Paul Jacob

Except that it isn't that simple. There are incentives built into the system giving incumbents boatloads of advantage. Economists and even a few political scientists have provided a great deal of evidence and logic explaining the sad situation. I've discussed these factors before. For now, just listen to term limits' critics. The plain reason they want to "reform" the limits is to increase the power of incumbency.

And certainly, as shown in many states, term limits have opened up the system. To whom? Minorities, women . . . and, mostly, new legislators who have not yet been inured to the sound of their constituents' voices.

Another function of term limits is to "de-bottleneck" power. With shorter terms, it's awfully hard to divvy up power in terms of seniority.

Which is why lobbyists tend to hate term limits so much, why they and special interests have voiced such bitter complaints. They like it when power is centralized in a few committees, in a few power players. It's easier to know whom to invest in, whom to schmooze.

And let it not be said that our schmoozers are slackers, or lack "experience." The Chamber's top lobbyists average nearly 30 years in the capitol's back rooms. No wonder these Old Boys (and Girls) prefer the Old Boy System.

The Old Boy System is easier to manage and far more effective.

For them.

And for nearly every other big lobbying outfit, including those with completely different agendas. Perhaps that's why the Chamber's plans for the term-limit assault were underwritten, in part, by such groups as the state's teachers' union.

So, under Michigan's Chamber of Commerce plan, the power of incumbency would increase, as would the calcification of power in a few committees and entrenched leaders. It basically maximizes the evils of incumbency while keeping an element of term limits -- in hopes that the people might buy it.

I'd rather maximize open debate, equal representation, citizen participation, and real competition. The Chamber, apparently, has other goals.

I trust that Michigan citizens are armed and ready.

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.