Fixing America’s Corrupt Congress: Term-Limits #2b

Fixing America’s Corrupt Congress: Term-Limits #2b

If you have read my other blogs in this particular series, you may choose to skip reading my lenthy introduction. I have repeated it for each of my blogs on this topic because some may read the several installments in this series separately and even out-of-order. My introduction provides information about the value of Term Limits from a psychological perspective.

The title of this blog on Term Limits asserts that Term-Limits are an important partial cure for  a Corrupt American Congress.

In order move to assertion # 2 in the title, that Term-Limits are a fix, it is important to provide evidence of assertion #1, that our Congress is corrupt.

I am a psychologist, not a political scientist. Therefore I will draw heavily on the writings of those who are experts on this matter and also the intricate workings of our complex government that are shaped by the various financial, political and social influences that forcefully impinge upon it.

As a psychologist, I was taught that there is no such thing as human nature. After 36 years a professor and concurrent practicing psychologist, I must assert that there definitely is something that deserves to be called “human nature”. The thoughts, perceptions, emotions and behaviors of human-beings are heavily determined by the Laws and Principles of Psychology. Of these, there are too many to discuss in this context. However, it is our characteristic great susceptibility to these influences that I view as human nature.

Any modern Introductory College Psychology Textbook will help establish the validity of what I am stating. We now know more about the determinants of our own behavior than ever before and most of our population, including those who serve in our governments are ignorant of what makes all of us behave as we do.

With regard to the application of principles of psychology to the design of a better socioculture, we remain in a primitive state.

What is considered by many psychologists as the premier Law of psychology, constantly shaping human behavior, is the “Law of Effect”. This law can be simply stated: “consequences control behavior”. 

Speaking non-technically, the lack of rewards; the presence of rewards; or the presence of punishments following various human behaviors will influence the future probability (frequency, or rate of occurrence) of our behaviors. When we behave in certain ways and we are not rewarded, these behaviors tend to occur less frequently. When we behave in certain ways and we are rewarded, these behaviors occur with increased frequency. When we do certain things and our actions are followed by punishment, we tend to do these things less often.

Such changes in our behaviors are not perfectly certain to occur, in all individuals, under all circumstances. But statistically speaking, among our species, they are very likely to occur the ways that the science of psychology can easily predict.

There is much more to this picture, but the Law of Effect and its many influences upon everyone is a great place to start.

Corruption can be defined as dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, normally involving some form of bribery to behave in unethical or illegal ways.

I know of no statistics on this matter. But, I am confident that there are many highly principled people who are very hard to corrupt. However, based upon my 55 years of adult observations (since 20 years of age), a great  many humans are easily corrupted. Furthermore, many citizens who live apparently moral and ethical lives have long been corrupted, but skillfully disguised this fact.

Now to the point: The politics of Congress (and politics in general) have evolved into a system of rewards and non-rewards, with very few punishments for bad behavior, that bring powerful corrupting forces to bear upon all of our elected servants. Of course, these forces have always been present. However, for many reasons, they have increased in both frequency of occurrence and magnitude in recent times. The result is, predictably, an increase in frequency and magnitude of corruption among our politicians.

Too many in Congress are strongly shaped into dishonest and/or fraudulent behavior patterns by those who have the power to reward them with glory and fame, political longevity, sexual favors, money, blocks of voters, lucrative consulting or business opportunities, and the ability to vote themselves various privileges, comforts, and recreational rewards, etc..

The recent actions of American politicians in-and-out of Congress should be enough to confirm my observations. However, if you are a skeptic please consider the following, which predates many of our more current examples of political corruption flooding the media.

At the end of this blog is the URL for an entire article that I will draw upon for short authoritative quotes in my series of blogs on this topic. I hope you will read this article in its entirety when you have the time.

Fixing America’s problems with political corruption will require the imposition of  Term-Limits.

The following is quoted from, Term Limits: The Only Way to Clean Up Congress, by Dan Greenberg of the Heritage Foundation.


Argument #2: There already is high congressional turnover.

Some opponents note the scores of new Members in the 103rd Congress, or predict that Members seated after 1990 will be the majority in the House after the November elections, in order to resist term limits. In fact, however, the large number of new faces in Congress results primarily from Members resigning or seeking other office. In the 1992 House races, over 88 percent of incumbents running for reelection were victorious, but incumbents typically fare much better even than that: the 1992 reelection rate was the lowest in two decades.

Even with a healthy influx of new Members, the seniority system allows entrenched Congressmen to control newcomers and encourages newcomers to behave like the long-term incumbents they replace. Until term limits force a change in the seniority system and in the incentives of new Congressmen, those who control the passage of legislation will remain in control for decades, not years, at a time. As noted above, while some turnover takes place every election, members of the congressional leadership have been in office for decades, and it is they who set the agenda; for example, Representative Jack Brooks, a 21-term representative who has been in office since the Truman Administration, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee can routinely block term limit measures from coming to the floor for a vote.

VTM’s note: Social Learning Theory Principles of Modeling and Imitation document that those who are able to provide rewards, withhold them, or punish individuals with less power gain in their power as “models” for the less powerful to imitate.

Argument #3: Term limits will harm small states.

Some opponents argue that states with smaller populations (and thus fewer representatives in Congress) will be systematically disadvantaged by term limits; Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, for instance, makes this argument on behalf of the Southern states. (See his “Term Limits: Beware the Yankee Conspiracy,” The State (Columbia, S.C.), May 22, 1994, p. D-3.) Historically, some smaller states have attempted to compensate for this by continually reelecting incumbents regardless of their views on issues in order to accumulate power through seniority. Without such seniority, goes the argument, smaller states will be at the mercy of states like California which, by virtue of their size, can send scores of representatives to Congress and are assured seats on numerous important committees.

Such an argument ignores the tremendous institutional changes that congressional term limits would trigger. Instead of confining important committee chairmanships and other positions of power to incumbents who have spent decades in office, term limits would shut down the seniority system. Important legislative positions would be assigned by merit and willingness to shoulder responsibilities. The infusion of new perspectives would cause legislative positions to rotate so frequently that it would be difficult for any one legislator to hold onto power long enough to abuse it. Furthermore, the central qualification by which candidates for Congress are judged would shift in a healthy direction, toward being a voice for sound federal policy and away from being a siphon from the federal treasury.


Quotes Source:

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 9/11/16

















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One Response to “Fixing America’s Corrupt Congress: Term-Limits #2b”

  1. Fixing America Says:

    Jorge Delille

    Fixing America


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