The Irrefutable Case for Term Limits


(The Irrefutable Case for Term Limits)

No. 8

Thomas Paine – February  2010

The reader is encouraged to review C.S. No. 6 and C.S. No 7 before venturing into this current document.

The debate over whether or not political term limits are needed has ranged far and wide. Nearly an equal number of arguments both favoring and opposing term limits has been advanced. Strangely enough, intellectuals of a progressive nature clamoring for all nature of change have been uniformly opposed to the introduction of term limits for the rank and file of our elected officials. They obviously do not see term limits for politicians as constructive change. Conservatives ( non-intellectuals ), on the other hand, have mainly expressed the belief that generalized term limits will never be allowed, so why waste time and energy pursuing a concept which can never gain traction. This conservative opinion is clearly more notion than fact. There are isolated examples of term limits applied to elected officials, primarily at state level. What is lacking is a structured program imposing term limits across the entire political spectrum.

Where has Common Sense Gone?

Now we have reached a point in our national history where a clear-thinking person of any persuasion can readily see the complete and utter disfunctionality of our elected representatives, as they engage in the political process. Astonishingly, very little note is made of this obvious fact and the related need to restructure the process so clear, fresh and timely thought is interjected into the workings of congress especially and the senate most appropriately. The same representatives who are required by law to represent “We the people…..” have long since abandoned the founding concepts of limited government by citizen lawmakers drawn periodically from the general population. It is not uncommon today to hear our elected representatives express the sentiment that the people do not have sufficient intelligence to know what is good for them. This sentiment is expressed in the actions of both major political parties, even though a staunch supporter of either party will ascribe sole ownership to the other. The congress and senate both condition their actions along lines good for preserving their tenure and not with the well being of the general population foremost in their minds.  This arrogance of these intellectuals and pseudo intellectuals is so far removed from reality it must be eliminated. I believe the time has come to make a strong push for term limits at every level of government and the Tea Party is the ideal mechanism to nurture the voice of reason from ordinary citizens. At state level, the voters can push for a referendum on this issue.  Professional politicians can try to discredit a petition for referendum, but they cannot stop it if the voters are so disposed strongly enough. At the same time term limit candidates can be introduced into elections whenever possible. The time has come to replace the elitist ruling class of politicians by good citizens with normal intelligence, but most importantly, common sense. The common sense gained through the trial and experience of every day life. The time has come to replace notion with knowledge and fiction with fact.

Thomas Sowell stated the problem succinctly and with great clarity. He said, “ An intellectuals work begins and ends with ideas.”

Huh?……What message did he mean to convey?  Firstly, Sowell was defining an intellectual as a person whose occupation consists of generating and disseminating ideas. Secondly, he was stressing the importance of recognizing and understanding the difference between knowledge and notions. Journalists, politicians, teachers and newscasters are charter members of this cadre and they all now demonstrate more and more difficulty in ascertaining the meaning of Sowell’s second point.

How many times must history be repeated before the intellectuals understand some of the greatest abominations have resulted as a consequence of lofty ideas expressed by highly placed individuals who are sheltered from the consequences of their own issuances? Why is the intelligentsia given a free pass when their “superior knowledge and understanding” is so often discredited by the utter failure of the enlightened concepts they propose? Could it be the notion of superior intellectual ability has been so broadcast it is accepted even in the light of numerous failures?

Why do highly placed government officials continuously voice profound ideas and concepts without the slightest thought of how those ideas can be implemented and what the adverse consequences might be? This rhetoric emanating from the self-appointed intelligentsia among our elected officials has reached destructive proportions. Why do so many people accept the notion that an elected representative of lengthy tenure must know best? One reason is that the general population does not very well recognize the unhealthy transformation which takes place in the thought process of elected officials who remain too long on the roster of “elected by popular choice”. The longer a person remains in any elective position the more their notion of self-infallibility is enhanced.  That this fact is self-evident is supported by the actions of a majority of elected representatives serving at national level. An examination of their records and attitudes with respect to what the people need demonstrates a continuing diminishment of their acceptance that the people have something to say worthy of attention.

Where has Common Sense Gone?

The decision makers, who are aloof from the consequences of their own propositions, somehow

remain unblemished in the view of those persons upon whom fall the full consequences of those propositions. Why does this distorted view of excusing bad ideas and poor decisions persist?

I believe it exists because the average individual has been conditioned to the notion that superior intellect, possessed by a chosen few, will trump actual knowledge gleaned by the common man through specific training and experience. The notion that an intellectual will propose a superior solution to any problem no matter whether their actual training and experience has equipped them to adequately address that problem, and any consequences resulting there from, has had far reaching adverse consequences. The world is replete with examples demonstrating the fallacy that intelligence will always prevail.

