Term Limits: a Restraint on Liberty, not on Corruption

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
Term Limits: a Restraint on Liberty, not on Corruption

A measure has been introduced calling for congressional term limits. The Founders believed such limits restricted liberty, not corruption.

Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) has proposed a bill that would limit congressional term limits to 24 years.

Put another way: Representative Mulvaney has proposed a bill prohibiting Americans from voting for the candidate of their choice, placing his own will above that of the people.

“Believe me, 24 years is more than enough time to serve in Washington,” Mulvaney said, as quoted in The Hill. “I actually pushed for much shorter terms but compromised at 12-plus-12 in order to gain the support of addition[al] co-sponsors.”

It seems odd that a self-described conservative would adopt such a progressive and paternalistic attitude toward the right of the people to elect their representatives, one of the most fundamental rights in a Republic.

Despite the fact that such a law would deprive Americans of this right held sacrosanct by our Founders, there are many otherwise conservative leaders and organizations joining the “term limits” choir.

For example, many of those collaborating in the effort to call for a second constitutional convention (a “convention of states” in the historically and constitutionally incorrect parlance of the idea’s backers) have included a term limits amendment in the list of corrections they would like to see made to our current Constitution.

Mark Levin, one of the celebrity spokesmen for the Article V movement, has proposed term limits in his list of amendments he insists will “restore liberty.”

The arguments put forward by Levin and others in the Article V camp point to the corruption in Congress and the sale of votes. If that is indeed the problem, would we not be on safer constitutional ground to limit the influence of lobbyists, rather than by disenfranchising millions of Americans?

As is the case with so many of the Article V con-con “solutions,” the cure is more dangerous than the disease.

And although Levin claims that the idea of term limits is “consistent with constitutional republicanism,” our Founding Fathers did not agree.

Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 72 expressed his sense of the question of term limits: "Nothing appears more plausible at first sight, nor more ill-founded upon close inspection."

During the debates on the subject at the original constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman expressed a similar opinion:

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