Paul Jacob

Politicians love the people, at least for these couple of months during election years. The rest of the time they merely put up with us, spend our money, and try to cope with our love for term limits.

In a new book, The Test of Time: Coping with Legislative Term Limits, edited by Rick Farmer and John C. Green of the University of Akron and John David Rausch of West Texas A&M University (Lexington Books, 298 pages, February 2003), 28 academics and experts present their research. This "research" consists mostly of surveys of what legislators and lobbyists have to say about term limits.

News flash: Legislators and lobbyists don't think term limits work. Not for them, anyway.

That politicians would hate term limits is not hard to fathom. But professors are hostile, too. Why? Years ago, political scientist Mark Petracca of the University of California-Irvine explained:

Political scientists were instrumental in promoting the professionalization of legislators. . . . They are cynical about the attentiveness, general knowledge, and judgmental capacity of the average voter. . . . They perceive attacks on professional politicians as a threat to their own self-proclaimed professionalism.

Throughout The Test of Time, the "professionals" make Petracca appear nearly clairvoyant. Professors George Peery of Mars Hill College and Thomas H. Little of the University of Texas-Arlington write:

One of the occupational hazards of scientists is the possibility of their work leading to unanticipated consequences. For state legislative scholars an ironic and surprising result of their research is term limits. In the last three decades they have fashioned a coherent discipline, generated an important body of work, and in significant ways shaped the very institutions they studied. Who could have predicted that one of the consequences of their success in pointing the way to greater professionalization and institutional accountability would be the "amateurization" and destabilization inherent in term limits?

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.