February 11, 2013

"Should Elderly Politicians Make Like the Pope and Quit?"

Asks David Weigel.
Pope Benedict is three years younger than Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who's puttering around condemning the very idea of Cory Booker running against him....

[C]overage of Lautenberg... high-fives him for his vigor. A recent Philadelphia Inquirer story pointed out that the senator had returned from "a cold that became the flu" and was "wielding a cane -- which he insisted he didn't really need," but otherwise focused on his "feistiness."
Weigel mixes 2 topics: the individual's decision to continue despite age and infirmity and the way the media (and the rest of us) "play along." Nothing about what the Pope is doing changes the playing along part of it. We've come to believe that age discrimination is wrong, and we've allowed that to mean too much.

Age discrimination isn't like race discrimination! Age takes a toll on people and it matters and affects their performance. A specific individual may be doing relatively well for his age, and we ought to see him as an individual, but age matters. Statutory law prohibiting age discrimination tells us not to take age into account in some situations, but that doesn't include electoral politics. Feel free to boldly assail Lautenberg for clinging to his Senate seat. (And feel free to criticize judges who seem to be hanging on too long, especially Supreme Court Justices.)

Is the Pope any help here? He waited until he was 85 to step down. And he began the onerous work when he was nearly 80. The previous Pope — immensely admired — made a point of sticking with the job through a long, painful decline. I think both of these Popes encourage people to keep going and not to cede the work to the less old.

112 comments:

Original Mike said...

You're comparing politicians to the Pope? Made me laugh.

AllenS said...

Term limits is all we need. Who cares how old someone is? The problem is how long they stay. Especially if they arrive when their young.

Brew Master said...

Term limits, not age limits.

Nonapod said...

Age itself isn't a huge disqualifier for me, most of our Federal level politicians are senior citizens anyway. But I'm a big believer in term limits for Senators and Congress critters and Supreme Court Justices.

Seeing Red said...

The bureaucracy needs to be scrambled.

That's where the real problem is.

dmoelling said...

The problem with old pols, is that without hard questioning from a real press you cannot tell how capable they are.

I personally don't think any sitting politician over 75 should run again for their own good if not the publics.

edutcher said...

We should have term limits not only for legislators, but the judiciary.

Seeing Red said...

The bureaucracy needs to be scrambled.

That's where the real problem is.


Them, too.

PS And testing for those past a given age.

You'd be surprised at how many of the 90+ people are sharp as a razor mentally.

Sad to say, a lot of people a lot younger aren't.

john said...

Some people, presumably a majority, want Lautenberg to continue. Let them, they elected him.

Term limits on unelected positions makes "Supreme" sense to me.

MadisonMan said...

Here in Madison, Pat Roggensack is 72. If elected, she'll be nearly 80 when her term expires.

Why don't politicians know when to say Stop?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Depends on the person as to how long, or until what age, they can continue to work and the type of work that they are doing.

The pump business that we acquired a few years ago was being operated by a 93 year old man who was STILL going out and pulling pumps. Everyday. Sharp as a tack, as they say, and other than needing to hire a helper for some of the more physically demanding parts of the job. How we all discovered that he had died was when his last appointment called to find out why he was late. Died with his boots on. Getting dressed to go out.

Other people at a similar age are incapable of wiping the drool from their chins.

However.....for public office there should be TERM LIMITS. Public office was never meant to be a lifetime career. Term limits would keep things moving and ensure a continual stream of NEW ideas instead of the hidebound old crusty and young crusty self serving politicians.

At some point without term limits the goal of the public official ceases to be to serve the public but rather to run for continual office.

Aaron said...

Arnold Kling is making an argument that government employees should have their salaries decline over time to encourage churn and change among bureaucracies.

Nonapod said...

Arnold Kling is making an argument that government employees should have their salaries decline over time to encourage churn and change among bureaucracies.

Term limits are an easier solution.

I'm curious, are their any people around here who think that term limits for Senators, Congress, and Supremes are a bad idea?

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm curious, are their any people around here who think that term limits for Senators, Congress, and Supremes are a bad idea?"

The problem is they're unconstitutional, and you're not going to get the Constitution amended over this.

So the only recourse is political pressure, moral suasion... a message from the culture.

Hard to do in the presence of the age discrimination statutes! And hard to do in a culture where we think it's wrong to do anything that could be called "bullying" or "bigotry."

rhhardin said...

A responsible Pope would have been mentoring his younger replacements.

That's what old guys at work do, whether obviously or not.

rhhardin said...

A modern Pope would have tweeted his resignation rather than going through the Catholic hierarchy.

garage mahal said...

Even God requires a two week notice

whoresoftheinternet said...

