The Instigator
Pro (for)
4 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

DDO Beginners tournament: Term limits are good for democracy

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/15/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,657 times Debate No: 28237
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




As this is for the DDO tournament we will follow the tournament rules:

Debate Rules:

8000 character limit
72hrs to argue
1 week voting period
4 rounds, 1st for acceptance

Also the usual rules that go without saying (no semantics, trolling etc..)


This shall be good.
Debate Round No. 1


The basic case for term limits is rather straightforward, so this round I will not take up much space. There are many cases in which democracies have functioned (and continue to function) without term limits, however my contention is not that it is necessary to a democracy but rather that it is good for it. The argument boils down to the contention that one person should not have a disproportionate roll in the life of a democracy. This argument takes a negative and a positive form.

Negative: Term limits avoid the subversion of democracy by a charismatic leader. Cases like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, where term limits were abolished in order to allow this man to continue holding power and form an increasingly totalitarian and politically monolithic society show the most extreme example of this danger. If power is in the hands of one man for too long, even with the consent of the people, this could be dangerous to the democratic system as a system which protects minority views and in which the Head of State (or Head of Government where this roll is carried out by a different person to the Head of State) is bound to reflect the will of the people, and not his own will with the consent of the people.

Positive: Term limits do not stop the positive development of policies which are pleasing to the people. Policies are not dependent on people but ideas. Even in the case that an exceptionally good president is doing wonders for the country is faced with a term limit, the following government can be elected to follow the same general policies. The fact of term limits makes clearer that policies are not supposed to be those of this or that politician, but those that work for the common good and are recognized as such by the people, regardless of the individual promoting them.

As a prima facie case for term limits, I think this will do. From now on I will answer my opponents objections and develop my own case.


I will present a case of mine own, and in doing so will rebut those of Pro. As there has been a lack of definitions, I will assume that all words will be defined under a standard definition.

Firstly, democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in how their country is run. Democracy does not prohibit, nor does it cater solely to, what is “good” or “right.” This means that even if Hugo Chavez is a “bad” guy, as long as he is popular enough to win the majority of votes, he retains his power.

Term Limits limit Democracy
By creating term limits, governments force country leaders to step down and not serve again for a stipulated amount of time, sometimes up to a lifetime, after serving for (usually) eight years. Notice that in this case, should the people wish to reelect the incumbent, as is their right via democracy, they would clash with the law. This would force either the law to be re-written, or force the people to choose a secondary candidate.

Let us look at the case of Chavez. Notice that in whatever he has done, the people of Venezuela has implicitly agreed to it by not voting him out. However, should they disagree with what he is doing, they have the polls with which to kick him out. This is democracy in its most unregulated form.

Although a Head of State (Hereafter HoS) should, ideally, reflect the will of the people, this is rarely, if ever, done. For one, the will of the people is not coherent in that it is generally very contradictory. Consider the case of the liberal-conservative divide in the U.S.
Imposing term limits on a HoS does not limit in any way their ability to exercise their own will over that of the will of the people. Let us suppose a case where a two term limit is imposed on the elected. Notice that whatever the incumbent wishes to do against the will of the people could be done in the second term, where he need not fear any retaliation from the voters simply because he will not be running again!

So clearly from this case alone we can see that term limits do limit democracy because the people are as such unable to elect their primary candidate. In addition to that, term limits can also be bad for the country.

Term limits do not prevent negative developement
I will parody the Pro case for positive impact here (Not mockery, but I want to show a stark contrast between the two sides of this “coin”):
Term limits do not stop the negative development of policies which are pleasing to the people. Policies are not dependent on people but ideas. Even in the case that an exceptionally bad president is doing “wonders” for the country is faced with a term limit, the following government can be elected to follow the same general policies. The fact of term limits makes clearer that policies are not supposed to be those of this or that politician, but those that work for the common “good” and are “recognized” as such by the people, regardless of the individual promoting them.

I have added several quotation marks and bolded a few words. Notice that now the whole meaning has changed.

From this we can see that “good” and “bad” are really subjective terms based on the ideology of the voters. For example, in the current U.S. fiscal cliff to-be, the Republicans consider it “good” to be fiscally conservative, which the Democrats consider “bad.” On the other hand, Democrats want to increase spending, which is viewed as “good” to them but “bad” to the Republicans.

If Pro wishes to object that we can only know what is “good” or “bad” by seeing effects, then by that time, if term limits are implemented, voters are unable to “punish” the emeritus incumbent.

