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Public policy and the initiative and referendum: a survey with some new evidence

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  • John G. Matsusaka

    (University of Southern California)

Abstract

This paper surveys the extensive literature that seeks to estimate the effect of the initiative and referendum on public policy. The evidence on the referendum uniformly finds that requiring voter approval for new spending (or new debt) results in lower spending (or lower debt). The initiative process is associated with lower spending and taxes in American states and Swiss cantons, but with higher spending in cities. The initiative is consistently associated with more conservative social policies. Policies are more likely to be congruent with majority opinion in states with the initiative process than states without the initiative, suggesting that direct democracy allows the majority to counteract the power of special interests in policy making.

Suggested Citation

  • John G. Matsusaka, 2018. "Public policy and the initiative and referendum: a survey with some new evidence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 174(1), pages 107-143, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:174:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11127-017-0486-0
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-017-0486-0
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    3. Stadelmann, David & Torrens, Gustavo, 2020. "Who is the ultimate boss of legislators: Voters, special interest groups or parties?," VfS Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual Conference): Gender Economics 224562, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    4. Stutzer, Alois & Baltensperger, Michael & Meier, Armando N., 2018. "Overstrained Citizens?," Working papers 2018/25, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.

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