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The Role of Direct Democracy in the European Union

  • Lars P. Feld
  • Gebhard Kirchgässner

In this paper, the introduction of direct-democratic decision-making in all EU decisions is considered when it is feasible without prohibitively increasing decision-making costs. We start with the contractarian argument that each constitution is a contract joining the citizens of a state and requires as such the explicit agreement of (a majority of) citizens. Thus, the future European Constitution as well as future changes of it should be decided by the European citizens. After a discussion of the pros and cons of direct democracy, the ability of direct democracy to help creating a European demos is discussed. Consequently, we propose a mandatory (required and binding) referendum on total and partial revisions of the European Constitution. In addition, we propose a constitutional initiative, a statutory and a general initiative as well as a fiscal referendum for financially important projects.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1083.

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Date of creation: 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1083
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  1. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 2000. "Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives," NBER Working Papers 8036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Christoph A. Schaltegger & Lars P. Feld, 2001. "On Government Centralization and Budget Referendums: Evidence from Switzerland," CESifo Working Paper Series 615, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," IDEI Working Papers 37, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  4. Anke Kessler, 2000. "Representative versus Direct Democracy: The Role of Informational Asymmetries," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse18_2000, University of Bonn, Germany.
  5. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," CESifo Working Paper Series 246, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Blomberg, S.B. & Hess, G.D., 1999. "The Impact of Voter Initiatives on Economic Activity," Papers 99-11, Wellesley College - Department of Economics.
  7. Charles Blankart, 2000. "The Process of Government Centralization: A Constitutional View," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 27-39, March.
  8. Kiewiet, D Roderick & Szakaly, Kristin, 1996. "Constitutional Limitations on Borrowing: An Analysis of State Bonded Indebtedness," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 62-97, April.
  9. Matsusaka, John G, 1992. "Economics of Direct Legislation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 541-71, May.
  10. James M. Poterba & Jürgen von Hagen, 1999. "Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pote99-1, July.
  11. Opp, Karl-Dieter, 1994. "The Role of Voice in a Future Europe," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 385-402.
  12. Feld, Lars P. & Kirchgassner, Gebhard, 2000. "Direct democracy, political culture, and the outcome of economic policy: a report on the Swiss experience," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 287-306, June.
  13. Kirchgassner, Gebhard, 1994. "Constitutional Economics and Its Relevance for the Evolution of Rules," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 321-39.
  14. Romer, Thomas & Rosenthal, Howard, 1979. "Bureaucrats versus Voters: On the Political Economy of Resource Allocation by Direct Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 563-87, November.
  15. Lars P. Feld & Bruno S. Frey, 2002. "Trust breeds trust: How taxpayers are treated," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 3(2), pages 87-99, 07.
  16. Vaubel Roland, 1992. "The Political Economy Of Centralization And The European Community," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 38, March.
  17. Anthony M. Marino & John G. Matsusaka, 2005. "Decision Processes, Agency Problems, and Information: An Economic Analysis of Capital Budgeting Procedures," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(1), pages 301-325.
  18. Steunenberg, Bernard, 1992. "Referendum, Initiative, and Veto Power: Budgetary Decision Making in Local Government," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(4), pages 501-29.
  19. Pommerehne, Werner W., 1978. "Institutional approaches to public expenditure : Empirical evidence from Swiss municipalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 255-280, April.
  20. 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 413-48, October.
  21. Vaubel, Roland, 2002. "Die Politische Ökonomie des Europäischen Verfassungskonvents," Wirtschaftsdienst – Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftspolitik (1998 - 2007), ZBW – German National Library of Economics / Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 82(10), pages 636-640.
  22. Feld, Lars P. & Voigt, Stefan, 2003. "Economic growth and judicial independence: cross-country evidence using a new set of indicators," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 497-527, September.
  23. Matsusaka, John G, 2000. "Fiscal Effects of the Voter Initiative in the First Half of the Twentieth Century," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 619-50, October.
  24. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521894753 is not listed on IDEAS
  25. Lars P. Feld & Gebhard Kirchgassner, 1999. "Public Debt and Budgetary Procedures: Top Down or Bottom Up? Some Evidence from Swiss Municipalities," NBER Chapters, in: Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance, pages 151-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Lars P. Feld & John G. Matsusaka, 2000. "Budget Referendums and Government Spending: Evidence from Swiss," CESifo Working Paper Series 323, CESifo Group Munich.
  27. Feld, Lars P. & Matsusaka, John G., 2003. "Budget referendums and government spending: evidence from Swiss cantons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2703-2724, December.
  28. 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.
  29. Roland Vaubel, 1996. "Constitutional safeguards against centralization in federal states: An international cross-section analysis," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 79-102, June.
  30. Peter Moser, 1996. "Why is Swiss Politics so Stable?," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 132(I), pages 31-61, March.
  31. Feld, Lars P & Savioz, Marcel R, 1997. "Direct Democracy Matters for Economic Performance: An Empirical Investigation," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 507-38.
  32. Buchanan, James M, 2001. "Direct Democracy, Classical Liberalism, and Constitutional Strategy," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2-3), pages 235-42.
  33. Lars P Feld & Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2001. "The political economy of direct legislation: direct democracy and local decision-making," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(33), pages 329-367, October.
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