The chapter presents a comprehensive historical overview of the practice of referendums and direct democracy in Europe from Napoleon to the present day. Is shows trends and patterns and analyses the policy effects of more Democracy on demand
The chapter surveys different countries’ experiences with democracy on demand. Focusing on the initiative in the United States, it looks at the quality of legislation in a direct democracy, the policy implications of initiatives and the effect of these on the economy. The chapter also analyses the experiences with initiatives in Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand. In addition, the chapter looks at the effects of agenda initiatives using the example of Denmark.
Voters can be sophisticated. In 2018, a majority of the voters in Florida voted for a conservative governor, but they also voted to give prisoners the right to vote, something the Republican Governor had opposed. The voters showed that they were able to distinguish measures from men. Politics is not just about tribal partisanship. Voters demand more choice. And they are able to exercise their judgement. Florida is not unique. This is a global trend. A large majority of voters all over the world – according to opinion polls – want more referendums. But are they capable of making decisions on complex issues? And aren’t such votes an invitation to ill-considered populism? This book answers these questions and shows what the effect of referendums have on public policy, on welfare and well-being, and outlines how some of the criticisms of referendums and initiatives can be remedied.
Using the US states with provisions for the recall as the main example, the chapter surveys the history and practice of the recall. It shows that the right to revoke elected politicians’ mandates can be an effective way of holding politicians to account. The right of recall does not lead to chaos but improves representative government.
The chapter surveys the regulation of referendums. It shows how countries have sought to limit campaign spending and have given subsidies to campaigns to ensure a level playing field. In a path-breaking session, the chapter shows how it is possible to limit and regulate the influence of targeted online abuse of the process of direct democracy.