Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan proposed a measure in January to create term limits for state lawmakers. Amid recent developments from across the globe — the Chinese Communist Party has announced plans to lift presidential term limits, solidifying President Xi Jinping's hold on power and revealing the dangers of limitless rule — Hogan's support of term limits is a positive step for the state.
Presidential term limits in the United States were codified in 1947 with the ratification of the 22nd Amendment. And while Maryland places no limit on the total number of terms a governor can serve, the governor is prohibited from serving more than two terms consecutively. The idea behind this limitation is twofold — it prevents corruption, and it gives voters more options.
It's easy for a long-time lawmaker to hold onto power by keeping key influencers happy. Term limits will reduce the incentive to bow to outside aid, as each candidate would know they could only serve for a certain amount of time before stepping down.
Furthermore, frequent turnover in leadership can prevent one official from concealing corruption and misusing public funds. Banks use a similar policy of requiring employees to go on vacation to prevent them from embezzling cash and hiding the evidence.
Some argue term limits don't decrease corruption because they create more inexperienced lawmakers who will have to rely on lobbyists for information. While this is a concern, lawmakers will still have less of an incentive to embezzle or to accept donations from lobbyists, because they know they can't rely on those advantages forever.
The second reason for term limits — giving voters more options — is arguably more persuasive. Because an incumbent often has large electoral advantages, allowing infinite consecutive terms prevents competition both within and outside the incumbent's party, as long as the incumbent maintains their connections to key influencers.
There are other minor drawbacks to term limits, such as the possibility of removing effective and esteemed politicians from office. But the costs of creating corrupt or even totalitarian leaders are too high.
What's happening in China is a good example. While China is not a full democracy, as there is only one party, the termination of term limits encourages a country with a history of authoritarian leaders to return to a dangerous norm — one that rids the people of the little voice they had and consolidates power in the hands of one man.
The initiatives proposed by Hogan will further anti-corruption efforts and strengthen Maryland's democracy. Effective and authentic democracies must have term limits, and they need to be instituted at every level.
Moshe Klein is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at email@example.com.