America Needs Term Limits IV


America Needs Term Limits IV

I have wondered how the poor starving people around the world who fight with each other over a limited supply of food or water dropped in their midst after some disaster or holocaust differ from us, as we fight for limited federal monies through our political representatives.

 I have also wondered how any of this is different from the hordes of hungry squawking sea gulls that fight with each over the limited supply of stale bread that I have thrown to them on the shores of my beloved Lake Michigan.

The principles are the same, desperate creatures fighting to get at a limited supply of sustenance (rewards or, more technically,  reinforcers). What do you expect?!

What do you think the old phrase, “All politics are local means”?

It means that, normally, people are primarily concerned with their own best interests. Put in pejorative terms, people are selfish and self-centered. So, what’s the big news about that? Our founding fathers designed our government, best they knew how, to take this basic fact of human (animal) nature into account. They really did an amazingly great  job of it!

However, they could never have imagined a technological, communication/ information, or economic-based America and world as it now exists.

One of the reasons that incumbents in congress virtually always win elections is because if they throw enough “bread” to their constituents (the sea gulls), their constituents naturally will “peck the keys” needed to keep the bread flowing. Why should they ever vote for someone who has not demonstrated the ability to keep the bread flowing into their pockets or projects?

A principle of behavioral psychology is the Matching Law. Simplified, it would predict that people will pull the voting  levers, at higher rates, for those individuals who provide them the highest rates of rewards, I.e., money and power to them and their locals. That is exactly what long-term incumbents are able to do best. Think of them as the keys that we pigeons peck maximize our rewards. This is truly a mutually addictive parasitic relationship, masquerading as a beneficial symbiotic relationship. The way to tell that it is an addictive parasitic relationship is that neither party can ever be satiated and  the relationship is killing the host, America.

In all of this, it would be better if our representatives (the money/power dispensers) were less effective.  It would seem good if they were just effective enough to make decisions that would be only moderately beneficial to their home regions and more beneficial to America as a whole.

This will require more than curtailing great contributions to politicians from special interest groups and implementing term limits. But, these appear to me to be very important steps in the right direction.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

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