Term Limits: Causes and Consequences

Posted: 22 Oct 2001


This paper consults multiple literatures to specify and evaluate the economic rationales for term limitation, particularly on Congress. Two main lines of argument are considered, both of which begin with the empirical phenomenon of high and rising congressional tenure. First, supporters of term limits argue that higher tenure biases legislatures toward inefficiently big government (high spending). Second, higher tenure creates inefficient (anti-competitive) conditions in the legislative election market. Term limitation would remedy these inefficiencies by virtue of decreasing average tenure. These claims are then evaluated in light of the evidence amassed in the literature. Based on the literature reviewed, this paper finds that, while term limits will reduce average tenure, there is no evidence to suggest that term limits will affect the underlying causes of these inefficiencies. A more general reform, which would strike deeper at these underlying causes, is implied.

JEL Classification: H11, D72

Suggested Citation

Lopez, Edward J., Term Limits: Causes and Consequences. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=278844

Edward J. Lopez (Contact Author)

Western Carolina University ( email )

College of Business
Forsyth 224C
Cullowhee, NC 28723
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.edwardjlopez.com

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