Term Limits and Pork

Term Limits and Pork

By
Michael C. Herron, Ken Shotts
Legislative Studies Quarterly. August
2006, Vol. 31, Issue 3, Pages 383-403

We describe a model of electoral selection and legislative policy choice that explores the effects of term limits on legislative spending. In the model, self-interested voters in a collection of districts prefer representatives who deliver pork over representatives who maximize aggregate social welfare. Term limits can, in some cases, inhibit voters from selecting representatives who deliver particularistic benefits, and, in these cases, term limits reduce pork spending. On the other hand, when pork is extremely socially inefficient, representatives who want to deliver pork to their districts have incentives to refrain from doing so to reduce future pork in other districts. In this scenario, term limits actually prevent legislators from promoting future spending moderation and thus paradoxically increase pork spending.

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