BACVA2 The writer is president of the Pakistan Forum.Term...


June 24, 1995


2 The writer is president of the Pakistan Forum.

Term Limits Would Give Legislators Courage

Paul O'Brien's letter "Will's Stand on Term Limits" (June 10) makes several factual errors which distort the meaning and intention of George F. Will's argument advocating term limits.

And in the process of obfuscating Mr. Will's position, Mr. O'Brien both misinterprets the purposes term limits are supposed to serve and counters with his own arguments that are simplistic at best.

For example, Mr. O'Brien purports that "term limits are inherently anti-democratic." He does this without providing any premises to support his conclusion.

This omission precludes him from understanding the obvious: If term limits are anti-democratic because they violate the people's right to vote for the candidate of their choice, then so, too, is the present qualifications clause in the Constitution anti-democratic.

For instance, the Constitution explicitly states that the people can only vote for a senator who is at least 30 years of age. This prerequisite undeniably limits a voter's choice.

What if the people wanted to vote for a senator who is 28 years old? They can't because of the age limit. Is this a violation of their rights? No. Is this anti-democratic?

Answering "yes" to this question would be the equivalent to saying that every law that limits the people's liberty is anti-democratic. Therefore, the law that forces me to drive 55 miles per hour on I-83 is a violation of my rights.

Moreover, following Mr. O'Brien's absurd logic, the First Amendment is anti-democratic.

The First Amendment prohibits the people's will from democratically passing laws to abolish the freedom of speech. The people's freedom to do this is therefore infringed.

If term limits are anti-democratic because it takes power away from the people, then so too is the First Amendment anti-democratic.

It is ironic that Mr. O'Brien asks the rhetorical question, "Why should we trust the people when they won't trust themselves?", because this is exactly one of the concerns the people cite as their reason for supporting term limits.

It has become known as the "stop me before I vote for them again" motivation. Nonetheless, this rhetorical question is the centerpiece for Will's argument in favor of term limits.

Instead of supporting term limits for the weak and popular reasons that they will "dislodge incumbents" and will bring congressmen closer to the people, Mr. Will claims that term limits are efficacious because they provide a constitutional distance between the elected and the electorate; thereby insulating Congress for that necessary ingredient for republican government, deliberation.

Since the inception of the welfare state and the institutionalization of Congress (in the past 50 years), a dynamic relationship between congressmen and voters has developed.

This relationship is characterized by congressmen seeking to make legislating a career and constituents wanting more and more benefits from the federal government. Hence, congressmen overabundantely satisfy their constituents in order to secure re-election.

This formula has proven deadly to the fiscal health of the federal government; i.e., a $4.8 trillion deficit and $250 billion annual interest payments on that deficit.

Mr. Will argues that careerism has made legislators too sensitive to every convulsion and tumult expressed by the people.

This quest to look good to the voters has rendered the professional political class unwilling to make difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions -- the only important kind.

According to political scientist Douglas Arnold, in his book "The Logic of Congressional Action," "This is why Congress approves so many proposals laden with geographic benefits. Legislators have discovered that obtaining benefits for their districts creates opportunities for free publicity and credit-claiming, and both are valuable in the quest for re-election."

Term limits would end this anomaly by instilling legislators with a sense of courage and national purpose. As a result, this would persuade congressmen to not merely be a conduit of their constituents; insatiable requests, but as a filter.

James Madison described the purpose of Congress as ". . . a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interests of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations."

The indefinite tenure presently enjoyed by congressmen is neither conducive to nor welcome by Madison's statement. Needless to say, Madison would not be happy at the present state of affairs.

Brian D. Hicks


Not Fighting Crime

After enjoying myself at an Orioles afternoon game on June 8, I returned to my car, parked on a side street just outside the stadium parking, to find that a rock had been thrown through my window and several items stolen.

Mine was not the only car that had been vandalized.

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