Monday, May 03, 2010

Good movie, good idea

Prof Gordon Wood's op-ed in the NY Times includes a sketch of the history of term limits in the U.S.  Not suprisingly, it is an old idea that meshed with the founders' suspicion of political power.  But Wood ends with this:
Although federal term limits have been confined to the presidency, the fear of entrenched and far-removed political power, as the present anti-incumbency mood suggests, remains very much part of American popular culture. Yet precisely because we are such a rambunctious and democratic people, as the framers of 1787 appreciated, we have learned that a government made up of rotating amateurs cannot maintain the steadiness and continuity that our expansive Republic requires.
But look at the entrenched committee chairs in both houses and tell me that these veteran professionals offer anything positive.  The "professionals" (as Mancur Olson and others have reminded us) are most likely to have settled into the rent-seeking-rent-extraction derby. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is my favorite movie.