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Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives

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  • Besley, Timothy
  • Coate, Stephen

Abstract

The role of citizens' initiatives figures prominently in contemporary debates on constitutional change. It is widely believed that permitting initiatives should improve the congruence between citizen preferences and policy outcomes across the spectrum of issues on which initiatives may be placed. This paper investigates the theoretical basis for this view. It begins by identifying three basic reasons why electoral competition may not, by itself, be sufficient to ensure congruence on specific issues. Each reason relies critically on the fact that citizens have only one vote to cast for candidates who have responsibility for choosing a bundle of issues. It then shows how allowing initiatives permits the unbundling of specific issues which improves congruence when the three reasons apply. Important caveats to this logic are also presented.

Suggested Citation

  • Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2008. "Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 3(4), pages 379-397, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:now:jlqjps:100.00008059
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00008059
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Assar Lindbeck & J├Ârgen Weibull, 1987. "Balanced-budget redistribution as the outcome of political competition," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 52(3), pages 273-297, January.
    2. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 2003. "Elected Versus Appointed Regulators: Theory and Evidence," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(5), pages 1176-1206, September.
    3. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 85-114.
    4. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 2001. "Lobbying and Welfare in a Representative Democracy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 67-82.
    5. Pommerehne, Werner W., 1990. "The empirical relevance of comparative institutional analysis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(2-3), pages 458-469, May.
    6. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1996. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 265-286.
    7. Martin J. Osborne & Al Slivinski, 1996. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 65-96.
    8. Matsusaka, John G & McCarty, Nolan M, 2001. "Political Resource Allocation: Benefits and Costs of Voter Initiatives," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 413-448, October.
    9. John G. Matsusaka, 1992. "Economics of Direct Legislation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 541-571.
    10. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. "Fiscal Effects of the Voter Initiative: Evidence from the Last 30 Years," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 587-623, June.
    11. repec:cup:apsrev:v:72:y:1978:i:02:p:535-547_15 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:cup:apsrev:v:57:y:1963:i:01:p:45-56_24 is not listed on IDEAS
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    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General

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