Essay: Should Politicians Have a Retirement Age?

Politics, along with religion, personal values, and moral philosophy, belongs to a specific family of topics in society known as “hot button topics.” This is only a colloquial term, but it nonetheless accurately depicts the kind of emotion that it generates in people. Politics is, at the best of times, a polarizing issue. Most political systems are set up so that if a constituent does not fall in line with one side of the political aisle, then they must, by default, belong to the other camp. This creates a great deal of divisiveness in the political environment – and when it comes to the politicians themselves, there is no difference. Some believe that politicians, with their experience and knowledge, should be allowed to remain stationed at their post for as long as possible – and, indeed, the current system is structured to accommodate this. However, there is currently a push to install new regulations that will impose a retirement age for politicians, which will allow for the new generation, along with their values and ideas, to take a seat of power.

Unsurprisingly, this topic quickly generated a heated debate. On one side lies those who believe that the “old guard” still has plenty to contribute to society, and that they are repositories of information and wisdom that was accrued through years, even decades, of service. However, there are also those who would like to thank the older generation for their service and contribution, but also believe that it is time to make way for the younger generation – whose views, ideals, and ideas can better represent today’s cultural climate. While both sides put up interesting arguments, the truth and solution will most likely lie in the middle. But first, it is best to explore the various qualities of each viewpoint.

We begin with the detractors of change, with those who believe that older politicians have earned the right for their voice to be heard and to keep their seats of power until they voluntarily retire, or ill health prevents them from holding office. Contrary to popular belief, many of those supporting this side of the argument do not believe that politicians should be able to hold their seat of power indefinitely, but only as long as the public considers them fit to hold it. They believe tenured politicians have accumulated years upon years of knowledge and experience, which cannot be easily taught or replaced.

Furthermore, politicians, through years of dealing with foreign dignitaries, have built and cultivated diplomatic relationships with their counterparts and leaders of industry from other countries. The removal of the old guard puts these relationships (some of which may be vital to parts of government or society) at great risk, which may have significant ramifications to the branch of government in which they are involved in. On top of this, their young successor may not have the same success in maintaining the relationship with their foreign partner, causing the relationship to further sour. Then there’s the sheer amount of experience that is involved with the position. While data and information may easily be transferred, experience and politicking (for lack of a better word) is not so easily shared from one individual to another. A significant transitional period will be required to ensure that there is a seamless transfer of power and knowledge. Then there’s the public image to consider. The public, at this point, has been used to seeing certain politicians. They have become public figures that have been subconsciously embedded in the minds, and sometimes hearts, of their constituents. To suddenly replace them may lead to confusion among the populace.

The naysayers are, of course, only one side of the equation. Those in support of enforcing a retirement age for politicians also believe that doing so will be for the greater good of society. This set of individuals believes that when the old generation of politicians step down, they are fostering the growth of younger individuals in the profession. They are allowing younger people to take on more responsibility and exposure to new experiences. On a biological level, all humans face deterioration, both physically and mentally, and politicians are no exception to this rule. Imposing a retirement age rule will ensure that those in office are physically, mentally, and intellectually fit to do so.

And, as previously mentioned, allowing younger people to take office means that they can introduce new ideas and take different approaches than the conventional standards in which everything is done. They can literally breathe fresh air into a profession often associated with age, laborious movement, and tedium. Perhaps most importantly, enforcing a retirement age would ensure that no individual retains power indefinitely. In a way, it is in human nature to retain power and control for as long as possible; this can be beneficial in some ways, but in the long run it tends to make others resentful and has the ability to corrupt the system it once served to protect and uphold.

Rebecca T., essay writer,