First, the institutions of direct democracy, referendum and initiative, are described. One of the main arguments against direct political rights is that citizens are often, or even generally, not enough informed or even incompetent to decide on important political issues. Therefore, the problem of acquiring and processing information is discussed, comparing direct with purely representative democratic systems. The political outcome has to show whether direct political rights serve the interests of the citizens. Thus, the results of empirical studies investigating the effects of direct democracy are reported. These studies mainly consider Switzerland and the United States, and they concentrate on the economic outcomes which are on average favourable. Nevertheless, there are (or at least can be) problems by conceding these rights which should not be overlooked. The paper concludes with a critical discussion of some popular arguments (raised in particular in Germany) against direct democracy as well as the possibilities resulting from the new electronic media
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