Term Limits: Why or Why Not?


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A new model elucidating when and when not to have legislative and presidential term limits. Case studies include: Russia, Columbia and South Korea. The presentation concludes that term limits are most necessary for presidential offices in developing countries, but could even harmful when used in legislatures in developed countries.

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  • Variation in presence and types of term limits across state legislatures in the United States: For the Governor you have California has 2 4-year terms Arkansas has an absolute two term limit (but not necessary consecutive) Illinois has no limit Georgia after two consecutive terms must wait 4 years and/or 1 full term before being eligible again Variation with-in state: Connecticut – Governor, Lt. Governor, and Secretary of State have no term limit Missouri– governor has a 2 term limit; Lt. Governor has no term limit Maryland – Governor after two consecutive terms must wait 4 years and/or 1 full term before being eligible again; Lt governor has a 2 term limit; Attorney General has no term limit
  • Progressivism . This thinking upholds the ideal of an expert and professional legislature, but maintains that it has been corrupted by representatives who put their own re-election and campaign donors above the public good. Populism. This thinking rejects the professional legislative ideal in favour of amateurism. This may be supported because one believes in a weak legislature vis-à-vis the executive, or that amateur politicians will bring representative closer to the people. Republicanism . These guys deplore professionalism for destroying the distance between representatives and their followers. However they also disagree with the populists by wanting their representatives to be like trustees. Having term-limits can free representatives from careerism and the need to win elections. Libertarianism . These guys oppose professionalised and strong legislatures to preserve a minimalist government. The careerism of politics attracts people who are predisposed to solve problems through government. Term-limits would therefore create more efficient policies. Demand for Term Limits: less government spending; fewer laws; political amateurism Eliminate inefficiency and corruption Fiscal Discipline
  • No clear consensus on who the winners and losers are from term limits Binding / Non Binding term limits: In order to bind, the term limit must be lower than what some critical proportion of the legislatures tenure would have been without the restriction. If term limit is not binding then it may prove to have little or no effect on a politicians tenure
  • Link it to who gains and loses Model to show moral hazard not a problem in certain circumstances Term limits can be good
  • "More than 30 yrs has passed since President Park died. Because of bad memory of term limits, Korea has been very strict to term limits. (i.e. only one term for the president since then) Since then, Korean society became more democratic and also gained economic power. Nowadays, curing lame duck problem is most salient issue whenever there is discussion about constitutional reform in Korea
  • Jono – insert a short sentence Alternatives to term limits to achieve the term limits goals Campaign finance reform – other instruments to limits careerism and barriers to entry
  • Term Limits: Why or Why Not?

    1. 1. Terms Limits: Why or Why Not? Stephane Amoyel, Alexander Buchvald, Jonathon Flegg, Hee Jae Kim, William Oman, and Russell Saltz
    2. 2. Outline <ul><li>Introduction to Term Limits </li></ul><ul><li>Normative Approaches </li></ul><ul><li>How do Term Limits Affect Expected Welfare Findings </li></ul><ul><li>South Korea, Russia, & Colombia </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion: When Should We Have Term Limits? </li></ul>
    3. 4. Paradigms: Term Limits Schools of Thought * Source: Kurfist 1996 Term Limit Philosophy Political Ideal Legislative Philosophy Legislative Dysfunctions Identified Central Premise Progressivism Representative Professionalism <ul><li>Corruption </li></ul><ul><li>Overrepresentation of “special interests” </li></ul>Professionalize legislatures & enhance representation Populism Participatory Amateurism <ul><li>Elitism </li></ul><ul><li>Careerism </li></ul>“ Citizen legislatures” & open up electoral opportunities for ordinary citizens Republicanism Deliberative Deliberation on National Issues <ul><li>Parochialism </li></ul><ul><li>Careerism </li></ul><ul><li>Over representation of “special interests” </li></ul>National issues & representatives as “statesmen” Libertarianism Minimalist Minimalism <ul><li>Anti-business attitude </li></ul><ul><li>Elitism </li></ul><ul><li>Careerism </li></ul><ul><li>“ Tax and spend” liberalism </li></ul>Scale of government & direct representation of business community