Age discrimination isn't like race discrimination! Age takes a toll on people and it matters and affects their performance. A specific individual may be doing relatively well for his age, and we ought to see him as an individual, but age matters.

---lol.

Such cognitive dissonance. The cult of the left truly is the hamster that keeps on messing with your brain.

Race and gender matters. Race and gender affect performance Race affects IQ. Race and gender affect anti-social and criminal behavior and talents.

And, no, these differences are not random. Statistically, they show up consistently amongst race and IQ studies. They are significantly divergent.

Sure, we can treat people as individuals. But the averages will hold true for the group.

But continue to believe that age matters, but race and gender don't.

Spin, hamster, spin! Enjoying it's decline.

rhhardin said...

"The Pope dropped a bombshell during a meeting of Cardinals this morning" says the news babe.

It must be a euphemism.

rhhardin said...

Is anybody tracking Pope unfriendings?

We need a handle on this.

rhhardin said...

Airline pilots have to retire at 60 or something, as if the airplanes can't fly themselves now.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

I'm curious, are their any people around here who think that term limits for Senators, Congress, and Supremes are a bad idea?

The problem is they're unconstitutional, and you're not going to get the Constitution amended over this.


So were term limits for the President once.

If there's a big enough outcry and a big enough turnover in Congress, it would happen.

And don't call it a pipe dream. The way we're going, when it all comes apart, it just might happen.

Too bad we're all non-judgmental and value-neutral the way the Lefties have been herding the culture; otherwise Ann's thought to use "moral suasion... a message from the culture" might work.

Hard to do in the presence of the age discrimination statutes!

Well, it could apply to a 50 year old Senator or a 40 year old Congressman. That's the beauty of term limits.

Hagar said...

Elections are the means by which the voters get the government they want - and deserve to get.

The big question: Whose word is the most reliable? A Dominican prostitute's or a New Jersey Senator's?

And the U.S. Congress runs on seniority and who can bring home the bacon.

Kirk Parker said...

"I'm curious, are their any people around here who think that term limits for Senators, Congress, and Supremes are a bad idea? "

While they are not a bad idea, neither are they a magic bullet. Without the right attitude among the more-quickly-turning-over legislators, it could turn out to transfer yet more power to the Permanent Bureaucracy™ and Congressional staff-weasels. That would not be a good result.

Kirk Parker said...

rhh,

I don't know-- Benedict XVI never accepted my friend request in the first place.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Voters should handle this. Just don't vote for anyone for a third term at any level of government (City, County, State, Federal).

Fish and guests stink after three days, politicians after two terms.

EDH said...

Lena Dunham's boyfreind's band FUN. says it all with the "Song of the Year"...

We Are Young

tiger said...

Yeah politicians should retire - I'd say no later than 70/72.

Bob Ellison said...

I'd like to grace this thread with my wise commentary on these issues, but the Vatican keeps calling. Please hold on.

kimsch said...

The Founders didn't introduce term limits, but they were somewhat implied. Terms for the House were set at two years to minimize disruption of the Representative's real life as whatever he was, farmer, doctor, merchant...

The Senate term at six years and offset was to allow for continuity in the government. Senators were also supposed to represent their State government, not the residents thereof.

I think that term limits should be introduced. Many of the current, elderly holders of these offices are there only because of incumbency, not because their constituents really want them there, or because they are actually competent or doing a good job for anyone but themselves.

rhhardin said...

There's the Toom Tabard route, where deceased officals are replaced by their clothes.

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...


A large part of the reason for age discrimination law in the first place is to keep some fraction of old farts paying into Social Security longer and drawing out shorter.

bpm4532 said...

Religious leaders are held to a different standard. If the people of NJ are stupid enough to keep electing old fools, that's their business.

Methadras said...

Yes, please.

Geoff Matthews said...

This is what happens when a state supreme court allows a last-minute replacement for a sure-to-lose Torricelli. You get more-of-the-same.

But I agree with Seeing Red. The bureaucracy is the real problem.

edutcher said...

kimsch said...

The Founders didn't introduce term limits, but they were somewhat implied. Terms for the House were set at two years to minimize disruption of the Representative's real life as whatever he was, farmer, doctor, merchant...

The Senate term at six years and offset was to allow for continuity in the government. Senators were also supposed to represent their State government, not the residents thereof.


You make an interesting point. It was assumed government would not be a career.

Make any term limit amendment also one where the officeholder has to have a real job that's his main source of income.

Perils there, I concede, but it might be helpful if some of these twits had the same headaches the rest of the peons do.

rhhardin said...

A large part of the reason for age discrimination law in the first place is to keep some fraction of old farts paying into Social Security longer and drawing out shorter.

Raising the retirement age for benefits is absolutely necessary, but that part of it is at best a wash.