A recent example is the global warming, climate change debate.  A significant number of reputable sources pointed to historical data that did not support the argument for global warming.

The intelligentsia paid no attention to them other than to besmirch and impugn the intelligence level of any dissenter…..even though many dissenters were more knowledgeable and experienced than the global warming supporters at “prestigious” universities and research centers.

The notion that global warming must be real was advanced to the point of nearly giving rise to harsh and restrictive controls on the energy consumption behavior of the entire population of industrialized countries. It was only through extremely good fortune that the discovery of falsified data occurred. The notion that climate change was real had become so persuasive previously respectable scientists felt compelled to alter factual data in order to have the data support their notion and override established facts.

A particularly poignant example of climate change notion and intellectual vacancy follows:

An Indian magazine, of modest circulation, “Down to Earth” published an article claiming accelerated melting of Himalayan glaciers. As it turns out the magazine had referenced a report dealing with the global population of glaciers over a very long time frame, including the most recent ice age. Never mind that this information was editorialized to project high rate, localized melting over a time frame of only a few years into the future. This magazine article was then accepted factually, without corroboration, by a climate change group making a report to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC ). The IPCC gave full endorsement to the report even though a layman could have easily recognized the absurdity of the greatly exaggerated melting claims. Even after the actual facts became well known the professors at the University of Arizona persisted in the contention that the resulting criticism should not be interpreted as undermining the panel’s conclusions! Such is the power of notion over fact.

Where has Common Sense Gone?

My present purpose is to neither support nor debunk the current climate change theories. Rather it is to demonstrate how known data supporting the natural effects resulting from advance and retreat of climate change cycles can be overridden by a persuasive notion claiming the present effect of mans activity on climate change far supersedes any natural force; a conclusion unsupportable by any known fact.

As a practicing engineer I learned the critical importance of knowledge and fact as opposed to notion or fancy. I also found it very curious that a professional person who had to rely on accurate knowledge and training in the exercise of their occupation was generally deemed of inferior intelligence as opposed to an intellectual who deals only in ideas. Somehow a new or repackaged idea is too often viewed as superior to a tried and tested idea of known duration.

One should ask themselves whether they would prefer to fly in an airplane designed by, or have surgery performed on them by an experienced and skilled person or by an intellectual. When engineers or surgeons act on notions instead of hard facts others are put at extreme risk and the engineer or surgeon must suffer the consequences of their failure. When intellectuals make mistakes, they assign diminished importance to the activity and move on to the next great challenge. Intellectuals, sadly, do not often suffer the consequences of their ideas. It is the rest

of us who do the suffering.

Now we are embarking on a political season that is assured to be replete with admonitions of what is good for us. The professional politicians seeking reelection will inundate us with their views of how they always express correct concepts and how their opponents always express falsehoods. If we are capable of knowing what is good for us we will vote for them and not their opponent.

Our country has now reached the point of bankruptcy, both literal and governmental, the result

of fiscal overspending by both major political parties. Yet we are told that if considerable deficit spending is not continued our country will surely fail economically. Each side has its own notion of how additional vast sums of money should be expended. Surely this is an idea that has long since passed its own point of bankruptcy. Not one single candidate of either major political party has even remotely suggested government should be significantly downsized and spending dramatically reduced. These professional politicians persist in their present notion even though copious evidence exists proving overspending leads to dire consequences. The notion that problems in the economy can only be solved by government action and massive government spending has been developed to the point it has become viewed as one of the immutable laws of nature….so sayith the intellectuals in Washington.

Washington politicians say they are pushing these programs for our own good, even though similar programs have demonstrated little positive and substantial negative results when tried previously. The enhancement of their political reelection prospects is never mentioned as an agenda item. The message the career politicians will continue to deliver is: Since We the People are incapable of understanding the convoluted concepts and nuances of what is good or bad for ourselves, the political ruling class of intelligentsia must ignore our will and make the correct choices for us.

Enter the Tea Party Movement. Enough is enough! It is time to establish term limits for all politicians in order to introduce more capable and better informed citizens into the political process. Persons who will serve their country and  then in the  not too distant future return to their previous occupation and suffer the consequences of any ill conceived concepts they successfully promote while politicians. That specter should greatly temper their thought process. I rest my case for term limits on the urgent need of the citizenry to be represented by ordinary and knowledgeable persons who serve limited terms and thus allow the well of knowledge among elected politicians to be replenished and refreshed regularly. We as a nation can little longer survive and prosper if subjected to the consequences of a political ruling class driven by notion and self-interest instead of Common Sense.

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