It is wisdom in a state, and a sign that they judge well, to suppose, that all men who can enslave them, will enslave them. Generosity, self-denial, and private and personal virtues, are in politics but mere names, or rather cant-words.

—Thomas Gordon. Cato’s Letters No. 11, The justice and necessity of punishing great crimes, though committed against no subsisting law of the state, Saturday, January 7, 1721.

If it is accepted that all politicians will ultimately prefer their own interests to their trust, it can be seen that it is necessary to put in place structural safeguards that prevent this from occurring. If politicians are limited to a single term, it becomes impossible for them to be corrupted because there is no time and no incentive. Like juries they exist for too short a time to be effectively compromised; as for incentive, a politician who cannot be re-elected has nothing to sell and special interests have nothing to buy.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove