This website uses cookies to improve your experience.

Please enable cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

Sign the petition

to call for a

Convention of States!


Ben Franklin had the best case for term limits

Published in Blog on August 11, 2019 by Convention of States Project

One of the constitutional amendments allowed under the Convention of States resolution is one which limits the terms of office for federal officials. But why are term limits a good idea? 

Lawrence W. Reed, writing for the Foundation for Economic Education, published a great answer to this question, and we've republished an excerpt below. The original article appeared in 2001, but it's as true today as it's ever been.

It was Benjamin Franklin who summed up the best case for term limits more than two centuries ago: “In free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors . . . . For the former to return among the latter does not degrade, but promote them.”

In other words, when politicians know they must return to ordinary society and live under the laws passed while they were in government, at least some of them will think more carefully about the long-term effects of the programs they support. Their end-all will not be re-election, because that option will not be available. [...]

Term limits have been approved almost everywhere they’ve been on the ballot because concerned citizens see them as a positive structural reform, a necessary step to change the incentives of legislators so they would think more about the good of their states and country and less about their next campaign. Those citizens want to ensure a regular supply of fresh blood and new ideas in legislative bodies. They want to open the system to more people from a variety of professions. They want to make public officials less responsive to organized, well-heeled lobbies and more interested in serving the welfare of society at large.

But what about that paramount issue of great interest to readers of this magazine—the issue of individual liberty? Do term limits enhance or detract from its protection?

For sure, people in a free and democratic society ultimately get the government they vote for. Term limits cannot guarantee either individual liberty or good government if voters with bad ideas replace bad legislators with other bad people. Ben Franklin may have supported term limits, but he also believed, with John Philpot Curran, that in any event, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”

However, the evidence suggests that at the margin, term limits are helpful to the cause of individual liberty. Elhauge’s report showed that term limits lessen the influence of seniority. His research demonstrated that long-term lawmakers from both major parties vote for more bureaucracy than do lawmakers who have been in office for shorter times. Term limits lessen the ability of lawmakers to develop cozy deals with either bureaucracies or special interests that seek to get something from government at everyone else’s expense.

Stephen Moore, writing for the Cato Institute, says that an examination of the voting behavior of congressmen reveals that on a wide range of liberty-related issues—“not raising the minimum wage, defunding the National Endowment for the Arts, closing down the Legal Services Corporation, and cutting taxes—junior members [are] less likely to vote to tax, spend, regulate and otherwise stick Washington’s nose in our private affairs than [are] the old bulls.”

Ultimately, term limits ensure that federal officials stop obsessing over the next election cycle and instead focus on what they were elected to do: fight for the good of their constituents and the American people at large. 

But Congress is unlikely to impose term limits on itself. The only way to do it is via an Article V Convention of States, and millions have already joined the cause. Click here to learn more.

Sign the petition to call for an Article V convention!

2,608,725 signatures

Petition your state legislator

Almost everyone knows that our federal government is on a dangerous course. The unsustainable debt combined with crushing regulations on states and businesses is a recipe for disaster.

What is less known is that the Founders gave state legislatures the power to act as a final check on abuses of power by Washington, DC. Article V of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the state legislatures to call a convention to proposing needed amendments to the Constitution. This process does not require the consent of the federal government in Washington DC.

I support Convention of States; a national movement to call a convention under Article V of the United States Constitution, restricted to proposing amendments that will impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit its power and jurisdiction, and impose term limits on its officials and members of Congress.

I want our state to be one of the necessary 34 states to pass a resolution calling for this kind of an Article V convention. You can find a copy of the model resolution and the Article V Pocket Guide (which explains the process and answers many questions) here:

I ask that you support Convention of States and consider becoming a co-sponsor. Please respond to my request by informing the national COS team of your position, or sending them any questions you may have: or (540) 441-7227.

Thank you so much for your service to the people of our district.

Respectfully, [Your Name]

By checking this box, you agree to receive text messages sent via an “autodialer”. Our text messages are intended to inform you of events, calls to action, volunteering opportunities, and other matters pertaining to self-governance. Text STOP to stop receiving messages. Text HELP for more info. Message frequency varies. Message and data rates may apply. View Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Provide your full address and we will deliver your petition directly to your state legislators now and again during the legislative sessions, Free of Charge. We Protect your privacy.

We welcome all US citizens to support our movement by signing the petition. To deliver the petition to your state legislators, you must enter your full address, which must be within one of the 50 states. For military personnel serving overseas, or for expatriates, enter your Voting Residence Address .

Please be sure to check the "Send me email updates" box, and include your phone number above.

How did you hear about us:

Click here to get involved!
Convention of states action

Are you sure you don't want emailed updates on our progress and local events? We respect your privacy, but we don't want you to feel left out!