On to another point of view. Let us suppose that indeed governments are supposed to reflect an ideology. This brings problems too. Note that there are multiple conflicting ideologies. Now even were we to consider that in a hypothetical country there was only one ideology, that still does not make term limits “better” or “worse.” Notice that if there was indeed such a situation, anything done by the incumbent that seems contrary to the ideology would cause the incumbent to be voted out (I am assuming democracy remains). In this case, an incumbent remains solely a mouthpiece of the will of the ideology and as such has no need to change. There is indeed no bad to be derived from keeping the same mouthpiece.

Now that I’ve shown such, I must show that there is good to be obtained from not having term limits. I’ve already given one instance in the case directly under the header about term limits.

By not having term limits, a good HoS with no ideology can benefit a country, fiscally and socially, simply by occupying office (with voters consent) and as such, disallowing competitors with looser morals and less beneficial policies, from gaining office. This thus is “good” for democracy.

From this we can see that term limits have basically no impact on the way a country is run, or on democracy as a whole.

Back to you.
Debate Round No. 2


I will address Con's arguments in five points:

1. Imposing term limits is a limit on the will of the people

Yes it is, and rightly so. Democracy is not always popular, and its institutions can be used to dismantle it, as happened both in the Republic of Weimar (1) and in Italy with the rise of Mussolini (2). It may strike some as an exaggeration (and a cheap rhetorical recourse) to cry "fascism", but fascism is precisely the case in point which proves the convenience of limits on the unbridled will of the people. In a certain moment the majority may believe that not everyone ought to have freedom of speech, or that the right to vote should be limited to such as can profess allegiance to certain political principles. A democracy that allows for these tyrannical limits to freedom is not worthy of the name. The fact is that democracy is much more than the simple majority rule, empty of any other significance. Democracy is based on a positive doctrine of the equal dignity of all human beings, which implies that they should have a say in how their society functions and what rules are to apply to them.

Hans Kelsen, father of the constitutional system in Europe, in "On the Essence and Value of Democracy" (3) made a similar argument. He lived the destruction of the Republic of Weimar and noted that the popular conception of democracy as popular self-legislation could only lead to the inevitable demise of democracy. The argument for the completely unencumbered will of the people signifying true democracy would likewise be an argument against Constitutions, Parliamentary systems, representative systems, judicial oversight, or any legislative or electoral system other than majority rule. This includes safeguards on human rights.

I absolutely concede that term limits are a limit on the will of the people, but I reject the idea that democracy benefits from the unbridled majority rule.

2. Lame duck freedom

The answer to this particular question is twofold. The first is that executive power is not unlimited. The system of checks and balances in the presidential system of the US and Parliamentary control in European Parliamentary system are a limit to what the executive can accomplish relying merely on its own will.

It is true, however, that what the Head of State can do is conceivable more than would be done should elections be a primary concern. The problem with this conception is once again an emphasis on the person rather than the idea. That person knows that there is a limit to their time in office, and so any decisions, changes, reforms or any other measure taken which is done without the consent of the people (or with massive opposition to it) not only runs the risk of being overturned by the judiciary, but repealed by the opposition as soon as his time in office ends. Elections are not about punishing the guy who did badly, but about choosing the path which seems best suited for the country. After the previous president or prime minister's term of office ends, the people may well choose the party which ran in opposition to the measures taken, and thus the harm done in this "lame duck" which wasn't limited by the myriad other limits imposed by modern democracies would be quickly undone in this new term of office.

We have direct experience of this in recent history. George Bush was very unpopular in his second term as president. He could not run for office a third time, however John McCain suffered greatly for this unpopularity. The same happened in Spain with Zapatero and Rubalcaba, and once again with Calderón and Vázquez in Mexico. The person, unless criminal behavior is among the unpopular elements of the presidency, is rather irrelevant; the people still have the ability to punish policies they do not agree with.

3. "I am assuming democracy remains"

In arguing that anything done by the incumbent which is contrary to the "ideology" of that particular country that person would be voted out, Con lets out what I can only consider an unconscious concession in parentheses "(I am assuming democracy remains)". This is assuming too much. The very choice of words belies the recognition of the danger in allowing for charismatic governance rather than limiting power through the rule of law and, among those limiting laws, term limits.

4. A Head of State with no ideology

A Head of State with no ideology, says Con, can benefit a country fiscally and socially, impeding by their very occupation of their high office the access of less moral men with worse policies. I suppose an android would likewise be a marvelous president in this case. Human beings always have a worldview, the only man with no ideology is the man with no ideas. Each person then attempts to make the case that their own worldview is that which corresponds with reality (and so should not be called ideology but rather objective truth). In a democratic system this debate is carried out in the public square and the citizens decide which one they are more in favor of in any particular election

A Head of State with no ideology will never be elected, mostly because such a man does not exist.

