And so it begins...

Unbeknownst to a lot of folks, Nevada has been on the front lines of democratic reform in the U.S.

The legislature has considered a reform of the state's judicial election process called the Missouri Plan. It ruffled a few feathers last session. Now, the Secretary of State, Ross Miller, has started enforcing the state's recently approved term limit laws, and Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury is "wondering aloud" whether this is all part of a larger plan to challenge the constitutionality of term limits in Nevada.

This plan has been spoken about quietly for over a year in both Democratic and Republican circles. Although the average voter probably could guess that the average politician does not favor term limits, they're probably wrong if they think they know why...

It has never been a foregone conclusion in this country that term limits are inherently positive, least of all with the venerable Libertarian Party. Nonetheless, a lot of disaffected voters - my mom, for example - adhere to a "throw the bums out" philosophy. At it's best, this is a reaction to the maxim that "power corrupts," suggesting that it is in everyone's best interest, including the officeholder's, to rotate through positions of power, lest a man's spirit be tempted. I believe, however, that impulse is more likely a value judgement against a given clique of our society. "Everyone knows," they might say, "that all politicians are only interested in enriching themselves." In other words, incumbency is the proof of a man's inauspicious motives.

First, I don't believe a man can be judged by his career. Even used car salesmen go to church and love their kids. Second, if you wished to aggrandize yourself, public service is the worst way to go about it. The pay is awful, the work is difficult, and you're guaranteed to come out worse for the wear. 

While I do think there's some argument to be made that power corrupts inherently, I also believe that there are many fine examples of men and women who've served their communities honorably and well. Most of them serve in small town city councils and unnoticed county departments - you've never read about a scandal involving them because they haven't gotten involved in any. 

As you move up the chain of power, however, all the way to Congress and the White House, the decisions a public servant makes are larger and more complicated, and they are responsible to more people. (No wonder Bush's approval ratings are so low - he has over 100 million constituents who never liked him in the first place!)

... Getting back to Nevada, the reason many politicians, especially legislators, have been working to overturn the state's term limits is that term limits will do more harm to the good governance of the state than all the Jim Gibbonses of the world put together. 

Meeting regularly only once every two years, Nevada's legislators are always at a disadvantage to lobbyists and special interests during the session. They spend so little time actually legislating, that they rely on outside professionals to do the job for them. Every other winter, they fly up to Carson City to rubber stamp the handiwork of the state's lobbyists. 

With term limits, the situation will be even worse. A freshman Assemblyperson will have less than 10 months, spread out over two years, to learn how to write law, build coalitions, and acquire the knowledge necessary to do both effectively and in the interest of their constituents.

Of course, for a state that prides itself in its libertarian spirit, it's odd to allow a person to visit a prostitute, but forbid him from voting for a three-term politician.

No comments: