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Term Limits: Causes and Consequences

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  • Lopez, Edward J

Abstract

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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  • Lopez, Edward J, 2003. "Term Limits: Causes and Consequences," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 114(1-2), pages 1-56, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:114:y:2003:i:1-2:p:1-56
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    Cited by:

    1. J. Sebastian Leguizamon & George R. Crowley, 2016. "Term limits, time horizons and electoral accountability," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 168(1), pages 23-42, July.
    2. Yakovlev, Pavel & Tosun, Mehmet S. & Lewis, William P., 2012. "Legislative Term Limits and State Aid to Local Governments," IZA Discussion Papers 6456, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Zhang, Yongjing, 2011. "The successor's dilemma in China's single party political system," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 674-680.
    4. Braendle, Thomas, 2013. "Do Institutions Affect Citizens' Selection into Politics?," Working papers 2013/04, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    5. Frisell, Lars & Roszbach, Kasper & spagnolo, giancarlo, 2008. "Governing the Governors: A Clinical Study of Central Banks," Working Paper Series 221, Sveriges Riksbank (Central Bank of Sweden).
    6. Smart, Michael & Sturm, Daniel M., 2013. "Term limits and electoral accountability," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 93-102.
    7. Fredriksson, Per G. & Wang, Le & Mamun, Khawaja A., 2011. "Are politicians office or policy motivated? The case of U.S. governors' environmental policies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 241-253, September.
    8. Braendle, Thomas & Stutzer, Alois, 2016. "Selection of public servants into politics," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 696-719.
    9. Ross Hickey, 2015. "Intergovernmental transfers and re-election concerned politicians," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 331-351, November.
    10. H. Erler, 2007. "Legislative term limits and state spending," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 133(3), pages 479-494, December.
    11. Gabriel Leon, 2013. "Bad Apples: Political Paralysis and the Quality of Politicians," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 15(3), pages 433-447, June.
    12. Michael Hoffman, 2005. "Discretion, Lobbying, and Political Influence in Models of Trade Policy," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(3), pages 175-188.
    13. Thierry Madiès & Sonia Paty & Yvon Rocaboy, 2005. "Externalités fiscales horizontales et verticales. Où en est la théorie du fédéralisme financier ?," Revue d'économie politique, Dalloz, vol. 115(1), pages 17-63.
    14. Chiara Dalle Nogare & Matteo Galizzi, 2011. "The political economy of cultural spending: evidence from Italian cities," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 35(3), pages 203-231, August.
    15. Mark Schelker, 2009. "Auditor Terms and Term Limits in the Public Sector: Evidence from the US States," CREMA Working Paper Series 2009-19, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    16. Rodet, Cortney S., 2011. "Voter Behavior and Seniority Advantage in Pork Barrel Politics," MPRA Paper 33192, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Mark Schelker, 2012. "The influence of auditor term length and term limits on US state general obligation bond ratings," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 150(1), pages 27-49, January.
    18. Apollonio, Dorie E. & Glantz, Stanton A. & Bero, Lisa A., 2014. "Term limits and the tobacco industry," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 1-5.

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