Better Democracy NZ is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation.

Our mission is to foster the improvement of New Zealand's democratic system and encourage the use of direct democracy through the

Veto, Citizens' Initiated and Recall referendum.


Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Direct Democracy Works

This is probably the best study I have ever read about referendums and well worth the read. Professor John Matsusaka is Professor of Finance and Business Economics in the Marshall School of Business, Professor of Business and Law

in the Law School, and President of the Initiative & Referendum Institute, all at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California. John is also the author of the book 'For the Many or the Few'.

In November 2004, in addition to electing a president and other representatives, voters nationwide acted as legislators themselves, weighing in on 162 statewide ballot propositions. Voters in 11 states amended their constitutions to ban gay marriage. Voters in California approved a $3 billion bond issue for stem cell research and repealed a state law requiring businesses to provide health insurance to their workers, in Arizona passed a law denying state services to illegal immigrants, in Alaska declined to legalize marijuana, in Colorado required power plants to use clean energy sources, in Florida increased the minimum wage and in Oklahoma established a state lottery. An uncounted but even larger number of local ballot propositions also went before the voters, covering topics ranging from a sales tax increase for police in Los Angeles to land use regulation, such as an April .2004 referendum in Inglewood, California, over whether to exempt Wal-Mart from zoning and environmental regulation if it established a supercenter in the city. The storm of ballot box lawmaking has been raging since the passage of California's famous tax-cutting Proposition 13 in 1978. Many of the critical policy innovations of the last several decades were ignited and fueled by initiatives, including term limits, physician-assisted suicide, legalized gambling, medical marijuana, capital punishment, abortion, racial preferences/affirmative action and, of course, tax cuts. To a remarkable degree, initiatives and referendums are driving the policy agenda in the states. Overall, more than half of all American states and cities provide for the initiative and referendum, and over 70 percent of the population now lives in either a state or city where these tools of direct democracy are available (Matsusaka, 2004). Since South Dakota first adopted the initiative and referendum in 1898, no state has ever chosen to do away with them, and states without are gradually adopting them (at a rate of about one state per decade since the end of World War II).

To read the rest of this article go to and download the 002 file near the top of the list.


Dominic Baron said...


I keep trying to go to: but can't get to it. Can you fix the URL so we can access this article?


Steve Baron said...

It works for me Dominic.