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Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives

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  • Timothy Besley
  • Stephen Coate

Abstract

The role of citizens' initiatives figures prominently 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 considered socially undesirable for outcomes on specific issues to stray too far from what the majority wants, this creates a role for citizens' initiatives.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 2000. "Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives," NBER Working Papers 8036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8036
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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.
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    12. repec:cup:apsrev:v:57:y:1963:i:01:p:45-56_24 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

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

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