Monday, March 29, 2010

“Term Limits & Tenure”
by John Alexander Madison
March 29, 2010

Many states have imposed term limits on their elected officials from Governors to other statewide elected officials to legislators. Many counties have imposed term limits on their elected officials as well. In addition, many counties have extended term limits or, in some cases, eliminated them. So what’s the confusion all about?

On the one hand term limits create citizen legislatures and eliminated career politicians; on the other hand they establish more power in government employees and the bureaucracy.

On the one hand term limits eliminate bad politicians; on the other hand they remove good ones.

Term limits encourage elected officials to vote on principle rather than be concerned about re-election.

Term limits encourage more voter participation in elections with new faces rather than having automatic re-election of entrenched, well-known politicians. Name recognition and incumbency have their advantages.

On the other hand, long-entrenched elected officials have proven to develop a feeling of entitlement, arrogance, and self-importance and may become indifferent and perhaps cynical. Contrast that with mere mortals who go to work every day and work hard to perform well and keep their jobs in order to provide for their families. Ironically, many hard working, middle class Americans often end up losing their jobs when entrenched politicians impose too many regulations and taxes on business to the extent that these businesses are forced to trim staff and create greater unemployment for those who produce---with little consequence for themselves as their jobs never seem to be in jeopardy. Indeed, entrenched politicians build significant war chests from special interest groups in order to help ensure their re-election by an increasingly disengaged, helpless electorate.

The advantages of incumbency are often overwhelming and that’s a pretty good argument for term limits. However, if an overwhelming number of constituents (a large majority) approve of the results of their elected officials why then would one support artificial term limits which will force these “good, effective politicians" from office? After all, isn’t that what elections are all about? If you don’t like them, throw the bums out. If they are serving their constituents well, allow them to continue to serve.

Arguments against term limits include causing a loss of knowledge of legislative processes. In addition, there are what we may call “marginal” politicians…those who are not dynamic but often seem to be more acceptable to the voters than the unknown candidate on whom we may be “taking a big risk.” After all, don’t most politicians nowadays “run to the right (or middle) and legislate from the far left?” (Please, John, did you have to bring up the November 2008 election?)

What is similar to the absence of term limits?

A discussion on term limits would seem more complete if we also consider tenure for university professors. After all, aren’t they very similar? Once you are “in,” once you have towed the line for university standards and exhibited some level of competence in your field and not rocked the boat (too much) or brought extreme embarrassment upon the institution, you can gain tenure. That means, overnight, it is no longer necessary for the incumbent to maintain any particular level of competence, it means you can become more radical in your views and you cannot be fired…in the name of “academic freedom.”

According to Wikipedia, “academic tenure is primarily intended to guarantee the right to academic freedom: it protects teachers and researchers when they dissent from prevailing opinion, openly disagree with authorities of any sort, or spend time on unfashionable topics. Thus academic tenure is similar to the lifetime tenure that protects some judges from external pressure. Without job security, the scholarly community as a whole might favor "safe" lines of inquiry. The intent of tenure is to allow original ideas to be more likely to arise, by giving scholars the intellectual autonomy to investigate the problems and solutions about which they are most passionate, and to report their honest conclusions. In economies where higher education is provided by the private sector, tenure also has the effect of helping to ensure the integrity of the grading system. Absent tenure, professors could be pressured by administrators to issue higher grades for attracting and keeping a greater number of students.” (or caving into administrative pressure to advance students of offspring of wealthy alumni who quite likely are future building donors.)

There is little doubt that a large majority of college and university professors share a liberal agenda. It’s difficult to find any study to dispute the fact that an estimated 75% of nationwide professors are liberal, with that number increasing among “elite (undefined) institutions.”

Does it follow that one who opposes term limits also favors tenure for university professors. Or conversely, if you favor term limits are you opposed to tenure?


In an era when an ultra-liberal, inexperienced, first-term Senator has ascended to the presidency of the United States and has become the most powerful person in the world one has to be grateful that term limits for the President are in place. In his first year in office, this president has brought this nation to the brick of bankruptcy by implementing an anti-free market, big government, one-world economy, and socialistic agenda.

Is it a coincidence that control of our universities (and the minds of young, impressionable university students) and our federal government are now in the hands of liberals, socialists or, dare we say, Marxists?

Our liberal educational institutions have dumbed-down the citizenry to such an extent that lessons from history have been lost. And in concert with our current crop of far-left (and I might add arrogant) “leaders” in Congress can anyone honestly argue that our nation is on a dangerous and unsustainable path.

For these reasons, voices from across the nation are now clamoring for Congressional term limits.

According to Lord Acton “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts, absolutely” (Sir John Dalberg-Acton, 1834-1902)

That goes for both Congress and our educational institutions. It IS time for change, change “We the people” can believe in.

NOTE: John Alexander Madison is a weekly contributor to The Jeff Crank Show blog site on KVOR radio. He posts every Monday morning.

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