Some uncommon(?) wisdom from John Matsusaka (USC), author of For the Many or the Few: The Initiative, Public Policy, and American Democracy (U. Chicago Press, 2004).
Direct Democracy and Social Issues
Entrydate: 2007-05-29 18:49:17
Keywords: Direct democracy, initiative, social issues, representation
Abstract: This paper explores the connection between the initiative process–the most potent form of direct democracy–and social issues by examining laws on seven social issues in all 50 American states. Initiative states are 18 percent more likely than noninitiative states to choose a conservative than a liberal policy on the median issue after controlling for public opinion, demographic, and regional variables. The conservative shift is majoritarian: initiative states are 8 percent more likely than noninitiative states to choose laws that reflect the majority’s preference. The initiative effect does not appear to depend on the institutional features that scholars and reformers often discuss.
Direct Democracy and Public Employees
Entrydate: 2007-05-29 18:51:41
Keywords: Direct democracy, public employees, initiative, patronage, interest groups
Abstract: In the public sector, employment may be inefficiently high because of patronage, and wages may be inefficiently high because of the strength of public employee interest groups. This paper explores whether the initiative process, a direct democracy institution of growing importance, can control these political economy problems, as proponents and some research suggests. Based on a sample of 500+ cities in 2000, I find that when public employees are allowed to bargain collectively, driving up wages, the initiative appears to cut wages by about 5 percent but has no measurable effect on employment. When public employees are not allowed to bargain collectively and patronage is a problem, initiatives appear to cut employment but not wages.
A brief summary of Matsusaka’s work is available here: “Direct Democracy Works” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Spring 2005. [PDF]