The 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution states:
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President, when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
After 58 years, this amendment has not caused these United States to collapse. There have been many who have argued that imposing term limits would severely hamper the skill and ability of government leaders, thusly doing great harm to the nation. It is obvious that line of argumentation has no weight. Many states have term limits for a plethora of office-holders, and have had those term limits for decades. The ability-vacuum argument is dead in the water.
Two British quotes are very useful here. In 1770, William Pitt stated in the House of Lords, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” And in 1887, the historian John Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Both quotes are very old by today’s societal standards but nothing has occurred during the interim to discount the veracity of the statements. Throughout history, we have seen dictators, god-kings, may-as-well-be-dictators (such as President-for-life), and all sorts of other people with absolute or near-absolute power. And nothing good ever resulted from their rule.
George Washington publicly worried about the possibility of such absolute power building in the new United States and so refused to accept many positions of power. He refused to be anointed as King of the US. He also refused to accept a third term as President, believing two terms is plenty for any President. He even warned the people not to build party systems. He saw the power in the systems and the corruption such power would lead to. And he was right.
While we finally got the much-delayed term limit for President, we still have not gotten term limits for Congress, where life-time politicians greedily hold power, using all sorts of means necessary to keep that power. We have pork spending that the politicians can go home and brag about in order to buy votes. We have the private sector lining the pockets of politicians to buy favorable treatment by Congress. And that money goes, partially, into greater face time in the form of advertisements and personal appearances in the effort to maintain that power the politicians wield.
Many people fret over the corrupting affect lobbyists have over politicians. While that corrupting influence does indeed exist and should indeed be dealt with, Henry David Thoreau said it best when he said, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” It is a very painstaking endeavor to hunt down and eradicate all corrupt lobbyists, and many will still escape unnoticed. Even if one could eradicate all the corrupt lobbyists, the ground would be very fertile for a new crop to grow to fill in the gaps. And lobbyists are not the only ones using corrupting influence on politics. That battle is a never-ending battle to prune the evil shrubs. We need to kill the roots.
A very potent way to get at the root of the evil shrub that is this corrupting political power is to add an amendment to the Constitution providing term limits for Congress. Since the 22nd Amendment allows for a President to be elected to office twice, the same restriction would work well for members of Congress. Members of the House could serve a maximum of four years before having to leave office. Members of the Senate would have a maximum of twelve years. This limit would cause those citizen-legislators to be more desirous to work for the good of the nation, state and district and much less desirous to feed their own personal desires. And in the end, they would have to return home to live under the same laws they voted to enact.
Such an amendment would greatly reduce the money spent to “buy” legislators. It would also greatly reduce the legitimate lobbying money being spent. And all that pork Congress passes? The vast majority of it would vanish overnight, making the tax burden much smaller overall. And we could get rid of those politician retirement funds, since the politicians would not be in office long enough to supposedly earn a retirement. That would be another huge savings for We, The People.
How many times has it been said “once a bureaucracy has been established, it is never removed?” With the citizen-statesmen regularly rotating out, there would be much reduced personal interest in keeping many unwieldy bureaucracies and they would actually be removed. And that would save the people of this nation large sums of money. Government could once again become a servant of the people instead of their taskmaster.