The Hidden Cost of Direct Democracy: How Ballot Initiatives Affect Politicians' Selection and Incentives

33 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2011 Last revised: 26 Jun 2016

See all articles by Carlo Prato

Carlo Prato

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Bruno H. Strulovici

Northwestern University

Date Written: February 23, 2016

Abstract

Citizen initiatives and referendums play an important role in modern democracies, from treaty ratification in the European Union to gay marriage in California, to the control of foreign workers in Switzerland. Departing from the classic opposition between direct and representative democracy, we study the equilibrium effects of direct democracy institutions on the incentives and selection of elected officials. We find that facilitating direct democracy induces a negative spiral on politicians' role and contribution to society, which may dominate any direct benefit. The theory offers predictions on reelection probabilities and politicians' performance consistent with recent evidence from the U.S. states.

Keywords: Direct Democracy, Initiatives, Political Agency, Referendum

JEL Classification: D72, D78, P16

Suggested Citation

Prato, Carlo and Strulovici, Bruno H., The Hidden Cost of Direct Democracy: How Ballot Initiatives Affect Politicians' Selection and Incentives (February 23, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1862480 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1862480

Carlo Prato (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Bruno H. Strulovici

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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