The Problem Isn’t Term Limits

This was originally posted on Live Oaks on August 12, 2010. Comments have not been migrated.

The Chronicle’s editorial on Wednesday again voiced opposition to term limits:

We continue to believe they entail needless public cost for staging elections while denying the best officials the opportunity to continue serving the city. The system prevents citizens from exercising the unfettered right to choose their municipal leaders and insinuates they’re not smart enough to reject bad incumbents.

The paper is correct in asserting that the ballot box provides the only means of term limits necessary. But the paper believes that term limits are necessarily bad because elected officials need to spend much of their time simply learning their job. But what is their job?

The proper purpose of government is the protection of individual rights, including property rights. This is the only proper job of government officials. I hold that anyone who needs on-the-job training to carry out this responsibility should not be in an elected office.

Of course, the Chronicle holds a much different view of government. The paper believes that government should regulate and control the actions of individuals–such as what they do with their property. The paper believes that government should take actions that allegedly benefit some at the expense of others–such as health care. The paper believes that government should not protect individual rights, but actively engage in their violation.

And this is what the paper means by on-the-job training. Elected officials must learn how to dispense political favors, how to determine which pet cause to support and which to oppose, whose rights to violate and when. Given that there are no objective criteria for making such decisions, a newly elected official understandably needs some training and time to develop his own little fiefdom of political connections.

I agree with the paper that our current system is bad, but for much different reasons. The current system is bad because it provides government officials with the power to violate the rights of individuals. And that has nothing to do with term limits.

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