Public Choice

, Volume 114, Issue 1–2, pp 1–56 | Cite as

Term Limits: Causes and Consequences

  • Edward J. López
Article

Abstract

This paper consults multiple literatures to specify andevaluate the economic rationales for term limitation,particularly on Congress. I first consider theories that aroseto explain, among related issues, why individual states mightunilaterally self-impose term limits on their own delegationsto Congress. Next I consider two main lines of argument foruniversal limits, both of which begin with the empiricalphenomenon of high and rising congressional tenure. First,supporters of term limits argue that higher tenure biaseslegislatures toward inefficiency big government (highspending). Second, higher tenure creates inefficient (anti-competitive) conditions in the legislative election market.Term limitation would remedy these inefficiencies by virtue ofdecreasing average tenure. These claims are then evaluated inlight of the evidence amassed in the literature. Based on theliterature reviewed, this paper finds that, while term limitswill reduce average tenure, there is no evidence to suggestthat term limits will affect the underlying causes of theseinefficiencies. Further research on a more general reform,which would strike deeper at these underlying causes, isimplied.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Adams, J.D. and Kenny, L.W. (1986). Optimal tenire of elected public officials. Journal of Law and Economics 109: 303–328.Google Scholar
  2. Aka, A., Reed, W.R., Schansberg, D.E. and Zhen Zhu (1996). Is there a ‘culture of spending’ in Congress? Economics and Politics 8: 191–212.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, T.L. and Hill, P.J. (1980). The birth of a transfer society. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press.Google Scholar
  4. Armor, J.C. (1994). ‘Forshadowing’ effects of term limits: California's example for Congress. Term Limits Outlook Series, U.S. Term Limits Foundation, 3:1 (June).Google Scholar
  5. Bailyn, B. (1967). The ideological origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bandow, D. (1995). Real term limits: Now more than ever. Policy Analysis, Cato Institute, No. 221 (6 April).Google Scholar
  7. Bandow, D. (1996). The political revolution that wasn't: Why term limits are needed now more than ever. Policy Analysis, Cato Institute, No. 259 (5 September).Google Scholar
  8. Becker, G.S. (1983). A theory of competition among pressure groups for political influence. Quarterly Journal of Economics 68: 371–400.Google Scholar
  9. Bender, B., Haas, T.C. and Sunwoong Kim (2000). Sorting, shirking, and term limits. Unpublished manuscript. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.Google Scholar
  10. Bender, B. and Lott, J.R. (1996). Legislator voting and shirking: A critical review of the literature. Public Choice 87: 67–100.Google Scholar
  11. Bernhardt, M.D. and Ingberman, D.E. (1985). Candidate reputations and the ‘incumbency effect’. Journal of Public Economics 27: 47–67.Google Scholar
  12. Besley, T. and Case, A. (1995). Does electoral accountability affect economic policy choices?: Evidence from gubernatorial term limits. Quarterly Journal of Economics 60: 769–798.Google Scholar
  13. Borcherding, T. (Ed.). (1977). Budgets and bureaucrats: The sources of government growth. Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Browning, E.K. (1974). On the welfare cost of transfers. Kyklos 27: 274–377.Google Scholar
  15. Browning, E.K. (1987). On the marginal welfare cost of taxation. American Economic Review 77: 11–23.Google Scholar
  16. Browning, E.K. (1993). The marginal cost of redistribution. Public Finance Quarterly 21: 3–32.Google Scholar
  17. Buchanan, J.M. and Congleton, R.D. (1994). The incumbency dilemma and rent extraction by legislators. Public Choice 79: 47–60.Google Scholar
  18. Buchanan, J.M. and Tullock, G. (1975). Polluters' profits and political response: Direct controls versus taxes. American Economic Review 65: 139–147.Google Scholar
  19. Cain, B. (1996). The varying impact of term limits on legislative behavior and electoral responsiveness. In B. Grofman (Ed.), Legislative term limits: Public choice perspectives. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  20. Capell, E.A. (1996). The impact of term limits on the California legislature: An interest group perspective. In B. Grofman (Ed.), Legislative term limits: Public choice perspectives. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  21. Carlton, D.W. and Perloff, J.M. (1994). Modern industrial organization. 2nd ed. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  22. Cohen, L. and Spitzer, M. (1996). Term limits and representation. In B. Grofman (Ed.), Legislative term limits: Public choice perspectives, 47–65. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  23. Coker, D.C. and Crain, W.M. (1994). Legislative committees as loyalty generating institutions.Public Choice 81: 195–221.Google Scholar