If you delay taking SS, you get a larger monthly check when you start, figured so that the average lifetime payments are the same.

There's a slight anti-wash to it in that you get selection bias, where the healthy delay and the sick take early.

Patrick said...

For my taste, it's rarely the age that is a problem. It's the length of "service." Too entrenched in Washington and you forget why you wanted to go there in the first place.

SeanF said...

Edutcher: If there's a big enough outcry and a big enough turnover in Congress, it would happen.

If the voters were capable of creating a big turnover in Congress, we wouldn't need enforced term limits.

I'm not a big fan of term limits, even for the presidency. People get reelected because the voters continue to vote for them, and it's as simple as that.

Although I do think that Senators should still be chosen by the legislatures rather than popular vote.

Basta! said...

Getting the pols bitterly clinging to their *lifetime* jobs out would be great, but how can one do that (even with term limits) when no one runs for office.

I vote in every election, and generally about 80-90% of incumbents running yet again have no opposition, even in the primaries. It's like *voting* in the Soviet Union: here's yer winning candidate, kiddo.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The Founders didn't introduce term limits, but they were somewhat implied. Terms for the House were set at two years to minimize disruption of the Representative's real life as whatever he was, farmer, doctor, merchant...

Another issues is that when the Constitution was created, people just didn't live to the advanced ages that we do today. By the age of late 50's or early 60's you were considered pretty long in the tooth.

Maguro said...

They should make like a tree and leave.

CEO-MMP said...

So the Pope said this:

"Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," said Benedict, 85, according to the Vatican.
(from a CNN web story)

How is that encouraging people to keep going?

Brew Master said...

RE: Term limits

The problem is they're unconstitutional, and you're not going to get the Constitution amended over this.

So the only recourse is political pressure, moral suasion... a message from the culture.


Why is the Constitution not going to be amended over this? It has been done in the past, and could be done again. Difficult? Sure, impossible? No.

As many other commentors have pointed out, the unelected bureaucracy is a very large part of the problem. Government job security/permanence would have to be curtailed. Could this even be done? Term limits are probably easier to impliment than a restriction of government employment.

Make all government positions earn 1/2 pay of their private sector counterparts, with limited bare bones benefits? Health coverage provided at lowest tier available in the private sector, retirement funds as defined contribution only with 10 year contribution limit?

You need to make government jobs a sacrifice, not a benefit, not a cushy for gig for life.

That would be impossible.

Michael said...

Mandatory retirement ages are not a good thing. We should have a competency test before an age test. The Pope obviously sees himself at the edge of competency. No politician would do the same and so mandatory term limits are the only solution for them.

In the corporate world there is growing consensus that mandatory board retirement ages are not necessarily a good thing and that competent and involved men and women board members are serving into their 80s and adding value.

Bender said...

The papacy is not a job.

Pope is not what you do, it is what you are.

Carol said...

It seems like 85 is about the likely age when dementia really starts to set in with people who haven't already developed Alzheimer's. Sure there are exceptions.

As with Reagan in his second term, there is huge staff support to prop up the figurehead while they scurry around below doing all the damage. That seems to work with pols who can't let go.

A pope however is expected (since JPII) to travel all over the world and speak to millions of faithful. So the figurehead-facade model just isn't tenable with all the memory and other health problems he would have.

William said...

Strom Thurmond caught some flak because of his age, but Senator Byrd's frailty passed unremarked. Old age is one of those things like obesity and adultery that are not bad in and of themselves, but are truly reprhensible when manifested by Republicans. Perhaps the most statesmanlike solution to this problemm is to pass term limits on Republicans and see how it works out.... I've always admired Sen. Ted Kennedy for the way he didn't allow old age and brain cancer to keep him from his elected office. Surely people of good will can find a way to elect him to another term. It's unfair to discriminate against dead people. If Elvis can go on to a post mortem career so can Sen. Kennedy.

Molly said...

Lautenberg retired in 2000, so in his mind, he was too old 13 years ago. But Torricelli beclowned himself late in the election year, and Lautenberg stood in. Sen Jim Jeffords, though nobody likes to talk about it, was obviously senile for the last months or years of his tenure; he was found wandering on the House side of the hill wondering where his office was.

edutcher said...

Sean, your point is not without merit, but it's like FDR. We had to be faced with it before we saw the need.

DADvocate said...

Only liberal politicians should quit early. Their mental capacities are already diminished as proven by their political leanings.

Paul said...

Elderly? No just those due to health reasons who cannot carry on their duties.

Pity though we can't stop stupid ones. But then that would take out 1/2 of Congress.

Michael said...

