For the Many or the Few: The Initiative, Public Policy, and American Democracy

For the Many or the Few: The Initiative, Public Policy, and American Democracy

by John G. Matsusaka


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Direct democracy continues to grow in importance throughout the United States. Citizens are increasingly using initiatives and referendums to take the law into their own hands, overriding their elected officials to set tax, expenditure, and social policies. John G. Matsusaka’s For the Many or the Few studies a century of budget data from states and cities to provide the first comprehensive, empirical picture of how direct democracy is changing government policies.
Based on a century of evidence and the most recent theory, Matsusaka argues against the popular belief that initiatives empower wealthy special interest groups that neglect the majority view. Examining demographic, political, and opinion data, he demonstrates how initiatives led to significant tax and expenditure cuts over the last 30 years and that these cuts were supported by a majority of citizens. He concludes that, by and large, direct democracy in the United States has worked for the benefit of the many rather than the few.
       “For the Many or the Few is a valuable contribution to our understanding of American democratic institutions and public policy and an important book.”—Journal of Politics

     “John G. Matsusaka’s valuable, accessible book represents one of the few studies that attempt to test how policy outcomes are affected by the initiative process and to examine whether policies produced by the initiative reflect what the public actually wants.”—Political Science Quarterly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226510828
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 03/15/2008
Series: American Politics and Political Economy Series
Pages: 214
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

John G. Matsusaka is a professor in the Marshall School of Business, Gould School of Law, and in the Department of Political Science at the University of Southern California. He is also president of the Initiative & Referendum Institute.

Table of Contents

1. An American Institution
2. A Blizzard of Data
Part I - The Evidence
3. Spending and Taxes, 1970-2000
4. For the Many or the Few
5. Conservative or Liberal
Part II - Explaining the Facts
6. When Legislators Get Out of Step
7. Key Episodes in the Twentieth Century
Part III - Open Questions
8. Majority Tyranny and the Constitution
9. Delegation, Information, and Competition
Appendix 1. Initiative Provisions in States, 1898-2003
Appendix 2. Initiative Provisions in the Twenty Largest Cities, 2000
Appendix 3. Data Definitions and Sources
Appendix 4. Critical Notes on the Empirical Literature

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