Term Limits for Government Employees

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

While most people would not consider the powers of a civil servant open to the corrupting influence of the role of a Roman dictator, the true insidious nature of long-term government employment is quite underestimated.  In order to protect individual liberty, prosperity, and property rights, instituting a short term limit for all non-elected, non-military direct government employees would revolutionize our society.

By limiting direct government employment, major departments of government entities will need to be privatized.  This will generate competition and improvement in these functions.

Another goal of limiting government employment is to ensure that society does not build up a protected class of citizens, and to prevent the growth of all-persuasive powers for that class.  By ensuring that government employees are personally dependent on private employment for the bulk of their careers, these employees will be personally motivated to foster policies that bolster private economic prosperity.   Limiting direct government employment does not necessarily mean limiting an individual’s ability to practice a given profession.

Privatizing the service providers of government functions would change the role of government to one of specifying results, essentially one of setting policy.

First, why not all directly employed government employees?  Why exclude the military?  Why exclude elected officials?  Elected officials have a built-in system for checks on their powers through periodic elections.  Preventing citizens from voting for whoever they want, even repeatedly, would remove a right from a citizen, especially in situations where the very survival of the state is in question.  Similarly, the officer corps of the military should be excluded, as the immediate survival of the state could depend on having the experience.  Despite these reasons, the case could be strongly made to eliminate even these two limits.

A work may start working at some age between 15 to 25, and work until ages 55-75, approximately 40-50 years.   To ensure that the bulk of work is done in private industry, the rule would limit the entire cumulative years worked for any sort of direct public employment to approximately 25% of this time, 10 years.

How would this change society?

Consider education, the judicial system, law enforcement, and all the other aspects of our current system of government.  Our public sector can be broken into city, county, state and federal employment.

Starting with the state, the bulk of employment is related to education.

It would be inappropriate for the state to tell individuals that they could not practice their chosen profession, such as teaching.  It takes years of training to become a teacher.  Experience improves the end result.  Yet there is no reason that teachers must directly work for a public entity such as a school district.  In fact, many arguments have been made that private schools provide comparable or better education with lower overhead.  One system that would accommodate a term limit would be a voucher-based private school system.  A public school district would distribute tax dollars to private school providers, as there would be no public school providers at all.  All existing public schools would be converted into for-profit or non-profit entities.  Each parent would have the choice to choose the best provider for their child, with the security of tax dollars to provide payment.  Better providers could charge higher prices.  Regardless of the details, the role of the public employees would be to ensure that schools had a set of rules that they must follow to meet certification as an approved recipient of tax dollars.  New private companies would be hired by the state to audit schools to ensure that the rules were followed.

This same policy would be used for agencies in all areas of government.

Why do fire fighters need to directly work for the city?  A city could easily contract out to private providers for these services.  The city needs to set rules for what the service requirements are, and hire audit organizations to ensure that these rules are met by the provider.

In transition, cities would need to spin off their existing organization into private entities.  To foster competition, it might be wise to spin off existing organizations into two or more private entities.  Yet, the introduction off numerous service providers should offer significant amounts of competition in most regions.

While existing government employee pensions must be honored, new government employees would no longer receive any pensions at all.  Being a public servant would mean exactly that: for the time you are working for the state, you are providing a public service.

In the long run, privatization would foster vast improvements.  For example, multiple providers of DMV services, subject to meeting government standards and passing independent audits, would likely improve access, response rates, reduce provider costs, and introduce innovation to delivery.  Similar improvements would likely be seen in postal delivery, correctional institutes, public works, and judicial organizations to name a few.  Virtually every organization in the modern state could prosper under this model.

The benefits to citizens would not only be decreased costs and greater choice; citizens would see an improvement in the structure of government rules as the those in the civil service lose their protected status and realize that they are not outside the system of rules they propose and enforce.