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FP130- Term Limits paper - In the last twelve years many...

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In the last twelve years, many states have followed a growing trend to set term limits for state legislators. The American people have, in every poll taken in the last ten years, favored term limits because American citizens are fed up with our government’s inability to solve national problem such as crime, healthcare, and corruption within. Is setting term limits for state legislatures going to solve our problems? The current term limits situation can be evaluated through examining the Framer’s intentions, the setting, the historical background, and the effects of term limits. Term limits and representation were key issues in the Federalist vs. Antifederalists debates. The Antifederalists believed that the Constitution was based upon a democracy in which the people directly governed. They therefore supported rotation in office and term limits as it would increase the number of citizens in office. 1 The Federalists believed that the representatives could never simply represent public opinion, they had to consider public opinion, but make their own choice as to what was best for their constituents. They believed that long terms of office would lead to representatives who would serve the public from their own understanding of politics instead of the public’s irresolute opinion. To this end, the Anti Federalists thought that politicians in office for a long time would grow secure and serve their own interests, rather than their public. Our first governing document, the Articles of Confederation included mandatory rotation, ”No state shall be represented in Congress by less 1
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than two, nor by more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years.” 2 One member who had been rotated out under the Articles of Confederation, Alexander Hamilton took a Federalist point of view. When asked why he argued against term limits he replied, “Rotation would be a diminution of inducements to good behavior.” 3 In its most elementary form, rotation reduces all external reward, leaving people to their own intrinsic motivation, which is often not very strong in politicians. While, as Hamilton also said, “the desire for reward is one of the strongest incentives of human conduct…….the best security for the fidelity of mankind is to make interest converge with duty.” 4 Hamilton felt particularly strong about term limits because at a time when his country was in need of men like him, he had been rotated out of office. The Anti Federalists argued that without term limits Congress could make the, “Federal rulers…..masters, and not servants.” 5 However the Federalists repeatedly pointed out that, “1. The people had the right to elect who they chose to office. 2. Rotation would reduce the incentives for political accountability. Rotation deprives the polity of experienced public servants.” 6 7. To appease the Anti Federalists, Robert R. Livingston related how term limits would not give power back to the
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