According to the Constitution, the proper role of government is to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” In order to ensure that the government did not abuse it’s power, the Framers established checks and balances (Macey, 53). Accordingly, in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, the Framers made it the job of the legislative branch to create laws that are necessary and proper to the execution of the Constitution. However, in regards to Congressmen, the Constitution as it stands does not effectively check the incentives that the possibility of indefinite terms creates. Term limits must be established in order to encourage our Congressmen to act in accordance with the purpose of our government. Section One of this paper outlines the role of a member of the House of Representatives. Section Two explains how the current system doesn’t incentivize representatives to act in line with their proper role. Section Three demonstrates how enacting term limits works to incentivize lawmakers to act in ways consistent with their proper function.
To the Framers, Congressmen are advocates for their constituents who are judged as fit for office based on the votes of their constituents (Macey, 50-51). To be fit for office meant that the people still thought that their representative was acting in line with their interests and was competent (Macey, 51). If this was not the case, the people had the right to vote them out of office and elect someone who they thought would better represent them. Therefore, to the Framers, democracy acted as a protection against ineffective representatives and as a method of aligning the interests of the people with their representatives.
The Framers did not intend to incentivize the establishment of career politicians (Macey, 54). If Congressmen are supposed to be advocates for their peoples’ interests, then it makes sense that the best advocates would be familiar with the lives, activities, issues, and events that take place in their districts. By having the same representatives in office for long stretches of time, legislators live in and understand their communities less than if they were regularly rotated out of office. Therefore, to have representatives that best reflect the will of their constituents, representatives cannot have never-ending terms.
The decision to exclude term limits from the Constitution creates incentives for Congressmen to focus on their careers rather than legislating. To some extent, the authors of the Articles of Confederation must have recognized this because under the Articles Congressmen were not allowed to serve more than three years in a six-year period. In 1784 the Articles were three years old and five Congressmen were no longer legally able to serve. Nevertheless, two of those five refused to retire and the issue was dropped (Carey, 184). The...