Mandatory retirement ages are not a good thing. We should have a competency test before an age test. The Pope obviously sees himself at the edge of competency. No politician would do the same and so mandatory term limits are the only solution for them.

In the corporate world there is growing consensus that mandatory board retirement ages are not necessarily a good thing and that competent and involved men and women board members are serving into their 80s and adding value.

Larry J said...

hhardin said...
Airline pilots have to retire at 60 or something, as if the airplanes can't fly themselves now


Actually, the FAA changed that rule a few years ago. They can fly airliners until they're 65 now.

Amartel said...

Does a senator really work? I'm sure a certain amount of calories are expended rolling one's carcass out of the rack in the morning, putting on suit and tie, being driven to a toasty office to dicker with other power players on how to divide up the spoils and direct them to friends and still be able to claim ostensible public service, maybe an occasional speech of some sort during a photo opportunity.

What's this about encouraging people to "keep going and not to cede the work to the less old"? Is that really a goal?

I think it's good to know you're limits, recognize when it's in the best interest of the organization to step aside and let someone better take over the position.

Chuck66 said...

Not forced to resign (mandetory retirment age) except for things like commerical airline pilots, but when all you are is a figurehead, and your staff is doing all the work, it is time to step aside.

In sports, Joe P should have resigned earlier. I am a huge R Reagan fan, but his second term...he was slow.

I think this is a very smart thing for the Pope to do. There are those that said he was just a tranistional guy anyway. You needed a good but not overly active Pope in between JPII and then one who will be more of a take charge guy.

Chuck66 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk Parker said...

Brew,

" Government job security/permanence would have to be curtailed."

Even I am not that pessimistic: the government-spoils model is just as bad as the civil-service model, after all. What is needed is some backbone among the elected officials, some idea that they are the elected representatives of the sovereign citizens and thus the apparatchiks are second-level servants. Advisors, yes; authorities, never.

Chuck66 said...

FDR....could a younger and sharper President have done a better job with dealing with Stalin in 1943-45? Did FDR give to much away too the largest mass murderer in world history?

As for a congressional term limits...there is an arguement that says small states can only gain influence by keeping the same reps/senators in there for decades. They gain senority and therefore power.

Brew Master said...

Chuck66

Seniority is one of the problems, longevity in office is a really crappy way of assigning responsibility/power. Safe districts become the powerful, while those that have to battle to represent a cross section of the american populace lose influence because they are from competitive districts.

Term limits would reduce the seniority aspect that gives us Pelosi, Reid, Trent Lott, etc....

Kirk:
the government-spoils model is just as bad as the civil-service model

I would further suggest that bonuses be paid for budget savings. Lets say a department head can earn 5% cash payout on the amount of budgetary reduction from their department.

Put the incentive in place to actually reduce government, or make it operate more efficiently with reduced costs.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

Age discrimination isn't like race discrimination!

I haven't read the comments yet, so don't know whether I'm duplicating anyone, but I disagree. Age discrimination is very much like racial discrimination in most respects that matter. It generalizes from anecdote to condemn an entire class of people, and that class is defined by something entirely out of its members' control. And it has a healthy vocabulary of bigoted invective.

Jay said...

Why aren't the people of New Jersey interested in having better representation than an 85 year old Senator?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Brew Master,

Seniority is one of the problems, longevity in office is a really crappy way of assigning responsibility/power. Safe districts become the powerful, while those that have to battle to represent a cross section of the american populace lose influence because they are from competitive districts.

Absolutely. One reason Congress is so danged "polarized" is that all the positions of power are usually occupied by people who have been there forever, because they have safe seats.

To Ann's point about term limits: I think she's saying that it ain't gonna happen because of the process. You need either a 2/3 majority vote in both houses of Congress (a vote to cut short their sinecure? Good luck with that!), or approval from 2/3 of the legislatures of the states even to open the question. (The state legislature route involves convening a constitutional convention, and so far in our history post-Constitution hasn't ever happened.) After that, you need 3/4 of the states to ratify it.

Term-limiting the Presidency was fairly easy, because none of the people voting on it were Presidents. A proposal to term-limit Representatives and Senators, sent to a vote in the House and the Senate ....? It's enough to make a cat laugh.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Jay,

Why aren't the people of New Jersey interested in having better representation than an 85 year old Senator?

Possibly because the last time they tried, the best they could come up with was Torricelli.

Cedarford said...

Brew Master said...
RE: Term limits

The problem is they're unconstitutional, and you're not going to get the Constitution amended over this.

So the only recourse is political pressure, moral suasion... a message from the culture.

Why is the Constitution not going to be amended over this? It has been done in the past, and could be done again. Difficult? Sure, impossible? No.

======================
Another fool.
With the rise of well-organized special interest groups, Amending the Constitution has become effectively impossible in passing anything that is controversial and opposed by a strong minority.