    4. 5. Paradigms: Who Benefits from Term Limits * Source: Kurfist 1996 Term-Limit Political Actors Progressivism Populism Republicanism Libertarianism Presidents and Governors Unlikely Somewhat Disadvantaged Unlikely Executive Agencies Likely Somewhat Unlikely Unlikely Legislative Staff Likely Somewhat Likely Unlikely State and Local Politicians Likely Disadvantaged Somewhat Disadvantaged Party Organizations Likely Somewhat Unlikely Unlikely Interest Groups Likely Likely Disadvantaged Somewhat Lobbyists Likely Somewhat Disadvantaged Somewhat Likely to Benefit from Term Limits Unlikely to Benefit from Term Limits Somewhat Likely to Benefit from Term Limits Likely to be Disadvantaged by Term Limits
    5. 6. Outline <ul><li>Introduction to Term Limits </li></ul><ul><li>Normative Approaches </li></ul><ul><li>How do Term Limits Affect Expected Welfare Findings </li></ul><ul><li>South Korea, Russia, & Colombia </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion: When Should We Have Term Limits? </li></ul>
    6. 7. Barriers to Entry <ul><ul><li>“ When a simple candidate seeks to rise by intrigue, his maneuvers must necessarily be limited to a narrow sphere; but when the chief magistrate enters the lists, he borrows the strength of the Government for his own purposes. In the former case the feeble resources of an individual are in action; in the latter, the State itself, with all its immense influence, is busied in the work of corruption and cabal.“ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>De Tocqueville, Democracy In America </li></ul></ul>
    7. 8. Barriers to Entry: Theories for Term Limits <ul><li>Use of state of resources : Incumbents can create  barriers to entry for challengers through recognition and strategic use of state resources, patronage, and electoral engineering. </li></ul><ul><li>Informational advantage : Incumbents rely on their track record and retrospective voters, challengers cannot signal their performance. </li></ul><ul><li>Seniority : Senior legislators can transfer resources easily to their district </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Costly for voters to remove incumbents. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Buchanan and Congleton 1994; Dick and Lott 1993) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Risk Aversion : Voters will seek term limits as insurance against long-term domination of least preferred politicians. (Glaeser 1997) </li></ul>
    8. 9. Barriers to Entry- Empirical Data <ul><li>Against Term Limits: </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Florida study found less competition during the term cycle and reinforcement of incumbent advantage. (Prier and Wagner 2009) </li></ul><ul><li>In the US, term limits did not increase representation of minorities or women. (Bernstein and Chadha 2003) </li></ul><ul><li>In Favor of Term Limits: </li></ul><ul><li>Turnover : term limits increase turnover. (Petracca 1996) </li></ul><ul><li>Competition : Californian legislature term limits increase political competition. (Daniel and Lott 1997) </li></ul><ul><li>Reduce spending : Mean tenure of US House delegations is related to per capita federal outlays. (Moore and Hibbing 1996) </li></ul>
    9. 10. Experience or Careerism? Basic concept: term limits change the behavior and motivations of  politicians in office, and the type of person who seeks office. <ul><li>In Favor of Term Limits: </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Increased diversity among representatives. (Carey, Niemi, Powell 2000; Petracca 1996) </li></ul><ul><li>Long serving legislators used to voting for spending increases. (Payne 1991 &quot;Culture of Spending”) </li></ul><ul><li>Ambiguous Effects: </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>How does lobbying affect term-limited representatives. </li></ul><ul><li>Against Term Limits: </li></ul><ul><li>Term limits reduce policy expertise. (Hansen 1997; Hibbing 1991) </li></ul><ul><li>Career politicians are  pursuing a succession of offices- Special Elections. (Cain and Levin 1999) </li></ul><ul><li>Bipartisan cooperation: long repeated games creates incentives for cooperation. (Cohen and Spitzer 1996) </li></ul><ul><li>Term limits as weaker screening process for filtering out incompetent representatives. (Mondak 1995) </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    10. 11. The Effect on Institutions Basic concept: term limits can strengthen or weaken democratic institutional structures and effectiveness. <ul><li>In Favor of Term Limits: </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Executive term limits prevent the incumbent from weakening the effectiveness of government institutions through cronyism. </li></ul><ul><li>Against Term Limits: </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Legislative term limits weaken the legislature’s power vis-à-vis the executive. (Kurtz, Cain and Niemi 2007) </li></ul><ul><li>Term limits destroy institutional memory. (Hansen 1997; Hibbing 1991) </li></ul><ul><li>Terms limits reduce policy horizons. (Hibbing 1991) </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
    11. 12. 'Lame Duck' Terms/Moral Hazard Basic concept: when a politician is not able to run for re-election they will maximize their own utility in their final term rather than the electorate's utility. <ul><li>In favor of term limits: </li></ul><ul><li>Increased Accountability through truthfulness and selection effects. (Smart and Sturm 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Populism limits politician power despite information asymmetry. </li></ul><ul><li>Reputation and legacy : future utility of reputation mitigates moral hazard. </li></ul><ul><li>Party discipline and future office minimize principal agent problem. </li></ul><ul><li>Against term limits : </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Single-round non-repeated principle-agent problem. </li></ul><ul><li>US Governors spend and tax more in 'lame duck' terms. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Taxes rise by 7% (income) or 3% (sales). (Besley and Case 1995) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Borrowings higher in 'lame duck' terms. (Alt, de Mesquita and Rose Forthcoming) </li></ul>
    12. 13. Outline <ul><li>Introduction to Term Limits </li></ul><ul><li>Normative Approaches </li></ul><ul><li>How do Term Limits Affect Expected Welfare Findings </li></ul><ul><li>South Korea, Russia, & Colombia </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion: When Should We Have Term Limits? </li></ul>
    13. 14. How do Term Limits Affect Expected Welfare? <ul><li>Formal model of the interaction between a politician and the electorate. </li></ul><ul><li>How does the payoff to the electorate change if we introduce a term limit? Under what circumstances do term limit’s solve the moral hazard problem? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Synthesis of Sturm & Smart (2006) and Maskin & Tirole (2004). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>S&S’s basic model with three modifications. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Two period game like M&T (instead of infinite periods). </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>M&T’s modeling of payoff to politician. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No discounting between periods. </li></ul></ul></ul>
    14. 15. How do Term Limits Affect Expected Welfare? <ul><li>Players: Politician and Electorate </li></ul><ul><li>Actions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Politician: implement policy x ={0, 1} & Electorate: Reelect or elect new politician. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Payoffs: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Electorate: U(s,x) = x*s+(1-s)*(1-x)={0,1) (1 if preferred policy is implemented. 0 otherwise.). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Politician: R from being in office, G from implementing his preferred policy. 0 otherwise. With probability π (> ½), the politician has the same preferences as the electorate. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Information: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Electorate is uninformed about true state of the world and uncertain about which policy is the optimal. With probability p (> ½), “policy x=0” is the optimal for the electorate. Politician is informed. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Timing: Two rounds. Sequential: Electorate moves first. </li></ul><ul><li>Two regimes: No term limits or one-period term limit. </li></ul>
    15. 16. If p<π, term limits maximize welfare How do Term Limits Affect Expected Welfare? Expected Payoff of the Electorate No Term Limits Term limits Second Round π*1+(1- π)*0=π (In the last round, implementing his preferred policy strictly dominates implementing the non-preferred policy since R+G>R) π*1+(1- π)*0=π (In the last round, implementing his preferred policy strictly dominates implementing the non-preferred policy since R+G>R) First Round p*1+(1-p)*0=p The politician implements the “popular” policy a in first round to be reelected (regardless whether policy a is his preferred policy) since 2R+G> R+G π*1+(1- π)*0=π (In the last round(which is also his first), implementing his preferred policy strictly dominates implementing the non-preferred policy since R+G>R) Total Expected Utility π + p 2 π
    16. 17. How do Term Limits Affect Expected Welfare? <ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>The analysis shows that if: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>p is high (eg. Electorate is uneducated, or policy issues are very complex), or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>π is low (eg. Politicians and electorate have diverging interests), </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Then the electorate will benefit from term limits! </li></ul>
    17. 18. Outline <ul><li>Introduction to Term Limits </li></ul><ul><li>Normative Approaches </li></ul><ul><li>How do Term Limits Affect Expected Welfare Findings </li></ul><ul><li>South Korea, Russia, & Colombia </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion: When Should We Have Term Limits? </li></ul>