5. No impact on democracy

We have already seen in the previous arguments how this is not so even on the theoretical level. More importantly, however, is that history refutes this claim. The first step for those who wish to establish dictatorships today in South America is to remove term limits and similar restrictions, the end of the Republic of Weimar and the Italian democracy using the very system the totalitarians sought to undermine, the degeneration of the second Spanish Republic in the hand of the also totalitarian Popular Front government and many more examples show us that this is emphatically not the case. Term limits certainly do set a limit to popular sovereignty, but it is a limit in favor of democracy just as limits on laws encroaching free speech are limits on popular sovereignty in favor of democracy.


(1) Rise of Hitler
(2) Rise of Mussolini
(3) On the Essence and Value of Democracy


I will address Pro’s arguments in three points.

I. Term Limits limits Democracy.
Pro’s first three point can be placed under one overarching point. I see not any need for splitting arguments unnecessarily.

Pro has already conceded one point. Term limits limit the will of the people. He does not believe, though, that sheer majority can decide policy. The fact of the matter still remains, however, that Nazism and Fascism are ideologies that remain to this day. [1][2] These ideologies use the democratic systems to gain power, as well as to keep it, and are very much alive today.

Pro deems that even if a majority of the population deems something “good” for their country to follow, like Nazi Germany [3], as long as it contradicts his own ideology, it is not “good” and is thus “bad” for democracy. Notice how subjective this point of view is. Giving everyone “fundamental human rights” is itself an ideology.

Pro claims that democracy gives everyone equal rights. This is true, but for a country to work, the majority ideology must be implemented. Otherwise, a “lame duck” situation would be created. That is, two competing ideologies, like Republican and Democrat, will gain office in almost alternating terms, and negate each others policies. [4][5]

Pro claims that voters choose “the path which seems best suited for the country...” This is in contradiction to the rebuttal presented by Pro in his earlier point. Notice that by this logic, the Germans who elected Hitler were being democratic.[3]

Another way of viewing this sentence and its accompanying point is given in the title of the point. This is indeed a lame duck situation. Not only will no progress be made if two competing ideologies have about the same amount of supporters, as in the Republican-Democrat divide, it will in fact harm (Aka. Be bad for democracy) the fiscal and social situation.

In Pro’s point 2-3, he articulates the main reason why I think term limits are not bad for democracy. Simply put, you can destroy a man, but not an idea. The Democrats were trashed worse in the past than the Republicans were in this most recent U.S. elections. [5] They are, though, still around and going strong. This shows that not only do bad ideologies not suffer from term limits, they actually thrive simply because of “new faces,” so to speak.

II. A HoS without Ideology
My point exactly. A HoS who merely mirrors the will of the people, expressed by means of voting, needs have no ideology. Limiting such a HoS, which could be an android, with term limits simply forcing the making of another individual who would be fitted to the same task or changing the system. I am sure that such an individual will not be voted out. Why would it?

As such, term limits would actually not be beneficial for the country, but would, in practice, be negatively impactful.

III. No Impact
As shown in my previous arguments, term limits limit democracy, as such, it cannot be a limit in favor of democracy. You cannot limit something in favor of what you are limiting. As I showed, Pro does not benefit from rejecting the idea that democracy benefits from majority rule. Not only is democracy based on majority rule, hence elections, but pointing a country in a direction “best suited” should be decided by the majority, not some arbitrary term limits or ideology.

Notice that even if there is term limits, a country can still be run on an ideology. This means that there is no practical impact for term limits in regards to implementing an ideology. To give a hypothetical situation, let us suppose that there are 10,000 people in a country. Let us suppose that 9000 people support ideology A, which the 1000 remaining people oppose with ideology B. Let us suppose that A and B are irreconcilable. What then? The ideology that has the greater amount of supporters always wins. Assuming no change of ideologies on the part of the population, term limits or no, the country will still go in the direction of ideology A. According to ideology B, this direction is bad.

According to Pro, B would have a right to be a “noisy minority” [6] and impose their ideology onto those that hold to ideology A. Notice the very strong parallels of this hypothetical situation and that of the end of the Weimar Republic? [3]

In conclusion, all I can say is that Pro’s objection to a lack of term limits is based on a contradiction. Opposing an ideology accepted by the majority on the grounds of differentiating between “good” and “bad” simply does not work because it is too relative. What is “good” to someone may be “bad” to another.