  24. Cox, G.W. and McCubbins, M.D. (1993). Legislative Leviathan: Party government in the House. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  25. Coyne, J.K. and Fund, J. (1992). Cleaning House: America's campaign for term limits. Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway.Google Scholar
  26. Crain, W.M. and Johnson, J.M. (2001). Effects of term limits on fiscal performance: Evidence from democratic nations. Working paper, presented at 2000 Public Choice Society Meetings.Google Scholar
  27. Crain, W.M., Leavens, D.R. and Tollison, R.D. (1988). Laissez-faire in campaign finance. Public Choice 56: 201–212.Google Scholar
  28. Crain, W.M. and Oakley, L.K. (1995). The politics of infrastructure. Journal of Law and Economics 38: 1–17.Google Scholar
  29. Crain, W.M. and Tollison, R.D. (1993). Time inconsistency and fiscal policy: Empirical analysis of the U.S. States, 1969–89. Journal of Public Economics 51: 153–159.Google Scholar
  30. Daniel, K. and Lott, J.R. Jr. (1997). Term limits and electoral competitiveness: Evidence from California's State Legislative races. Public Choice 90: 165–184.Google Scholar
  31. Danielson, A.L. and Rubin, P.H. (1977). An empirical investigation of voting on energy issues. Public Choice 31: 121–128.Google Scholar
  32. Denzau, A.R. and Munger, M.C. (1986). Legislators and interest groups: How unorganized interest get represented. American Political Science Review 80: 89–106.Google Scholar
  33. Dick, A.R. and Lott, J.R. Jr. (1993). Reconciling voters' behavior with legislative term limits. Journal of Public Economics 50: 1–14.Google Scholar
  34. Donovan, T. and Snipp, J.R. (1994). Support for legislative term limitations in California: Group representation, partisanship, and campaign information. Journal of Politics 56: 492–501.Google Scholar
  35. Ekelund, R.E., McDonald, M.J. and Tollison, R.D. (1994). Business restraints and the Clayton Act of 1914: Public-or private-interest legislation? In F.S. McChesney and W.F. Shughart (Eds.), The causes and consequences of antitrust: The public choice perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  36. Ekelund, R.E. Jr. and Tollison, R.D. (1998). Economics, 4th ed. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  37. Erickson, S.C. (1995). The entrenching of incumbency: Reelections in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1790–1994. Cato Journal 14: 397–420.Google Scholar
  38. Feldstein, M. (Ed.). (1998). Privatizing Social Security. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  39. Ferejohn, J. (1986). Incumbent performance and electoral control. Public Choice 50: 5–25.Google Scholar
  40. Ferry, J. (1994a). Women, minorities and term limits: America's path to a representative Congress. Term Limits Outlook Series, U.S. Term Limits Foundation, 3:2 (July).Google Scholar
  41. Ferry, J. (1994b). Coming to terms with term limits: A summary of state term limit laws. Term Limits Outlook Series, U.S. Term Limits Foundation, 3:4 (December).Google Scholar
  42. Francis, W.L. and Baker, J.R. (1986). Why do U.S. State legislators vacate their seats? Legislative Studies Quarterly 11: 119–126.Google Scholar
  43. Francis, W.L. and Kenny, L.W. (1997). Equilibrium projections of the consequences of term limits upon expected tenure, institutional turnover, and membership experience. Journal of Politics 59: 240–252.Google Scholar
  44. Francis, W.L., Kenny, L.W. and Anderson, B. (2000). The churning of membership in state legislatures: Effects of term limits and anticipatory behavior. Unpublished manuscript. University of Florida.Google Scholar
  45. Franklin, D. and Westin, T. (1998). Predicting the institutional effects of term limits. Public Choice 96: 381–393.Google Scholar
  46. Friedman, D. and Wittman, D. (1995). Why voters vote for incumbents but against incumbency: A rational choice explanation. Journal of Public Economics 57: 67–83.Google Scholar
  47. Friedman, D. and Wittman, D. (1996). Term limits as political redistribution. In B. Grofman (Ed.), Legislative term limits: Public choice perspectives. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  48. Garrett, E. (1996). Term limitation and the myth of the citizen-legislator. Cornell Law Review 81: 623–697.Google Scholar
  49. Garrett, E. (1998). Harnessing politics: The dynamics of offset requirements in the tax legislative process. University of Chicago Law Review 65: 501–569.Google Scholar
  50. Gerber, E.R. and Lupia, A. (1996). Term limits, responsiveness and the failures of increased competition. In B. Grofman (Ed.), Legislative term limits: Public choice perspectives. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  51. Gilmour, J.B. and Rothstein, P. (1994). Term limitation in a dynamic model of partisan balance. American Journal of Political Science 38: 770–796.Google Scholar
  52. Gilmour, J.B. and Rothstein, P. (1996). A dynamic model of loss, retirement, and tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives. Journal of Politics 58: 54–68.Google Scholar
  53. Glaeser, E.L. (1997). Self-imposed term limits. Public Choice 93: 389–394.Google Scholar
  54. Glazer, A. and Grofman, B. (1987). Two plus two equals six: Tenure in office of Senators and Representatives, 1953–1983. Legislative Studies Quarterly 12: 555–563.Google Scholar
  55. Glazer, A. and Wattenberg, M. (1996). Promoting legislative work: A case for term limits. In B. Grofman (Ed.), Legislative term limits: Public choice perspectives. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  56. Grier, K.B. and Munger, M.C. (1991). Committee assignments, constituent preferences, and campaign contributions. Economic Inquiry 29: 24–43.Google Scholar
  57. Grofman, B. (Ed.). (1996a). Legislative term limits: Public choice perspectives. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  58. Grofman, B. (1996b). Introduction to the term limits debate: Hypotheses in search of data. In B. Grofman (Ed.), Legislative term limits: Public choice perspectives. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  59. Grofman, B. and Sutherland, N. (1996). The effect of term limits when competition is endogenized. In B. Grofman (Ed.), Legislative term limits: Public choice perspectives. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  60. Gwartney, J.D. and Stroup, R.L. (1997). Microeconomics: Private and public choice. 8th ed., United States: Dryden Press.Google Scholar
  61. Holcombe, R.G. (1999). Veterans interests and the transition to government growth: 1870– 1915. Public Choice 99: 311–326.Google Scholar
  62. Hopenhayn, H.A. and Muniaguerria, M.E. (1996). Policy variability and economic growth. Review of Economic Studies 63: 611–625.Google Scholar
  63. Jacob, P. (1996). Whose government is it, anyway? U.S. Term Limits Foundation. Mimeo.Google Scholar
  64. Jacobson, G.C. (1995). The House under term limits: A comment. Social Science Quarterly 76: 720–724.Google Scholar
  65. Kenny, L. and Rush, M. (1990). Self-interest and the Senate vote on direct elections. Economics and Politics 2: 291–302.Google Scholar
  66. Kernell, S. (1977). Toward understanding 19th century congressional careers: Ambition, competition, and rotation. American Journal of Political Science 21: 669–693.Google Scholar
  67. Konrad, K.A. and Torsvik, G. (1997). Dynamic incentives and term limits in bureaucracy regulation. European Journal of Political Economy 13: 267–279.Google Scholar
  68. Krehbiel, K. (1992). Information and legislative organization. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  69. Lancaster, K. and Lipsey, R.G. (1956). The general theory of the second best. Review of Economic Studies 24: 11–32.Google Scholar
  70. Landes, W. and Posner, R.A. (1975). The independent judiciary in an interest-group perspective. Journal of Law and Economics 18: 875–901.Google Scholar
  71. Leighton, W.A. and López, E.J. (1999). Committee assignments and legislative loyalty. Political Research Quarterly 55: forthcoming.Google Scholar
  72. Londregan, J. (1999). Deliberation and voting at the Federal Convention of 1787. Unpublished manuscript. UCLA.Google Scholar
  73. López, E.J. (2002). Congressional voting on term limits. Public Choice, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  74. Lott, J.R. Jr. (1986). Brand names and barriers to entry in political markets. Public Choice 51: 87–92.Google Scholar
  75. Lott, J.R. Jr. (1987a). Political cheating. Public Choice 53: 169–186.Google Scholar
  76. Lott, J.R. Jr. (1987b). The effect of nontransferable property rights on the efficiency of political markets: Some evidence. Journal of Public Economics 32: 231–246.Google Scholar
  77. Lott, J.R. Jr. (1989). Explaining challengers' campaign expenditures: The importance of sunk nontransferable brand name. Public Finance Quarterly 17: 108–118.Google Scholar
  78. Lucas, R. (1976). Econometric policy evaluation: A critique. Journal of Monetary Economics 1: 19–46.Google Scholar
  79. McChesney, F.S. (1991). Rent extraction and interest-group organization in a Coasean model of regulation. Journal of Legal Studies 20: 73–90.Google Scholar
  80. McChesney, F.S. and Shughart, W.F. II. (Eds.) (1995). The causes and consequences of antitrust: The public choice perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  81. McCormick, R.E. and Tollison, R.D. (1981). Politicians legislation and the economy: An inquiry into the interest-group theory of government. Boston: Martinus-Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  82. McGuire, R.A. and Ohsfeldt, R.L. (1984). Economic interests and the American Constitution: A quantitative rehabilitation of Charles A. Beard. Journal of Economic History 44: 509–519.Google Scholar