The last Amendment that had significant opposition? "eliminate the poll tax and you put the parasites in charge of electing people that in turn give the parasites Goodies in quid pro quo." But the opponents were not well organized. It was 50 years ago.
These days, eliminating the Poll Tax by Amendment would be impossible...money would be pumped into the States or the Senate to stall and kill it.
Simnilarly, neither Prohibition or Prohibition Repeal would have ever happened.

The Amending part of the Constitution is broken.

You can't get term limits.
You can't get an ERA.
You can't get a Presidential line item veto.
You cant get a balanced budget Amendment.
You can't get rid of lifetime appointment of judges.

Astro said...

One person who I think ought to resign/retire is the Queen of England. Fifty years + on the throne is enough. Time to step down.

bagoh20 said...

The shouldn't have to quit - they should get voted out. Who's responsibility is it anyway. If you were voting for your cross country bus driver would he need to resign?

DADvocate said...

Does a senator really work?

How hard is it to count up which political action committee or lobbyist gave you the most money?

furious_a said...

The problem is [term limits are] unconstitutional, and you're not going to get the Constitution amended over this.

Agreed. So do what the Republicans in the Contract With/On America -- term-limit Committee chairmanships (a rules change), where the real corruption and damage occur. By himself Chris Dodd was just one entitled Senate Blowhard among 100, but as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, hello Countrywide VIP and goodbye Fannie/Freddie oversight.

David said...

Put another way, he will be the first living ex-Pope for over 1000 years. Bow down ye lesser celebrities. Nobody else can match that.

Bryan C said...

"Arnold Kling is making an argument that government employees should have their salaries decline over time to encourage churn and change among bureaucracies."

I think he's got the right idea. But decreasing pay may have adverse effects, and may not really hit them where it hurts.

I'd institute a "reverse seniority" arrangement for Senators and Representatives. After a point, committee appointments and other perks of seniority disappear. This includes eligibility for the Speaker, minority leader, whip, etc.

They can stick around, but the system will not allow them to translate age or inertia into direct political power.

Nonapod said...

And yes, I fully understand that in order to get a Constitutional Amendment passed you'd have to have a near universal agreement on the issue amongst the general populace as well as an overwhelming sense of urgency in order to coerce the representatives to essentially vote themselves out of power. I know that these two elements are pretty unlikely to occur any time soon.

EMD said...

One person who I think ought to resign/retire is the Queen of England. Fifty years + on the throne is enough. Time to step down.

Charles in charge
of our dames and our knights
Charles in charge
of our laws and our rights

In the monarchy
I want Charles in charge of me!

Bryan C said...

Also, repeal the 17th Amendment. The fortunes and tenures of senators were intended to rise and fall with their allies in state governments. Decoupling them, at least without imposing a new set of checks-and-balances, was a bad idea for everyone.

Ann Althouse said...

Here's the Supreme Court case that decided there shouldn't be heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause for age discrimination. Here's how the Court discussed the the reason for not treating age, like race, as a suspect classification:

"[A] suspect class is one "saddled with such disabilities, or subjected to such a history of purposeful unequal treatment, or relegated to such a position of political powerlessness as to command extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process.' While the treatment of the aged in this Nation has not been wholly free of discrimination, such persons, unlike, say, those who have been discriminated against on the basis of race or national origin, have not experienced a 'history of purposeful unequal treatment' or been subjected to unique disabilities on the basis of stereotyped characteristics not truly indicative of their abilities. The class subject to the compulsory retirement feature of the Massachusetts statute consists of uniformed state police officers over the age of 50. It cannot be said to discriminate only against the elderly. Rather, it draws the line at a certain age in middle life. But even old age does not define a 'discrete and insular' group, United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152-153, n. 4, 58 S.Ct. 778, 783, 82 L.Ed. 1234 (1938), in need of 'extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process.' Instead, it marks a stage that each of us will reach if we live out our normal span. Even if the statute could be said to impose a penalty upon a class defined as the aged, it would not impose a distinction sufficiently akin to those classifications that we have found suspect to call for strict judicial scrutiny.

"Under the circumstances, it is unnecessary to subject the State's resolution of competing interests in this case to the degree of critical examination that our cases under the Equal Protection Clause recently have characterized as 'strict judicial scrutiny.'"

The Court then upheld a mandatory retirement age (it was 50, for police officers) as meeting the minimum scrutiny requirement of being rationally related to a legitimate state interest":

"Through mandatory retirement at age 50, the legislature seeks to protect the public by assuring physical preparedness of its uniformed police. Since physical ability generally declines with age, mandatory retirement at 50 serves to remove from police service those whose fitness for uniformed work presumptively has diminished with age. This clearly is rationally related to the State's objective...

