Thomas Sowell

 Some people think we need higher standards of behavior among public officials and/or stricter scrutiny by voters. Both would of course be wonderful, if they happened. But what are we to do in the meantime -- say, the next few centuries or the next millennium?

 Anyone familiar with ancient history knows that people have been the way they are for thousands of years. Do not look for a change in human nature in 2006.

 What we can change are the incentives and constraints.

 At the heart of much government corruption is one simple thing: Re-election. It takes big bucks to run a political campaign and all that most politicians have to sell is the power of government that they control. That is what they do sell in various ways to various special interests.

 Term limits try to deal with the problem of re-election but the fatal weakness of term limits is the "s" at the end of the word "limits." So long as there are multiple terms, the first term is going to be spent trying to get re-elected to a second term -- instead of devoting that time to serving the public interest.

 What really needs to be done is to put a limit of one term in one office and a waiting period of several years before being elected or appointed to another office in government. In other words, make political careers impossible.

 Can people who are not career politicians run the government? People who were not career politicians created the government and the Constitution of the United States of America.

 It was one of the most incredible achievements in history. Who among our career politicians today would be capable of such a feat?

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate