Sunday, May 04, 2008

Why Term Limits are a Bad Idea

At least on a local and state level. I don't know if my argument works on a national level.
Term Limits is an attempt to get rid of what many people call "professional politicians" or "political careerism". In reality, as long as people believe that someone is doing a good job, they typically don't care how long that person is in office.
I am of the opinion that it isn't the political careers that people are opposed to, but the undue influence that special interest groups have on career politicians. And, of course, a "special interest" group is one that you don't agree with. Few people consider the Boy Scouts of America a special interest group, but even they have their own lobbyists.
So, how do we get rid of the special interest groups? To paraphrase Shakespeare, "Kill all the lobbyists!"
But, that probably won't work. There are few times that an extreme reaction would ever work, and I can't think of any situations where they would.
So, what to do?
100% disclosure.
(Note: this is not my original idea, but I have added stuff to it. I originally heard it from my Congressman, Rob Bishop)
Remove campaign limits. Allow any citizen of the United States to give any amount of money to whomever they want. Just require ANY donation to be published online, in an easily searchable format, within 72 hours. Any corrections must be made within 7 days. No more of this quarterly filing BS. We have the technology, and it is actually pretty easy to use. In fact, I'll even write it! (another note: I am a software developer, and a good one at that)

"But that means people will be donating millions to a campaign!!!"

So? It gets done now. Soft money. Donating to a candidate directly, the county party, the state party, political action committees, special interest groups, 527 groups, "get out the vote", and more. It adds up. The only thing is, it's extremely difficult to determine who is funding whom.

Bill Gates has a lot of money. Billions. So does Warren Buffet. Soros. And many, many others. You like them? Dislike them? Fine. Either way, it would be easy to see who gave what money to whom. Don't like the fact that the NRA gave money to a candidate? Don't vote for them. Don't like the NEA? Find out who got their money, and vote against them.

Many years ago in a computer magazine, Penn Jillette had a column. A particular column that I remember (actually, the only one I remember - it's been 25 years) dealt with censorship. To paraphrase, "The best way to deal with words that you don't like isn't with censorship, it is with MORE WORDS!!!!"

More rules will not make politicians and their campaigns more honest. They will simply hire more consultants to figure out ways of hiding and moving money. We don't need more rules - we need more exposure.

And if it is one thing less than honorable politicians hate, is exposing themselves.


electricalstorm said...

You are wrong. Term limitswould allow more REAL people to get in office, and it would prevent ONE MAN'S or WOMAN'S personal opinons to become institutionalized over a period of time through disciples and relationships with lobbyists.

twclay said...

One thing we can (and should) do is look at other parts of the country that have term limits and analyze how it works for them.
Until we can look at other experiments in democratic forms of government (or try it out ourselves), anything we say on this topic (well, at least me) is nothing more than conjecture.