There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

Term limits are not newfangled

I hate term limits. To my mind, term limits are an attempt to thwart the will of the people, since I hold to the (possibly utopian) belief that the electorate is smart enough to choose its own leaders.

In modern times, term limits first cropped up after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, when the Republicans sponsored a Constitutional Amendment that limited a President to two terms. Since that time, term limits have been popping up all over the place.

But term limits are not a newfangled 20th century invention. You can find evidence of term limits thousands of years ago, in the original Athenian democracy.

The Boule was a Council of 500 comprised of fifty men from each of the ten tribes and they were the ones who decided on what the assembly would discuss. The members of the council were chosen by their demes (municipalities) and after serving were not permitted to serve again for ten years….

The chief magistrate of the city was called the Archon eponymous or ruler. (The word anarchy means without an archon.) His responsibilities included conducting investigations of legal cases, in particular those that involved the state. He was responsible for protecting the orphans and heiresses with no family and to appoint the choregos who was in charge of organizing the relgious festivals. The office of Archon eponymous was held for only a single year, and that year was named after him.

Athenians implemented term limits for the same reason that we implement term limits today – to keep power from concentrating in the hands of a few. And if this was a danger in Athens (which, unlike most governments of today, was a true democracy rather than a republic), then term limit proponents can argue that it is a danger today.

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