Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Some people have this idea that if the end is good then whatever means they choose must be good, too. But no. Principles matter — they exist to help us choose the right means and oppose the wrong ones.

Politicians tend to think unlimited terms in office is a good thing. I disagree, but forget that for a moment. What is the best way to settle the disagreement? Who should decide how long politicians serve?

The people, that’s who.

New York City’s mayor and City Council have opposed the term limits they live under, term limits voted into law by citizens.

So they got together and legislatively overturned the people’s decision, extending their own terms in office.

But not every politician who may like extended terms thinks that this was the way to obtain them. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum went on record before the council vote that, if the council overturned the term limits rather than sending it back to the voters again, she would not seek re-election.

“I think it’s wrong,” she said. “It would be wrong for me, feeling as strongly as I do, to run for a third term if [term limits are] overturned in a way that I don’t think is right.”

Immediately her political competitors breathed a sigh of relief. But citizens should sigh in appreciation. It is mighty good to see personal principles trump re-election frenzy.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. Hank G says:

    Damn! She’sthe only one who sould be free to run as often as she likes, and she is stepping down, thus leaving the clowns in charge forever.

  2. Josiah Rowe says:

    Power is gathered by incumbents when a legislative body worships at the altar of seniority. Why should a 10th-term member have more authority than one newly elected? That’s the root of the problem in most state legislatures–and in Congress itself.

    Robert Byrd wouldn’t have chaired the Appropriations Committee for umpteen years if his post was subject to election by other committee members (maybe by secret ballot to avoid hurt feelings).

    Lengthy service wouldn’t bring automatic reelection if seniority was abolished.

  3. Dunscotis says:

    Political power is grasped with the same tenacity as life itself except that political power corrupts and absolute political power corrupts with a stench of the rotting corpse of freedom. Re-elect no one.

  4. steven sass says:

    Paul — I always enjoy your pieces, and cases you bring out that are not raised elsewhere. The need for Term Limits is clear, and I like Betsy’s actions, even if a GOOD representative is lost IN THAT slot. HOWEVER, you Paul, continue a logic error that Milton Friedman made very clear. When you say:
    ‘… if the end is good then whatever means they choose must be good, too. But no. Principles matter — they exist to help us choose the right means and oppose the wrong ones’
    You have set up a FALSE situation. Look at ALL the ENDS you desire, and the ENDS ALWAYS JUSTIFY THE MEANS. Principles, in this case ARE your unstated, but clear ends too. A cleaner case is if one says that they want SAFETY, and then justify putting every possible threat in jail. You VIOLATE the unstated END of justice. State them both and it is clear you probably need to give on perfection for one to get a satisfactory amount of the other. Thus to establish ‘profiling’ for islamics is a SLIGHT violation of perfect justice, BUT it significantly increases safety and is therefore a reasonable MEANS to get to the TWO ends of safety and justice.

  5. Max Kessler says:

    “Who should decide how long politicians serve?”

    “The people, that’s who.”

    Like you, I’m a huge fan of term limits, but you’re not making a very strong point here. “The people” deciding how long politicians should serve could be seen as an argument in opposition to term limits, since that’s what elections are for. After all, the people can’t vote to reelect a candidate who’s term limited out of office.

    BTW, I live is a State Assembly district where incumbent David Gantt has been there for 20 years and a Congressional district where incumbent Louise Slaughter has been there for 22 years. Both just got reelected again.

  6. Matthew Given says:

    term limits for mayor in nyc is the law. but mayor boobberg is going to break the law just so he can make it unlawful for me to eat salt.

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