My thoughts tend to be farfetched. I’ve been reading a little about Milton Friedman lately. Friedman was head of the so-called Chicago school of economics. He believed that government should not regulate the economy. Through his influence on Reagan, he helped to bring about the current economic crisis.
Nevertheless he was a brilliant thinker and an engaging personality. I remember his documentary TV series from the 1980’s, in which he complained of government intervention.
The thought occurred to me: What if Milton Friedman had served a term as governor of Illinois? He could have tested his economic ideas, for better or for worse, and would have changed them, as all ideologues must. And the state of Illinois would have had the benefit, for four years, of a first-class mind.
And what if another state had a Nobel physicist as its U.S. senator for six years? These ideas, from the vantage of American history, are not so farfetched. When the nation began, it was guided by its best minds. Ben Franklin was a distinguished scientist. Thomas Jefferson was an architect. John Adams was an important political philosopher. Alexander Hamilton was an expert on economic policy. Benjamin Rush was a pioneer in the enlightened care of the mentally ill. The list is considerable.
In the present day, fine minds have nothing to do with politics. Even if they ventured into the field, they would not be taken seriously as candidates.
Both the major parties have failed to provide voters with adequate choices. The candidates they provide are people with limited ideas. Much has been said about governmental corruption, and next to nothing has been done of it. Public service has become a matter of self-enrichment. The political leaders profit from the special interests they support, and heed little the public’s needs.
The solution to this massive problem can be found at the Republic’s beginning. George Washington rose to prominence through ambition, but somewhere in maturity he developed the admirable ability to keep his ambition under check. He had no wish to be king. At the end of two terms as president, he returned to his farm at Mount Vernon.
It is high time we sent our leaders back to their farms. Through amendments to our federal and state constitutions, we should allow a politician to have no more than two terms at a given office.
There are, of course, politicians who develop considerable ability. Ted Kennedy, despite his many flaws, had a long and effective career in the U.S. Senate. Such leaders, under the proposed constitutional limits, would be free to pursue other offices after the finish of their two terms.
With the establishment of term limits, our democracy would return to being, in the words of Maxwell Anderson, the “rotation of amateurs.” Many politicians would be freed to vote on principle rather than on constituency interest. And perhaps brilliant minds would no longer be repulsed by the prospect of serving in government. The ground-breaking physicist would, after six years in the Senate, return to his studies.
Under our present conditions, political reform can begin only with the establishment of term limits.