"That the State chooses not to determine fitness more precisely through individualized testing after age 50 is not to say that the objective of assuring physical fitness is not rationally furthered by a maximum-age limitation. It is only to say that with regard to the interest of all concerned, the State perhaps has not chosen the best means to accomplish this purpose.

"We do not make light of the substantial economic and psychological effects premature and compulsory retirement can have on an individual; nor do we denigrate the ability of elderly citizens to continue to contribute to society."

That is, individual assessment of fitness was not constitutionally required. Obviously, this is very different from the way race is treated, where you could not make generalizations based on an individual's having a particular race.

There are many age-based limits, including some minimum age requirements in the Constitution itself.

AprilApple said...

YES.

Julius Reincarnate said...

It is absolutely no one else's concern whether one should quit because of age, disability, or whatever. It is entirely a personal choice. Even asking the question quoted as the title of this blog post is offensive.

The only time someone might be justifiably pressured to quit is if he/she looses his marbles, like King George III or John McCain, and even then much leeway must be accorded...

Clyde said...

One thing that came to mind about the Pope's retirement, and some other elderly people who hang on to their jobs in government much too long, is that nobody is either indispensable or irreplaceable. Sooner or later, we all leave our jobs, voluntarily or not (i.e., when the Grim Reaper calls). And you know what? The workplace will continue to function without you and after a time, won't miss you at all, no matter how good you may be at your job. If you were really good (or really bad -- Hello, Klansman/Congressman Byrd!), they will name buildings (and other stuff) after you. Too many Congresspeople and Supreme Court Justices think that they are too good to be replaced. They are wrong. And that's both sides of the political spectrum, by the way.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

It is not, IMO, reasonable to base retirement from the police force on age, using age as a proxy for physical fitness, when the under-50 police force is not itself exactly in the best of physical shape, and when compulsory exams and (if failed) compulsory workout regimens for anyone failing would do the job much more effectively. Then again, I am not SCOTUS. I'm not even SCOTUS of Borg.

What I meant was that getting older is something beyond an individual's control; that age limits generalize from anecdote to condemn an entire class; and that there's a whole specialized vocabulary of invective applied to old people.

People whose work consists mostly in reading, writing, and speaking ought not to retire until they want to, unless they're very obviously losing their wits.

For what it's worth, Antonio Stradivari was making violins to the age of 93. I suppose there are people today who would have removed him from his workshop decades earlier, on the grounds that a "doddering old fool" like that could not be trusted around sharp objects.

Clyde said...

Megan McArdle had a very good article about this at The Daily Beast:

The Pope Resigns. Good Decision.

She notes in Lautenberg's case that if he should be re-elected again, he would be 92 when his next term starts and 98 when it ended, should he live that long; A 92-year-old has only a 1-in-6 chance of living to age 98, and that combines both male and female mortality tables, so Lautenberg's chances would actually be less than that. And as she notes, even if he does live to 98, there is a significant change of greater physical and mental decline as each year passes.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Clyde,

Cf. Stradivari, above. We seem not to have come up with his replacement even now.

ampersand said...

I am all for term limits,though I would add this protection for effective representatives.

Any politician would need 60% of a districts total eligible voters (not just those who voted) to be allowed another run in the next election.
Senators should revert to being controlled by their respective state governments.

Eric said...

Maybe the Pope has a difficult job. The number of octogenarians who run for six-year terms in the US Senate tells us everything we need to know about how difficult that job is.

Revenant said...

By the age of late 50's or early 60's you were considered pretty long in the tooth.

That's a misconception. Average lifespan was skewed younger by childhood mortality, disease, and violence, but people who evaded those lived almost as long as people today. Many of the Founders lived well into their 80s.

Clyde said...

Michelle, Stradivari was an individual craftsman working in his own (I assume) shop. His work did not have a direct impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Very, VERY different situation.

SeanF said...

edutcher: Sean, your point is not without merit, but it's like FDR. We had to be faced with it before we saw the need.

True, but presidential term limits were initiated by Congress, and approved by state legislatures. Congressional term limits won't be initiated by Congress, so they'd need to be initiated by the people. And like I said, if the people could do it, they wouldn't need to.

David: Put another way, he will be the first living ex-Pope for over 1000 years. Bow down ye lesser celebrities. Nobody else can match that.

Slightly less than 600 years. But still probably unique. :)

Mel said...

Benedict XVI didn't run for his job. The Holy Spirit chose him from among his peers. John Paul II was going to be a tough act to follow (somewhat like college football - you don't want to be the guy who follows THE guy) and Benedict XVI has done an admirable job. However, it is a very demanding and very public job and if he no longer feels able to do it then he is right to resign. And I don't really see him gaining any private sector benefit from doing so. I also don't think resigning is a decision that the Pope made lightly.