    18. 19. South Korea <ul><li>Presidential system </li></ul><ul><li>Strong economic growth (miracle, tiger) </li></ul><ul><li>1963~67: 1 st term </li></ul><ul><li>1967~71: 2 nd term (Re-elected) </li></ul><ul><li>1969: Constitution change -> 3 rd term OK </li></ul><ul><li>1971~72: 3 rd term (Re-elected) </li></ul><ul><li>1972: Constitution change </li></ul><ul><li> -> term limits abolished </li></ul><ul><li> -> term extended (4 -> 6 yr) </li></ul><ul><li>1972~78: President under new constitution </li></ul><ul><li>1978~1979: Re-elected again </li></ul><ul><li>1979.10: Assassinated by his subordinate </li></ul>President Park (1963~79)
    19. 20. Russia: A Similar Situation to S. Korea <ul><li>Constitution limits 2 consecutive </li></ul><ul><li>terms </li></ul><ul><li>2000: First Term </li></ul><ul><li>2004: Re-elected (2 nd term) </li></ul><ul><li>2008 : Medvedev became president </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Putin became Prime Minister </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>2012 : President Putin again? </li></ul>
    20. 21. Applicability to South Korea <ul><li>Term Limits: Necessary </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Patronage opportunity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(rent seeking) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Barriers to Entry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1972 : Election rule change; indirect election by machine politics </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Concentration of Power </li></ul></ul></ul>Less democratic & weak check and balance system -> Term limits desirable to curb the potential for dictatorships <ul><li>Term Limits: Not Necessary </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Economic Success </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Rural district in Idaho (Smith 2003) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No Lame Duck – Long Term Strategy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stability of Politics </li></ul></ul><ul><li>1960~1970 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Term limits was effective </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(marginal utility high) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Currently </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Only one term for 5 years </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lame Duck is big issue in Korea </li></ul></ul>
    21. 22. Developing Countries: A Different Challenge <ul><li>1992-2006: only 5 of 92 developing countries (population > 2m) had not experienced presidential term limits. (Maltz 2007) </li></ul><ul><li>1992-2006: 26 presidents did not respect their term limit </li></ul><ul><li>-> Challenge = enforcement of term limits (more than the diffusion of term limits). </li></ul>
    22. 23. Why do Term Limits Play Out Differently in Developing Countries? <ul><li>Research points to shortcomings of term limits. (Besley and Case 1995) </li></ul><ul><li>Nogare (2009) finds that this pattern is not observed in most other countries. </li></ul><ul><li>Key difference: many developing countries have to face (potential) crises of legitimacy of the basic institutions of governance, such as the presidency. Not the case in US. </li></ul><ul><li> explains why developing countries need term limits, and why standard governance indicators (e.g., Polity IV) penalize regimes that have amended their constitutional term limits. </li></ul>
    23. 24. Colombia <ul><li>Presidential system, Developing country </li></ul><ul><li>2002: Elected </li></ul><ul><li>2006: Electoral law changed -> 2 nd term OK </li></ul><ul><li>2006: Re-elected </li></ul><ul><li>2009: Tries to amend constitution by referendum -> 3 rd term </li></ul><ul><li>2010: Constitutional Court declares that procedure that led to the proposed referendum unconstitutional -> indirectly blocks reform </li></ul><ul><li>Lessons: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rule of law is respected </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The political “institution” of term limits is strengthened </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Colombia (especially its courts) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>demonstrates democratic maturity </li></ul></ul>President Uribe (2002-)
    24. 25. Colombia: Benefits of Term Limits <ul><li>Term Limits: Necessary </li></ul><ul><li>Reduces ability of popular leaders to set up a political apparatus powerful enough to keep the leader in power indefinitely (  de jure dictatorship). </li></ul><ul><li>Eliminates the scope for accumulation/abuse of power by presidents who are in office over long/uninterrupted periods of time. </li></ul><ul><li>Allows party to compete/develop  strengthens the country’s democratic “culture”. </li></ul><ul><li>Strong institutional environment (eg, “hard” term limits): necessary to create a credible threat for bad behavior by presidents. </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion: poorer countries with weaker institutions benefit more from </li></ul><ul><li>executive term limits. </li></ul><ul><li>2002-2010 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2006: Term limits amended </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Term limits remain crucial </li></ul></ul>
