Strong opinions, weakly held

Why term limits are a bad idea

As a California budget-watcher pointed out to me, when you get Arnold Schwarzenegger in a room with the leadership of the Senate and Assembly, Schwarzenegger has the most budget and legislative experience in the room. A guy who was starring in Terminator films as recently as 2003 is now the most seasoned elected official during one of the worst crises California has ever had.

Ezra Klein inĀ The folly of term limits.


  1. If he hadn’t been termed out, Calif. could have had Willie Brown helping with the budget crisis.

    I’ll be over here, pondering that for a moment.

  2. Term limits are good. The people are collectively done with American royalty, no matter what party they are attached to. Term limits protect the integrity of the office and assure that men and women who take on the task do it to serve the public as opposed to building a career at the public expense. Public servants who aren’t busy pandering to special interests because they can’t be re-elected are free to make the tough choices for the public good.

  3. People’s enthusiasm for term limits seems to come inversely to their living in a state that has them.

    As one of the comments on that thread said, term limits are all about telling other people who they can vote for. It’s not a productive impulse.

  4. Rafe, that’s a great article and very thought provoking.

    We have term limits, they are called elections and they happen every 2,4 or 6 years depending on the office.

    The bigger problem is gerrymandered districts and plurality winner take all races. It’s time to get a bit more “creative” with our elections. Instant Runoff voting in single winner races (Pres/Gov/Mayor) and some type of multi-seat district which use a voting system that will allow the will of the people to be more accurately reflected in the final results such as choice, limited or cumulative voting.

    Term limits are a bandaid that hides the problem and doesn’t actually “fix” anything. Of course, there is the entire issue of the government wielding too much power and being too complex that you need half a lifetime to become knowledgeable.

  5. I do think that elections should be reformed to get the best results we can from our ignorant and often disinterested electorate.

    But term limits are crazy. Think about any other job in those terms. Should we not allow policemen to serve more than 6 years because they may eventually become corrupted by the authority they have to carry a gun and boss people around? Would you hire a law firm that got rid of any lawyers that had served 6 years or more? Would you work for a company that got rid of any programmers with more than 6 years of experience? It’s crazy.

  6. If term limits were enough to ensure that we would elect public servants able to make tough choices for the public good (as JJ suggests ) every state would have them. Term limits really just increase the power of special interests (after all nobody limits their terms) and as Jacob Davies says above, thery are really just a way to tell other people who to vote for (or not vote for).

    I would like to see some reform in how congressional voting districts are drawn. That would do more to produce a better class of legislator.

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