Politicians run for office and then milk it for all it's worth in the private sector. Totally not the same thing and I can't recall the last time I voted for an incumbent at the state or federal level. I have voted for a couple of school board people whom I know personally and who ask good questions about why we are spending money on x instead of y or instead of saving it for a rainy day.

Ann Althouse said...

"It is not, IMO, reasonable to base retirement from the police force on age, using age as a proxy for physical fitness, when the under-50 police force is not itself exactly in the best of physical shape, and when compulsory exams and (if failed) compulsory workout regimens for anyone failing would do the job much more effectively. Then again, I am not SCOTUS. I'm not even SCOTUS of Borg."

It was Massachusetts that made the law. All the Court did was not strike it down.

The better policy may be individual testing, but there are reasons to set a retirement age. No one is telling the person they're not good enough anymore. You've just reached the retirement age. That used to be the norm in America.

Ann Althouse said...

Nowadays, you have to figure it out for yourself. People can lose their judgment as they age, and they may fail to make adequate provisions for retirement on the theory that they can just keep working.

Seeing Red said...

Via Jennifer Rubin:

When I saw this, I thought it was a parody of a presidential statement:

On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years. The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.

But no, that’s the real thing. To complete the theme, I’m surprised it did not end, “But enough about me, Your Holiness, what do you think of my agenda?”....



...Compare the statement to that of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.):

Today Pope Benedict XVI displayed the qualities of an excellent leader and a true man of God by putting the interests of the Vatican and the Catholic Church over his own papacy. Since becoming Pope in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI has served the Church honorably, particularly through his work promoting charity across the globe. I wish him well in the future and, as a Catholic, I thank him for his service to God and the Church. I also look with optimism toward the future of the Catholic Church as it prepares to welcome a new leader and as it continues to spread God’s message of faith, hope and love to all the corners of the world.

The president isn’t a Catholic, but his antiseptic, self-centered statement is really a shoddy effort. Maybe, like the fiscal cliff, he should have left this one to Vice President Biden.

Renee said...

Biden would of blown it.

--------

The negative responses on my Facebook feed both came from non-religious friends who had have extreme political views, each brought up the sexual abuse of children one even commenting on my status with some pretty harsh words for the Pope. One a progressives and another a conservative.

My protestant friends mentioned something, but not negative or positive. Just sort of like celebrity gossip conversation in passing. Jewish friends no mention.

EMD said...

Can we use that in common parlance now?

"make like The Pope and quit."

EMD said...

Biden would of blown it.

"Vos volunt mittere vinctum!"

Titus said...

Two terms for senators, 5 terms for congress and 10 years for Supremes.

Unless they are hot, than they could stay a little longer.

But 99% of them are not hot so there.

tits.

traditionalguy said...

But will Ratzinger follow in Vatican Ratlines to a safe retirement in Bolivia? He could enjoy a reunion with other boys from his Youth Group there.

Jose_K said...

After 50 , productivity decrease 30%
Goethe to Eckermann: When iI was young i wrote Clavijo in two months , now I barely can write half page of Faust
The point has been made many time , many Justices were unable well before their death.
Mandatory retirement age is common in Europe for professors and judges
90+ people are sharp as a razor mentally.? just a few exceptions.
Nobel Prizes winners usually are younger that 45 and their work was done 10 years before
No one has ever done any good in solid state physics or computers after 30
Youth unemployment is so high worldwide that old people is lucky for not being carried to the carousel

chickelit said...

Ann Althouse said...
Nowadays, you have to figure it out for yourself. People can lose their judgment as they age, and they may fail to make adequate provisions for retirement on the theory that they can just keep working.

Britain and then France had mandatory retirement ages for professors in the 1970s and 80s --ostensibly to "make room" for a younger cohort. An unforeseen consequence was a migration of talented faculty out of Europe to the US. I can think of two examples in chemistry off the top of my head: M.J.S. Dewar and Derek Barton (Nobel Laureate). These people kept working into their 70s and 80s.

I could easily foresee a time when a similarly instituted policy could lead to the best US faculty "retiring" and then moving to Asia to follow the money and discovery.

furious_a said...

One person who I think ought to resign/retire is the Queen of England.

H.M.,Elizabeth is just fine, it's that Dingbat son of hers I'm worried about.

el polacko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
el polacko said...

kimsch, in her comment above, has it right. the original idea was that a citizen would donate a couple of years to public service and then return to their private vocations. it's not the age of the politician that is necessarily the issue, it's the fact that they are often entrenched in their positions for decades, creating a political class that is separate from the citizenry.

ampersand said...