    25. 26. Outline <ul><li>Introduction to Term Limits </li></ul><ul><li>Normative Approaches </li></ul><ul><li>How do Term Limits Affect Expected Welfare Findings </li></ul><ul><li>South Korea, Russia, & Colombia </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion: When Should We Have Term Limits? </li></ul>
    26. 27. When Should We Have Term Limits? Term limits reduce barriers to entry and are most effective where electoral screening processes are ineffective. However, generally career politicians adapt to, rather than are limited by, term limits. Legislature Executive Developed Countries Lowest barriers from incumbency. Electoral screening is most elective. Low information asymmetry. Moderate barriers from state resources. Electoral screening is most effective. Low information asymmetry. Developing Countries Lowest barriers from incumbency. Electoral screening is least effective. High information asymmetry. Greatest barriers from state resources. Electoral screening is least effective. High information asymmetry. Term Limits ineffective or harmful Term limits most effective and desirable
    27. 28. Bibliography <ul><li>Alt, J., E. B. de Mesquita, and S. Rose   Forthcoming. &quot;Accountability and Competence in Elections: Theory and   Evidence from U.S. Term Limits“. http://home.uchicago.edu/~bdm/PDF/term_limits.pdf. </li></ul><ul><li>Bernstein, Robert A., and Anita Chadha. 2003. “The Effects of Term Limits on Representation: Why So Few Women?” In The Test of Time: Coping with Legislative Term Limits, edited by Rick Farmer, John David Rausch, Jr., and John C. Green. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. 147-158. </li></ul><ul><li>Besley, T. and A. Case 1995. &quot;Does Electoral Accountability Affect Economic Policy Choices?   Evidence from Gubernatorial Term Limits&quot;. Journal of Economic Literature 110: 769-98. </li></ul><ul><li>Buchanan J. and Congleton R. 1994, The incumbency dilemma and rent extraction by legislators, Public Choice , Volume 79(1-2). </li></ul><ul><li>Cain, B. E. and M. C. Levin   1999. &quot;Term Limits&quot;. Annual Review of Political Science 2:163-88. </li></ul><ul><li>Carey, J. M., R. G. Niemi, and L. W. Powell 2000. Term Limits in the State Legislatures . Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Conconi, P., Sahuguet, N., and M. Zanardi, 2008 “Democracy and accountability: The perverse effects of term limits”. VoxEU </li></ul><ul><li>Cohen, L. R. and M. L. Spitzer 1996. &quot;Terms Limits and Representation&quot;. In Legislative Term Limits: Public Choice Perspectives , edited by B. Grofman. Boston: Kluwer: pp 47-65. </li></ul><ul><li>Dick, R., & Lott, J. (1993). “Reconciling voters' behavior with legislative term limits”. Journal of Public Economics 50 , 1-14. </li></ul><ul><li>Daniel, K. and J. R. Lott        1997. &quot;Term limits and electoral competitiveness: evidence from California's state legislative races&quot;. Public Choice 90: 165-84. </li></ul><ul><li>Daniel Smith. 2003. “ Overturning Term Limits: The Legislature ’ s Own Private Idaho? ” Political Science & Politics 36: 215 – 220. </li></ul><ul><li>Dick, A. R. and Lott J. R. Jr. 1993. “Reconciling voters’ behavior with legislative term limits”. Journal of Public Economics 50: 1-14. </li></ul>
    28. 29. Bibliography Cont. <ul><li>Glaeser, E. 1997. “Self-imposed term limits”. Public Choice 93:389-394. </li></ul><ul><li>Hansen, K. 1997. &quot;Term Limits for Better or Worse&quot;. State Legislatures 23: 50-7. </li></ul><ul><li>Hibbing, J. R. 1991. Congressional Careers: Contours of Life in the U.S. House Representatives. Chapel Hill, NC: University of NC Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Kil, S.& Moon, C.(Eds.) (2001). Understanding Korean Politics: An Introduction . Albany, NY: State University of New York. </li></ul><ul><li>Kurfirst, Robert, “Term-Limit Logic: Paradigms and Paradoxes”, Polity, Vol. 29, No. 1 1996. </li></ul><ul><li>Maltz, G. (2007): “The Case for Presidential Term Limits,” Journal of Democracy , 18.1, 128-142 </li></ul><ul><li>Maskin & Tirole (2004): &quot;The Politician and the Judge: Accountability in Government,&quot;  American Economic Review 94(4): 1034-1054 . </li></ul><ul><li>Mondak, J.1995. &quot;Elections as Filters: Term Limits and the Composition of the US House&quot;. Political Research Quarterly 48: 701-27. </li></ul><ul><li>Moore, M. and J. Hibbing 1996. &quot;Length of Congressional Tenure and Federal Spending: Were the    Voters of Washington State Correct?&quot;. American Political Quarterly 24:131-49. </li></ul><ul><li>Nogare, C. D. 2008. “Term limits: do they really affect fiscal policy choices?,” Cifrem Seminars, Working Paper. </li></ul><ul><li>Petracca, M. 1996. A Legislature in Transition: The California Experience with Term Limits . Working Paper 96-1. Berkeley, CA: Institute of Government Studies. </li></ul><ul><li>Prier E and Wagner.K, 2009. “ Running Unopposed: Assessing the Impact of Term Limits on Competition in Florida and Maine ” Politics & Policy, 37(1): 101–125. </li></ul><ul><li>Smart, Michael and Sturm, Daniel M. (2006) Term limits and electoral accountability . PSPE working papers, 03-2006. </li></ul>