Paul Jacob

Drunks, for instance, don't understand why a person would set a two-glass-a-night limit on wine. "Why would you want to give up your right to choose as many drinks as you please?"

Gluttons, likewise, don't get how a person could not eat the second helping of potatoes and that juicy slice of apple pie. "How could you limit yourself like that?"

Thieves, too, don't understand why a person would forebear grabbing a desired item simply because one lacks the funds to pay for it. "You chumps and your artificial limits!"

Voters are, in general, more sophisticated in their thinking than drunks, gluttons, and thieves -- and politicians.

They realize that setting a limit is not the same thing as denying that the limited thing might be good in some context or other. Setting the limit controls the context.

Why politicians can see this in private life, but not public life, is a bit of a puzzle. Well, come to think of it, the longer they are in office, the tougher it becomes for them to see it even in their private lives.

The medical and psychological benefits of one glass of wine strike many people as pretty obvious, and fairly well demonstrated. But the hazards of over-drinking are clearer yet. They have been for millennia. To set up a limit on one's drinking is not to deny the goodness of one gulp. It is to realize that the value can diminish as more is consumed. This is basic economics (ever heard of marginal utility?) as well as common horse sense. And it applies to food as well as . . . politicians.

The trouble with politics is power. How quickly and easily one gets used to it and its benefits. And it's easy to draw the wrong lessons; a person on "the inside" begins to look at the people on "the outside" of the corridors of power in subtly different ways.

Politicians should have sense enough to see this danger as a personal matter, a matter of temptation. That it has become a political issue is largely the result of voters seeing something more clearly than the self-deluded political class sees it. Voters see how politicians metamorphose term after term. They see how power can be so tempting that nothing else ends up making sense. Liberty can even cease to make sense ? a disappointing truth about politicians I've often had occasion to notice in my Common Sense e-letter.

Voters are savvy, though. They realize what Senator Beutler does not: that limiting one's "right" to choose a candidate over and over again is a necessary first step to gain some control over unlimited government growth. Yes, unlimited terms go hand in hand with permanent government growth, with never-ending bureaucratic bloat.

So ? like healthy drinkers, prudent eaters, and responsible citizens ? choosey voters choose limits. Less is more. Voters get it. That's why they overwhelmingly support term limits . . . and why politicians should give up their futile crusade to undermine the voters' good sense.


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.