3. See Pro’s source 1.
6. A noisy minority is the direct opposite of a silent majority, which according to, is “any group of people who are not outspoken and who are considered to constitute a majority.”
Debate Round No. 3


Term limits limit the will of the people

This can only be counted as a concession if one counts the constitution or the democratic process itself as a limit on the will of the people. They undoubtedly are, as they force this will to adhere to certain rules in its manifestations and not to surpass certain boundaries (that of democracy and human rights). It is precisely these limits which would safeguard a democracy from popular authoritarianism, or at least act as a buffer to it. It would be like a train complaining against the illegitimate suppression of his free movement that is the railway system. He can, of course free himself from the rails, but will find quite suddenly that he is not free to be a train. What we are debating is not whether or not term limits constrain the free will of the people, but whether this does so in a way that is constructive for democracy or destructive of it.

A democracy works generally by the majority rule, but it is not the dictatorship of the majority. For a democracy to be recognized as such it must not only do the bidding of the majority but also respect the rights of the minority. The majority of US citizens believe in public education and that this education ought to be mandatory until a certain age. The United States, however, is never so democratic when it provides a general law on mandatory education in response to this general idea as it is when it exempts the Amish communities from following it. It is respect for basic rights which lead to a conception of equality that is the bedrock of democracy, and to take democracy as an excuse to eliminate the former is to take democracy as an excuse to eliminate democracy. Con notes that I contend that the Germans were being democratic when electing Hitler, and this is true, in a formal sense. They were following all the rules of the democratic process. The only thing they forgot is the most important thing: the limits without which democracy ceases to be democracy.

Con also seems to believe that bad ideologies thrive because of "new faces". History shows otherwise. It is only when the charismatic leader falls that most of the attacks on democracy of any weight have also fallen. Just as the death of Chavez will lead to either the end of his regime or the end of the faux democratic pantomime in Venezuela, it has historically been the case that authoritarian regimes require the presence of a charismatic figurehead who could continue without limit.

Head of State without ideology

To argue for a Head of State who merely mirrors the will of the people is to divorce political theory from reality. At no time has such a man existed, and if such a man existed he would undoubtedly be a terrible Head of State. Human beings can never be merely mirrors, as we will always have biases and ideas of our own which would in the very least influence what we do. What Con proposes was pretty much what was attempted with some of Europe's Constitutional Monarchies in the early 20th century. The king would, after an election, chose to form a government selecting those ministers he believed reflected the popular will. This system was in place in Italy when Victorio Emmanuele III asked Mussolini to form a government and in Spain when Alfonso XIII asked General Miguel Primo de Rivera to take the reigns of government.

No impact

Pro contends you cannot limit something in favor of what you are limiting. I have already shown this is patent nonsense. If this principle were to be taken to its conclusion in reference to any of the other cases where there are limits to democracy we would immediately eliminate first the Supreme Court, then the Constitution itself, and finally the representative system (in favor of assembly-style government). These limits on unbridled popular sovereignty do not attack popular sovereignty, but rather allow it to thrive. It is rather like putting ten children in a playpen surrounded, not by walls, but by sheer cliffs. One would soon find these children cowering in the center of the playpen in fear of death. If you add good, sturdy walls those same children would be bouncing about and having the best of times. These limits on democracy perform a similar function insofar as they deny democracy the right to commit suicide.

Con misrepresents my position when he posits a population in which 9000 people are in favor of ideology A and the remaining 1000 in favor of ideology B. He contends my view is that B "would have the right to be a 'noisy minority' and impose their ideology". This is not so. Ideology A would have every right to lead the country, so long as it respects the rights to free speech, association, conscience etc. of proponents of ideology B, and would have to present a new candidate every so many years (somewhat more than six and somewhat less than 14, I should think). I am sure the readers will find this position much less nefarious.

Concluding remarks on political relativism

It is never a good sign when in a debate about whether something is good or bad one side deems it necessary to doubt the meaning of the words good and bad. Good and bad, contrary to that rather new-fanged ideology that claims the contrary are words with meaning. Webster: Good: "of a favorable character or tendency" Bad: "Unfavorable; failing to reach an acceptable standard." There is no contradiction in stating that limits to popular sovereignty can be good for a democratic system in that it protects the safeguards it has to basic freedoms and limit the capacity to develop a tyranny. This should be specially obvious to those familiar with the American system which is based on a conception of human rights and is rather weary of allowing any power within the country to go without its checks and balances.



For the remainder of this debate, I will simply follow Pro point by point.

Term limits limit the will of the people
In this point, Pro has argued that democracy itself is a limit on the will of the people. This is not necessarily so. Democracy only limits the will of the minority of the people. It is impractical for every whim and fancy to be enacted into law. This “limitation” forces the minority position to actively campaign for their ideology. What Pro has failed to state is what type of limitations are imposed. There are some that are purposefully done, and others that are simply logistically impossible.

