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Issue Unbundling via Citizens' initiatives

  • Besley, Timothy J.
  • Coate, Stephen

The role of citizens' intitiatives figures prominantly in contemporary debates on constitutional change. A basic question is why are initiatives necessary in a representative democracy where candidates must already compete for the right to control policy? This Paper offers one answer to this question. In a representative democracy, the bundling of issues, together with the fact that citizens have only one vote, means that policy outcomes on specific issues may diverge far from what the majority of citizens want. In such circumstances, allowing citizens to put legislation directly on the ballot permits the 'unbundling' of these issues, which forces a closer relationship between policy outcomes and popular preferences. To the extent that it is condsidered socially undesirable for outcomes on specific issues to stray too far from what the majority wants, this creates a role for citizens initiatives.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2857.

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Date of creation: Jun 2001
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2857
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  1. 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, 09.
  2. Tim Besley & Stephen Coate, . ""An Economic Model of Representative Democracy''," CARESS Working Papres 95-02, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  3. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2001. "Lobbying and Welfare in a Representative Democracy," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(1), pages 67-82, January.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Martin J. Osborne & Al Slivinksi, 1995. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-01, McMaster University.
  8. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1996. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 265-86, April.
  9. Pommerehne, Werner W., 1990. "The empirical relevance of comparative institutional analysis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(2-3), pages 458-469, May.
  10. Matsusaka, John G, 1992. "Economics of Direct Legislation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 541-71, May.
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