her from a guy in Illinois and I tried forwarding it to the only address I have, but no response. Hope she's alright.


Tom Garrett 5 years, 10 months ago

Hey folks,

"I will readily admit that having rich libertarians push an issue through an election with massive amounts of money is not the American way, but in the final analysis it does not affect our discussion."

Read that again, will you? I was being very UN-baised, bending over backwards to make sure that no one thought I bought into the ploy the book was using to try to discredit term limits (showing that the money for two state contests came from billionaires, some of them out of state). Please re-read the sentence and take careful note of the final phrase: "...it does not affect our discussion..."

And it shouldn't. This is not a discussion of Republicans, Democrats, or Libertarians. I approached this subject with an open mind and was just trying to make sure that everyone else did. The purpose of those comments was to avoid having someone who happened to have read the book quote from the long drawn out chapters about who paid for term limits in a couple or three states and having that get in the way of objectivity.

I'll say it again, "...it does not affect our discussion..."

What we need to know is did term limits work where they were tried?

And so, on to today's post (new string, by the way).


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