Mission Statement

Mission Statement: This blog is dedicated to both political philosophy and application to current issues based on the ideas of limited government, free markets, and individual liberty. Additionally, this blog strives to create an atmosphere where intelligent discussions based on the principles of logic, no matter the viewpoints expressed in their conclusions, are not only welcome, but also thrive.

To learn more, feel free to read the introduction and subsequent posts which explain the aforementioned philosophy and purpose of this blog in more detail.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Issues 11: Curbing the Influence of the Avaricious and Ambitious Politician

          As I mentioned before, one of my desires is not just to limit government, but to shrink it back to levels that are both more efficient and commensurate with the Constitution. I proposed procedural changes that will help make this possible, but the second leg of the tripod remains to be dealt with: political service itself.
          In times long past, times of war, sacrifice, and American courage, men called political office a service to their country. Men like George Washington bore the mantle of setting the precedent of what a United States President should do. When fans asked him to be something more, he declined. When he had served two terms, a sufficient time to make an impact but not so much as to be a careerist, he voluntarily stepped down. This act was emulated by Presidents for over a hundred years, until FDR decided that he was too important for the country to lose.
          Thereafter, it has been the job of the Constitution, in the form of the 22d Amendment, to limit the President to two terms of “service.” This has not translated to Congress, however, where men and women still seek to make their “career in politics.” The fact that a person may impact the country for a long period does not bother me so much as the fact that they are being elected and paid to do so. How many Americans think that they could make decisions better than some Congressmen? It is not a position that is short supply of applicants.
          The Founding Fathers envisioned political service to be exactly that—service that you rendered to your country for a short time apart from your “real” life. And it is toward that goal that I propose changes in the way Congressmen serve.
          Let’s face it, if a person is so magnanimous that they want to serve their country and make it a better place, they will overcome obstacles in their path in order to do so. No trophy, no exorbitant amounts of money, no preferential treatment would be necessary for the true patriot to stand up and serve his or her country. If you do not believe me, look at the members of today’s military. The Founding Fathers risked execution to create and serve this country; surely our Congressmen needn’t have elite-citizen status to be enticed to grace the country with their noble ideas.
          The first thing that I would change about Congress is the obvious term limits. The numbers themselves can be tweaked, but 12 years in Congress, divided any way between either of the chambers, seems best to me. This allows a person to serve at the Federal government for up to 20 years, if their service is so special and dedicated as to warrant two Presidential elections as well. The number 12 seems good because it fits easily with 6 terms in the House or 2 in the Senate, but as I said, the exact number doesn’t matter as much as the principle, to a point.
          The term limits give one major advantage to people that they don’t have now: eventually your Congressmen will be able to do what he thinks is right without worrying about straddling the fence to ensure reelection. As we see now in an example, there are some harsh and unpopular measures necessary to balance the budget. Either we must raise taxes or cut entitlements, either of which is likely to get a candidate a quick trip back home next election. With politicians not as worried about pandering to voters and special interest groups each election cycle, they will be able to make tough decisions that they think are for the benefit of the country, sans the current flowery language, veiled statements, and games. Your own research will unveil arguments not proposed here both for and against term limits, as this is an issue reaching national attention. I encourage you to add your thoughts to the comments on this blog.
          The second part of this solution is for politicians to not have a retirement system. If political position in the United States is viewed as political service, no retirement should be necessary. Retirement is associated with work, not service. Other job benefits should also be closely examined to determine which ones are strictly necessary.
          As for pay, Benjamin Franklin gave an amazing argument condemning the combination of power and money into one position where a person’s ambition and avarice may produce “most violent effects.”
          There are two sides to the argument that government service should have no pay. The first is that of Benjamin Franklin. The second is that a lack of pay would allow only the rich to participate, as they would be the only ones who could afford the associated expenses. I propose the solution of no pay, with the following stipulations. First, the government could procure adequate and optional housing to serving politicians. This would be procured housing, not money to pay for housing. Second, the government would cover all necessary and business-related expenses. These two provisions would remove the barrier of money in relation to serving, while still not paying political servants directly.
          An alternate answer may be to pay political servants at the DC rate for the lowest GS level. I don’t think this is as good as no pay, but it compromises between giving them income comparable to what the government expects people to live on and enforcing the view that they are the servants, not the elite.
          A third idea for holding Congress more accountable would be to increase its size. As counterintuitive as this sounds, the more Congressmen there are, the fewer constituents there are per Congressman. This allows for greater representation, greater accountability, and less power in each Congressman. That power that each wields is a large motivator to remain in office. An article by Jonah Goldberg details some of these benefits.
          I believe this three-part plan of term limits; retirement, pay, and benefit overhaul; and size increase will have the desired effect of making Congressmen once again servants of their country. The decrease in power and pay reduce the effects of avarice and ambition, as cautioned by Ben Franklin, while the term limits allow elected officials to stop making political service a career and focus on adherence to the Constitution rather than supporting the donors that will fund their next campaign.

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