In limiting terms, Pro has decided to repress one fundamental human right, which is why I said there was a contradiction. This is the basic human right to expression. Pro seems to forget that we are emotive creatures.

In Pro’s logic, a country without term limits ceases to be a democracy. This includes the United Kingdom, which has no term limits.

Social Socialists (As opposed to fiscal socialists) is alive and well despite its slaughter of millions during its implementation. This is the essence of what I mean by “new faces.”

Head of State without ideology
What Con proposes was pretty much what was attempted with some of Europe's Constitutional Monarchies in the early 20th century”
What Pro proposes is my argument is actually a false picture of what I described. See my previous round, and I need not extend arguments here.

No impact
Pro contends you cannot limit something in favor of what you are limiting. I have already shown this is patent nonsense”
This is simply not so. This was a Contention. Note that Pro has not shown this to be nonsense, whether patently or otherwise. (See First point) Pro’s other arguments rely on limiting a basic human right, the right to one’s own body. As to the rest of his points, up to his analogy of the playground, see my above statement about the U.K. If his invalid slippery slope argument works, then it is logical to assume that the U.K. is not any longer a democracy.

In my ideologies analogy, I clearly stated that A and B are incompatible and irreconcilable. It seems that Pro would ignore this. What is irreconcilable cannot compromise in favor of each other. Hence, Pro’s suggestion carries no weight.

Concluding remarks on political relativism
It is never a good sign in a debate when one debater tries to impose a standard of “good”/”bad” on the other debater. When something is favorable or not favorable, that something has been compared to a standard and graded against it. Hence the grades of “good” and “bad.” It appears that Pro would want to impose a standard of which he has not made clear onto this debate. That is not permissible.

With all of these in mind, I will strongly urge a Con vote, and thank you for reading.
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by wrichcirw 5 years ago
9) CON: "Pro"s other arguments rely on limiting a basic human right, the right to one"s own body. " What???

All in all, it wasn't close. PRO kept on message, that limits on democracy via term limits were "good". I liken this to trimming a bonsai tree.

CON went all over the place...from circular arguments, to an android HoS (???), to rights that apply more to a debate about abortion (rights to one's own body???) than about the good of democracy. Also, he misquoted his opponent in round #2, which further damaged his credibility. I found CON's logic to be extremely difficult to follow throughout the debate. I would award arguments to PRO simply on this basis, but PRO also had a clear argument, one that CON failed to refute.

Wikipedia was heavily sourced, so no sources. Conduct and arguments to PRO.
Posted by wrichcirw 5 years ago
1) CON: "Even in the case that an exceptionally bad president is doing "wonders" for the country..." Not following this argument. An "exceptionally bad president" would not be "doing 'wonders' for the country," but rather the opposite, regardless of his policies or ideology. Unfortunately, this attempt at "parody" actually strengthened PRO's argument.
2) CON: "I have added several quotation marks and bolded a few words. Notice that now the whole meaning has changed." The meaning changed because you misquoted your opponent. Conduct to PRO. I found this entire line of thinking to be exceptionally damaging to CON's credibility.
3) I am sensing a heated debate over the word "democracy". That this word wasn't defined at the start damages both viewpoints. I will give credit to CON for at least attempting to define the word.
4) CON: "Notice that by this logic, the Germans who elected Hitler were being democratic." Yes they were. I don't follow how this strengthens CON's argument. The Nazis indeed strengthened the German state and implemented dramatic reforms that raised the standard of living for most of the population. Before the Nazis was Weimar Germany, a failed state. Would you rather all Germans face starvation and anarchy, or that only a minority face it? Which is the greater evil?
5) CON: "Limiting such a HoS, which could be an android..." What??
6) CON: "As shown in my previous arguments, term limits limit democracy, as such, it cannot be a limit in favor of democracy." Circular reasoning, unless I have no idea what CON is saying here. Either way, it does not bolster his argument.
7) CON: "Pro has decided to repress one fundamental human right, which is why I said there was a contradiction. This is the basic human right to expression. Pro seems to forget that we are emotive creatures." Pure, fabricated nonsense. Source at least?
8) CON: "In Pro"s logic, a country without term limits ceases to be a democracy. " Strawman. I hate strawmen.
Posted by TrasguTravieso 5 years ago
Oh my, I didn't notice this was the last round. I had reserved a closing statement, that's a pitty.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
I am liking the arguments posted here so far.
Posted by wrichcirw 5 years ago
Interesting...will follow this one.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: see comments