  83. McGuire, R.A. and Ohsfeldt, R.L. (1986). An economic model of voting behavior over specific issues at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Journal of Economic History 46: 79–111.Google Scholar
  84. McGuire, R.A. and Ohsfeldt, R.L. (1989). Self-interest, agency theory, and political voting behavior: The ratification of the United States Constitution. American Economic Review 79: 219–234.Google Scholar
  85. Mixon, F.G. (1994). Constitutional and economic determinants of lobbyist activity in a representative democracy. Rivista Internazionale di Scienze Economiche e Commerciali 41: 1043–1051.Google Scholar
  86. Moncrief, G., Thompson, I., Haddon, M. and Hoyer, E. (1992). For whom the bell tolls: Term limits and state legislatures. Legislative Studies Quarterly 17: 37–47.Google Scholar
  87. Moore, D., Saad, L., McAneny, L. and Newport, F. (1994). Contract with America: A Gallup Poll special report. The Gallup Poll Monthly 19–34 (November).Google Scholar
  88. Moore, M.K. and Hibbing, J.R. (1996). Length of congressional tenure and federal spending: Were the voters of Washington State correct? American Politics Quarterly 24: 131–149.Google Scholar
  89. Mueller, D.C. (1989). Public choice II. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  90. Oakley, L.M. (1994). An empirical examination of direct democracy. Doctoral Dissertation. Department of Economics, George Mason University, Fall.Google Scholar
  91. Olson, M. (1965). The logic of collective action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Owings, S. and Borck, R. (2000). Legislative professionalism and government spending: Do citizen legislators really spend less? Public Finance Review forthcoming.Google Scholar
  93. Pashigian, B.P. (1985). Environmental regulation: Whose self-interests are being protected? Economic Inquiry 23: 551–584.Google Scholar
  94. Payne, J.L. (1991). The culture of spending. San Francisco: ICS Press.Google Scholar
  95. Peltzman, S. (1976). Toward a more general theory of regulation. Journal of Law and Economics 19: 211–240.Google Scholar
  96. Petracca, M. (1991). The poison of professional politics. Policy Analysis, Cato Institute, No. 151, 10 May.Google Scholar
  97. Polsby, N.W. (1968). The institutionalization of the U.S. House of Representatives. American Political Science Review 63: 144–168.Google Scholar
  98. Polsby, N.W., Gallaher, M. and Rundquist, B.S. (1969). The growth of seniority in the U.S. House of Representatives. American Political Science Review 63: 798–802.Google Scholar
  99. Posner, R.A. (1975). The social costs of monopoly and regulation. Journal of Political Economy 83: 807–827.Google Scholar
  100. Price, H.D. (1975). Congress and the evolution of legislative ‘professionalism’. In N. Ornstein (Ed.), Congress in change. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  101. Price, P.J. (1996). Term limits on original intent?: An essay on legal debate and historical understanding. Virginia Law Review 82: 493–533.Google Scholar
  102. Ramírez, C. and Eigen-Zucchi, C. (2001). Understanding the Clayton Act of 1914: An analysis of the interest group hypothesis. Public Choice, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  103. Reed, W.R. Calculating the effect of term limits on federal spending is harder than it looks. Unpublished manuscript. Presented at 1996 Public Choice Society Meetings, Houston, Texas.Google Scholar
  104. Reed, W.R. and Schansberg, D.E. (1990). How long do congressmen stay in office? Economics and Politics 2: 173–191.Google Scholar
  105. Reed, W.R. and Schansberg, D.E. (1992). The behavior of congressional tenure over time: 1953–1991. Public Choice 73: 183–203.Google Scholar
  106. Reed, W.R. and Schansberg, D.E. (1994). An analysis of the impact of congressional term limits. Economic Inquiry 32: 79–91.Google Scholar
  107. Reed, W.R. and Schansberg, D.E. (1995). The House under term limits: What would it look like? Social Science Quarterly 76: 699–716.Google Scholar
  108. Reed, W.R. and Schansberg, D.E. (1996). An analysis of the impact of congressional term limits on turnover and party balance. In B. Grofman (Ed.), Legislative term limits: Public choice perspectives. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  109. Reed, R.D., Schansberg, E.D., Wilbanks, J. and Zhen Zhu (1998). The relationship between congressional spending and tenure with an application to term limits. Public Choice 94: 85–104.Google Scholar
  110. Regens, J.L., Elliott, E. and Gaddie, R.K. (1991). Regulatory costs, committee jurisdictions, and corporate PAC contributions. Social Science Quarterly 72: 751–760.Google Scholar