Illinois has term limits for most of their pols. One in office and one in jail.

Revenant said...

The problem isn't that politicians stay in office too long, the problem is that the government has too much power. If the federal government's powers were as restrained as they were two centuries ago, what would it matter if a Congressman held office for half a century?

So long as the federal government has the power to dictate every facet of American life, the problem can't be solved by limiting the time spent in office. There will always be an ample supply of bastards ready to assume that power.

AllenS said...

STOP THE PRESSES!

While there's still no word on 2016, Vice President Joe Biden confirmed Monday he's not throwing his hat in the ring for at least one position–that of the pope.

Asked in Philadelphia about the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to resign later this month, the high profile Catholic said: "I am not running."


Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Basta! said Getting the pols bitterly clinging to their *lifetime* jobs out would be great, but how can one do that (even with term limits) when no one runs for office.

Libertarians have an answer for that. Every ballot position has a NOTA - None Of The Above.

If NOTA gets the most votes, the electorate desires that the position be unfilled, and that is what happens.

Paco Wové said...

I've been waiting all day for a headline sort of like:

POPE SAYS: TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT

...but alas, I am unfulfilled.

Chuck66 said...

Good point above. The last time we had an ex-Pope, Columbus hadn't found the western world yet, and Martin Luther hadn't did his thing yet.

By the way....this lapsed Lutheran is a big fan of current Catholic leadership. I trust they will continue with what started in the 70s with JP2.

EMD said...

Paco-

"Time for some exorcize"

Paco Wové said...

Thank you, EMD. Bless you my son.

iowan2 said...

Term limits are every 2 and 6 years respectfully. So exactly what is the problem? History tells us that I know that Lautenberg is to old to serve. That is just a plain fact. Evident to those of us that are able to look at the issue from a disspassionate distance. So...there aught to be a law. Now my Senator, Chuck Grassely is doing just fine. None of you bozos have the right to be denying me the constitutional right to choose the person I want to represent me in Congress.

So far all the people that are demanding term limits, understand, you are directly stating that voters are no longer inteligent enough of participate in a representative republic. And if the voters are too stupid to term limit the likes of Jesse Helms, Richard Byrd, Ted Kennedy, etal, they are too stupid to elect first time Pols, like Barak Obama.

Ah the rub

The founders were so wise, on so many levels, how did they not see this coming??

Oh wait a minute......."The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

So the federal legislature.....according to the constitution.........doesnt really have much power, just those few enumerated in the constitution. So term limits were laid out by the founders, its called bordem

Wow! look at this! The 17th amendment. Seems early on, Senators were beholden to state legislators, and not the people. So it was a lot harder to bribe a Senator if he doesnt have the ability to promise others peoples monies to get votes.

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/alexis_de_tocqueville.html#7ZdlR5pgEut6cADJ.99

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

The better policy may be individual testing, but there are reasons to set a retirement age. No one is telling the person they're not good enough anymore. You've just reached the retirement age. That used to be the norm in America.

No, it's not that you're not good enough anymore; it's that we don't employ people older than 49. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

And don't call it "discrimination," because that means racial discrimination, and we don't go there.

mikeljean said...

Factors like age, race and gender are frequently included in decision making even though it is discrimination. Misconceptions are commonly made that a specific gender is more qualified or age plays a role in completing job duties to the fullest. Neither should be classified the way they are and the ability to complete a job is the only factor that should be considered in qualifications for a job. There comes an age when it is socially normal to retire but who is to say what the normal age is? Different cultures have different social norms and different job duties. More and more commonly gender roles are being overtaken and the same goes for age gaps. Professionals are starting younger and younger and working until they are older and older. The factors should be in their judgement of work, not details viewed differently. If a person is wise enough to realize they are no longer to perform their duties, as the pope did, I can respect that and tip the hat.

Joe Schmoe said...

Geez, Obamacare will bring us death panels to ration a limited amount of health care funding. Now Ann is advocating for some sort of job death panel? It's a free country. Lautenberg can work as long as he likes. His constituents can determine whether they are comfortable with his age.

If you think there should be some limits, please tell me how you would implement such a program. What kind of tests would you administer to evaluate someone's ability to do a job? How would this test vary from industry to industry?

This is like proposing cash for clunkers to get rid of all the old, inefficient people in the workforce. Presuming you can compile convincing data to show that not only are old people sloughing off at work, but they are holding back younger people who could do the job oh so much better.

JA said...

JA
Long-time reader, first time that I am commenting. In Australia in 1977, we amended the Constitution to provide for compulsory retirement for Federal judges at 70. I was too young (3) to vote at the time, but believe the reasoning was and is sound.