Term limits, which essentially is the concept of placing limits on the time holders of political office are allowed to serve, is not a new idea. The philosophy of cycling individuals in and out of public office can be found as far back as the fourth century B.C. Aristotle, Greek philosopher and tutor of Alexander the Great, expressed his view on the subject when he wrote; “. . . that a man should not hold the same office twice, or not often, or in the case of few except military offices; that the tenure of all offices, or of as many as possible, should be brief . . .” (qtd. in Lopez 4). This indicates Aristotle believed term limits, absent from the current political process, were beneficial. Implementing term limits, rather than allowing unlimited tenure, could be an effective step to improving the legislative process; an end result most citizens should prefer.
Introduction of fresh insight and visionary solutions to national issues into the political arena is an important aspect to the success of American democracy. While there are those who advocate term limits are not a necessary component, the fact remains improvement in the governing process should be a continuing national objective.
According to Edward J. Lopez, Professor of Economics at Western Carolina University, preference for term limits is a view held by many of nation’s framers. Notables such as James Madison and George Mason actually included term limits in personally authored political documents; Madison in his Virginia Plan and Mason in the Virginia Declaration of Rights (Lopez 5).
One view of those opposing term limits is that limits weaken the legislative branch’s position as a co-equal partner in government. Representative Michael V. Saxl, Speaker of the 95th Maine House of Representatives affirmed this concern when he surmised, “The term-limits measure has placed constraints on institutional knowledge, balance of power and efficiency of state government.”
Although Saxl makes his point based on personal experience, he provides no factual evidence to substantiate this as a legitimate argument for those opposing term limits. On the contrary, Saxl goes on to express substantial benefit can be found in the term limit experience. Saxl speaks positively about rising as a freshman Representative, to Speaker of the House. The opportunity to advance was enhanced by senior politicians having to vacate positions due to term limit provisions. Saxl’s personal history illustrates how term limits stimulate the opportunity for new and fresh ideas to enter the legislative process through an influx of new legislators.
Another view held by term limit opponents and expressed by former Oklahoma Speaker of the House Larry Adair is that, “Term limits are likely to make the organization of each legislature that much more difficult.” This may be true in Adair’s experience. But again, no clear connection is provided attributing organizational difficulty to the inclusion of term limits.