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Term Limits: Causes and Consequences

  • Lopez, Edward J

This paper consults multiple literatures to specify and evaluate the economic rationales for term limitation, particularly on Congress. I first consider theories that arose to explain, among related issues, why individual states might unilaterally self-impose term limits on their own delegations to Congress. Next I consider two main lines of argument for universal limits, both of which begin with the empirical phenomenon of high and rising congressional tenure. First, supporters of term limits argue that higher tenure biases legislatures toward inefficiency big government (high spending). Second, higher tenure creates inefficient (anti-competitive) conditions in the legislative election market. Term limitation would remedy these inefficiencies by virtue of decreasing average tenure. These claims are then evaluated in light of the evidence amassed in the literature. Based on the literature reviewed, this paper finds that, while term limits will reduce average tenure, there is no evidence to suggest that term limits will affect the underlying causes of these inefficiencies. Further research on a more general reform, which would strike deeper at these underlying causes, is implied. Copyright 2003 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

Volume (Year): 114 (2003)
Issue (Month): 1-2 (January)
Pages: 1-56

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Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:114:y:2003:i:1-2:p:1-56
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