Term limits—the great political revolt that rolled into California and spilled across 21 states since the early 1990s—has reached its high-tide mark and may be ebbing.
A lawsuit now pending in Wyoming could make that state the sixth to rescind term limits, behind Utah, Idaho, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington. Nearly every other state using term limits has tried to eliminate or alter them.
"Term limits is a idea that is running out of both steam and room," says Patrick Basham, senior fellow at the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C. The remaining five states that have provisions that allow citizens to introduce them have rejected the idea and the rest—24 other states—would require legislators taking the action themselves. "That would be like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving … not likely," says Mr. Basham.
Instead, 16 states—Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and now Wyoming—are looking for ways to repeal or loosen them.
The CSM piece does not address the main reason many libertarians have traditionally been advocates of term limits: the notion that longer-term legislators get so thoroughly marinated in a "culture of spending" that they will tend to tax and spend and expand government more than short-termers would. Some tentative evidence along those lines can be found in a Cato Institute policy study here. [pdf file]
I've never been completely convinced by those arguments, but, as one libertarian friend of mine said to me, at least we know term limits are a policy that causes misery for some people, career politicians, that it is a blessing to jab at.