  111. Rosen, H. (1994). Public finance. 5th ed. United States: Irwin-McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  112. Rusk, J.F. (1970). The effect of the Australian ballot reform in split ticket voting: 1876–1908. American Political Science Review 64: 1220–1238.Google Scholar
  113. Schansberg, D.E. (1991). An analysis of tenure and turnovers in the congressional labor market. Doctoral Dissertation. Department of Economics, Texas A&M University.Google Scholar
  114. Schansberg, D.E. (1994). Moving out of the House: An analysis of congressional quits. Economic Inquiry 32: 445–456.Google Scholar
  115. Scully, G.W. (1995). Congressional tenure: Myth and reality. Public Choice 83: 203–219.Google Scholar
  116. Shughart, W.F. II. 1990. Antitrust Policy and Interest-Group Politics. Westport, CT: Quorum Books.Google Scholar
  117. Shughart, W.F. II., Silverman, D. and Tollison, R.D. (1994). Antitrust enforcement and foreign competition. In F.S. McChesney and F. Shughart II (Eds.), The causes and consequences of antitrust: The public choice perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  118. Snyder, J.M. Jr. (1990). Campaign contributions as investments: The U.S. House of Representatives, 1980–1986. Journal of Political Economy 98: 1195–1227.Google Scholar
  119. Snyder, J.M. Jr. (1992). Long-term investing in politicians; or, give early, give often. Journal of Law and Economics 35: 15–44.Google Scholar
  120. Sobel, R.S. and Wagner, G.A. (1998). On the determinants of congressional bill sponsorship and voting behavior with an application to government growth theories. Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice 42: 2–3.Google Scholar
  121. Stigler, G.J. (1969). The origins of the Sherman Act. Journal of Legal Studies 14: 1–12.Google Scholar
  122. Stigler, G.J. (1971). The theory of economic regulation. Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science 2: 1–21.Google Scholar
  123. Stratman, T. (1992). The effects of logrolling on congressional voting. American Economic Review 82: 1162–1176.Google Scholar
  124. Stratmann, T. (1995). Campaign contributions and congressional voting: Does the timing of contributions matter? Review of Economics and Statistics 77: 127–136.Google Scholar
  125. Stratman, T. and Aparicio-Castillo, F.J. (2001). Effects of campaign contribution limits on elections: Evidence from the states. Unpublished manuscript. George Mason University.Google Scholar
  126. Tabarrok, A. (1994). A survey, critique, and new defense of term limits. Cato Journal 14: 333–350.Google Scholar
  127. Tabarrok, A. (1996). Term limits and political conflict. In B. Grofman (Ed.), Legislative term limits: Public choice perspective, 237–244. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  128. Thomas, C. (1995). Dissent. U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thorton. United States Reports, Nos. 93–1456 and 93–1828.Google Scholar
  129. Tollison, R.D. (1981). Rent seeking: A survey. Kyklos 35: 575–602.Google Scholar
  130. Tollison, R.D. (1988). Public choice and legislation. Virginia Law Review 74: 339–371.Google Scholar
  131. Tullock, G. (1975). The transitional gains trap. Bell Journal of Economics 6: 671–618.Google Scholar
  132. Tullock, G. (1965). Entry barriers in politics.American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 55: 458–466.Google Scholar
  133. Tullock, G. (1967). The welfare costs of tariffs, monopolies and theft. Western Economic Journal 5: 224–232.Google Scholar
  134. Weingast, B.R. (1984). The congressional-bureaucratic system: A principal-agent perspective. Public Choice 44: 147–191.Google Scholar
  135. Weingast, B.R. and Marshall, W.J. (1988). The industrial organization of Congress; or, why legislatures, like firms, are not organized as markets. Journal of Political Economy 96: 132–163.Google Scholar
  136. Weingast, B. and Moran, M. (1983). Bureaucratic discretion of congressional oversight?: Regulatory policy-making by the Federal Trade Commission. Journal of Political Economy 91: 765–800.Google Scholar
  137. Will, G.F. (1992). Restoration: Congress, term limits, and the recovery of deliberative democracy. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  138. Wittman, D. (1989). Why democracies produce efficient results. Journal of Political Economy 97: 1395–1424.Google Scholar
  139. Yagi, T. and Tachibanaki, T. (1998). Income redistribution through the tax system: A simulation analysis of tax reform. Review of Income and Wealth 44: 397–415.Google Scholar
  140. Zubler, T.C. (1995). Federal preclusion of state-imposed congressional term limits. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 19: 174–188.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward J. López
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of North TexasDentonU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations