Friday, May 10, 2013

Rotation in Office

The Articles of Confederation of 1777, our first “Constitution,” was superior in a number of ways to the document adopted 200 years ago. (It’s easy to forget, amidst all the celebrations, that the Constitution as originally drafted had few limits on government power; it was saved only by the Bill of Rights that the Jeffersonians demanded.)

One of the great clauses of the Articles mandated annual election of Congressmen (by the various state legislatures), and said that no Congressman “may serve for more than three years in any term of six years.”

But politicians hate to be out of office, and this great idea—originated by Thomas Jefferson—was stricken from the Constitution. It was resurrected, however, by that great modern Jeffersonian (and Mises Institute Distinguished Counsellor) Ron Paul who introduced legislation while serving in Congress to limit Congressmen to four two-year terms; Senators to two four-year terms; and Supreme Court and other federal judges to one eight-year term.

It was Dr. Paul’s view, and Jefferson’s, that continuation in office helped create big government. Both these men also applied what Jefferson called “rotation in office” to all government employees.
For more than the first half of our country’s history, when a new administration came into office, it installed its own people in all civilian government jobs. This healthy and purgative process prevented the build-up of bureaucracy. Not surprisingly, it was despised and denigrated by statists as the “spoils system.”

About a century ago, big government advocates, in the first flush of the statist “progressive” era, instituted the idea of civil service—the monstrous idea that civilian bureaucrats should have lifetime tenure in office.

When we have our first 20th century Jeffersonian administration, its agenda will include not only the gold standard, the free market, and a constitutional foreign policy, but the restitution of rotation in office for all government employees, elected and appointed.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

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