Something I hear and read repeatedly on talk radio, cable news, the blogosphere and twitter is this idea that specific people are not qualified to hold an office for which they are running and are therefore not worthy of our support. Moreover, efforts should be made to criticize and discourage anyone who might support those people. It turns out the actual requirements for being a congressman are really quite limited. So limited in fact, that nearly everyone qualifies. To run for congress you must:
(1) be at least twenty-five years old; (2) have been a citizen of the United States for the past seven years; and (3) be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state they represent.
A congressman need not even reside in the district he/she seeks to represent. The qualifications for being a senator are also quite limited. To run for Senate you must:
1) be at least 30 years old, 2) must have been a citizen of the United States for at least the past nine years, and 3) must be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state he or she seeks to represent.
Lastly, the qualifications for being President are only slightly more stringent. To run for president, you must:
1) be a natural born citizen of the United States. 2) be at least thirty-five years old 3) have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least fourteen years. 4) not be disqualified by an impeachment conviction in the Senate which included disqualification from holding federal office 5) have not been elected President twice previously (22nd amendment)
The fourteenth amendment also disqualifies people who served for the Confederacy in the civil war from holding the above offices (obviously, not really an issue in modern times).
There is no requirement that any specific, previous offices be held before seeking any of these offices. There is no specific educational background required. No specific college, university or group of educational institutions serves as a gatekeeper to any of these positions.
I find arguments about qualifications for specific candidates to be very unconvincing. I would much rather have a group of individuals with varied experiences and backgrounds serving these positions than a group of highly credentialed lawyers who all attended a small group of highly ‘respected’ universities.
When I evaluate a candidate, I am much more interested in their philosophical approach to government and society. Does this person think its desirable or even possible to create a society where all outcomes are equal? Does this person think great civil societies are ones in which the state plays the dominant role? How does this person feel about:
- tax rates?
- personal responsibility?
- property rights?
- central planning vs. free enterprise?
For legislative positions, I am really most concerned with how they are going to vote on proposals that are made:
- A proposal is made to raise taxes. What say you? Yes/No
- A bill is presented to lower taxes. How will you vote? Yes/No
- Some of your fellow legislators would like to expand the role of government on issue [fill in the blank] Do you agree? Yes/No
- A bill has been offered up to decrease and/or eliminate some government function and cede control and responsibility to the private sector. Will you support? Yes/No
- One of your fellow legislators is friends with a light bulb maker. He would like to pass a law banning the bulbs from all rival light bulb makers. Will you go along with this? Yes/No
If we have these kinds of litmus tests, do we get a president Reagan? How about a president Truman or a president Cleveland? As a reminder, there are thousands of highly accomplished people who did not even complete college. Finally, I leave you with this: Reagan’s thoughts on self government and the intellectual elite