So a reader emailed me and asked for my take on this whole governor of Illinois getting arrested for being corrupt thing.
My take is this: it is only newsworthy because something is happening to him.
Yes, Rob Blagowhatever (I’m not going to bother trying to learn to spell it properly) is corrupt as fuck, and his misdeeds (including, most recently, trying to secretly auction off Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder) are amazingly venal and self-serving. The problem is that in any system of government of a reasonable size, this is inevitably going to happen – it happens in dictatorships, in monarchies, and in democracies. The longer somebody is in the top dog position, the more they will come to realize the innumerable number of ways they can use their power to benefit themselves over the long (or even medium) term, and the longer they will have to succumb to temptation.
Anybody familiar with the career of, say, Rudy Giuliani, Pete Wilson or Jean Chretien knows that Blagowhatever’s venality is far from uncommon. The best we can hope for is that they aren’t too greedy and that they do, in fact, have some interest in promoting the public good while they get theirs. (Chretien might have been a greedy bastard, but he ended his career using every last ounce of political fuck-you he had to get gay marriage rights passed in Canada, and for that he will always have my grudging respect.)
This, in a nutshell, is the argument for term limits.
Of course, the argument against term limits is equally simple: you need people who know what they’re doing in any sufficiently complex system, and government is a more complex system than most. Having a few corrupt bastards around is a relatively small price to pay for having a functional government that can respond well to emergencies and generally serves the public well. Blagowhatever is simply an example of a politician who vastly overestimated the public’s tolerance of his bullshit (and, perhaps more importantly, the tolerance of the movers and shakers upon whom he depended for his political livelihood). He wasn’t the first; he won’t be the last.