Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NY Times vs. Thomas Jefferson on Term Limits


The editors of the New York Times have taken the time to lecture us today on term limits, specifically how they are "profoundly undemocratic" because they interfere with the voters' right to choose. This right, they explain, is the "bedrock of American democracy". They ask the Council to abolish term limits. While term limits are not naturally the focus of an education blog, the concept of four more years of Joel Klein and autocratic rule over the schools is cause for concern.

Since it wasn't so long ago the same Times editors were saying the opposite on this topic, let's instead turn to someone with a more coherent viewpoint on the essentials of American democracy.

Writing in 1787, Thomas Jefferson expressed his two objections to the proposed Constitution in a letter from Paris:

I wish with all my soul, that the nine first conventions may accept the new constitution, because this will secure to us the good it contains, which I think great and important. But equally wish, that the four latest conventions, which ever they be, may refuse to accede to it, till a declaration of rights be annexed. This would probably command the offer of such a declaration, and thus give to the whole fabric, perhaps as much perfection as any one of that kind ever had. By a declaration of rights, I mean one which shall stipulate freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of commerce against monopolies, trial by juries in all cases, no suspensions of the habeas corpus, no standing armies. These are fetters against doing evil, which no honest government should decline.

There is another strong feature in the new constitution, which I as strongly dislike. That is, the perpetual reeligibility of the President. Of this I expect no amendment at present, because I do not see that any body has objected to it on your side the water. But it will be productive of cruel distress to our country, even in your day and mine.

Jefferson saw Presidential term limits as equally important as the bill of rights. What Jefferson feared and what the Times ignores is the grave danger that arises from the intense concentration of power in one man. In our public schools the effect will be all the more profound as the current governance structure of mayoral control already gives the mayor and his chancellor autocratic control.

Any ability of parents or communities to influence the educational policies affecting their children was stripped away years ago. Now the combination of theses two measures, total mayoral control of the schools and what Jefferson called "perpetual reeligibility" of his office will mean every policy and every decision affecting the education of a generation of the city's public school children will be decided exclusively according to the agenda of one man. Nothing could be less democratic.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Patrick Sullivan and Thomas Jefferson are correct. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is little or no educational gain from the Bloomberg/Klein administration when their statistics are compared to national test standards. To offer the rationale that Mr. Bloomberg can single handed solve the current financial crisis, is absurd. If he is such a financial genius, then send him to Washington as Secretary of Labor. The fact is he has spent an additional (8)BILLION on education in New York City with little or negligible gain. Will the powerful teachers union act in defense of public education, or will they kneel down to Bloomberg and Quinn?
The UFT has the facts that can show the real effects of Bloombergs administration. Let them come forward or be shown as true collaborators with this educational fraud. This alone is just cause for maintaining term limits.

Anonymous said...

Recently an insurance company nearly wind up....

A bank is nearly bankrupt......

How it affect you? Did you buy insurance? Did you buy mini note or bonds?

Who fault?


The top management of the Public listed company ( belong to "public" ) salary should be tied a portion of it to the shares price ( IPO or ave 5 years ).... so when the shares price drop, it don't just penalise the investors, but those who don't take care of the company.....If this rule is pass on, without any need of further regulation, all industries ( as long as it is public listed ) will be self regulated......



Sign a petition to your favourite president candidate, congress member again and ask for their views to comment on this, and what regulations they are going to raise for implementation.....If you agree on my point, please share with many people as possible....


http://remindmyselfinstock.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Why not just voting Bloomberg out of office if there are no term limits and he runs for the third term? It's not complicated. It's democratic.

avoiceinthewilderness said...

I know that Bloomberg was thinking of purchasing the NY Times.
Can we assume that he either did or will be?
It sounds like the Times is acting as a mouth piece for someone.

Ann Kjellberg said...

Patrick Sullivan keeps finding new ways to recall reason to our public processes. We are so lucky to have him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Patrick. And, if the NY Times cares so much about democracy let them help weed out the tyrants in the DOE. Has there ever been an institution less interested in democratic practices?

Patrick Sullivan said...

Anonymous @ 11:54--

Why not just vote him out of office? Because the powers of incumbency are enormous especially with the mayoralty which had few checks and balances to begin with. With these powers it becomes too easy for an incumbent to suppress opposition.

Here's what concerned Jefferson:

"When one or two generations shall have proved that this is an office for life, it becomes on every succession worthy of intrigue, of bribery, of force, and even of foreign interference."

Isn't it curious, that the Times and Daily News have reversed their positions?

thesis papers said...

this kind of blog always useful for blog readers, it helps people during research. your post is one of the same for blog readers.

sebastian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.