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A comparative study of the theory and practice of government by the people
Author: Matt Qvortrup

Drawing on the insights of political theory as well as empirical and comparative government, the book provides an up-to-date overview of the theories and practice of referendums and initiatives around the world. The book discusses if we ought to hold more referendums, and how the processes of direct democracy have been used – and occasionally abused -around the world.

The theoretical justification for citizen involvement
Matt Qvortrup

1 The political theory of direct democracy: the theoretical justification for citizen involvement Since the French Revolution and certainly for the better part of the past 100 years, representative democracy has been the norm. Joseph Schumpeter – an economist and political theorist – summed up the prevailing view in his acclaimed book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy: [Democracy does] not mean and cannot mean that the people actually rule in any obvious sense of the terms ‘people’ and ‘rule.’ Democracy means only that the people have the opportunity of

in Direct democracy
International comparisons and patterns
Matt Qvortrup

9 Regulation of direct democracy: international comparisons and patterns Referendums – and especially initiatives – are rare in most Western democracies. They have only become centrepieces of the political systems in Switzerland and – since the 1970 – Italy. The legislative initiative is practically unknown outside America, though as we have seen above, it has begun to play a role in Germany, New Zealand and a couple of former communist countries. The Swiss can merely propose constitutional amendments, but these are often defeated (the voters have endorsed a

in Direct democracy
Matt Qvortrup

8 Judicial review of direct democracy So suppose we introduce initiatives and referendums on a larger scale. Suppose that we – in one form or other – adopt a system whereby the people, or a specified proportion thereof, be allowed to introduce legislation. What would happen? What has happened elsewhere? One problem we have not considered, but which may be very relevant, is how the courts would react. In Britain, the courts cannot interfere with decisions made by the legislature under the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, but what if it were the people who

in Direct democracy
Matt Qvortrup

. That is down by 5 per cent on the year before 7 . Is that the reason why direct democracy is experiencing a renaissance? In part, certainly, but also, because referendums and initiatives conform to our norms and expectations as individualised consumers. Politics is infinitely more important than the films we watch on Netflix, yet our system of government remains

in Democracy on demand
Marcel H. Van Herpen

giving in to demands to introduce forms of direct democracy, thereby exacerbating the problem they want to solve. Proposal #1: ban the populist toolkit: not more but less direct democracy is needed In recent years it has become something resembling a Pavlov dog reaction: when governments or political parties are confronted with the disaffection of the electorate, they tend to accept at face value the opinion of critics, who blame the existing system of parliamentary democracy for not being “democratic” enough. This leads to proposals and measures which make it

in The end of populism
Jack Saunders

3 Decentralised direct democracy, 1964–68 At their 1964 Annual General Meeting, the Longbridge joint shop stewards’ committee (JSSC) celebrated their success in unionising the factory, boasting that they were now ‘100 per cent organised’ with nearly six hundred shop stewards.1 Similar developments had taken place across the industry as worker activism created new social practices and organisations. Over the next ten years, these organisations would develop a growing reputation for militancy as, along with miners, dockers and shipbuilders, their members became

in Assembling cultures
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The age of supply­side politics?
Matt Qvortrup

the defeat of the Jürgen Habermas (1973) Legitimationsprobleme im Spätkapitalismus, Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, p. 320 (translated by the another).  2 Elizabeth Weise, ‘Voters in 38 States Decide Sweeping Ballot Initiatives’,  USA Today: www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2012/11/06/initiatives-­on-­ballot/ 1687885/ (accessed 7 November 2012).  1 152 Direct democracy European Constitution in votes in France and the Netherlands. He said that they should be avoided because they ‘undermine the Europe we are trying to build by simplifying important and

in Direct democracy
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Bespoke democracy
Matt Qvortrup

shopping lists, that we should see the demand for direct democracy. Political parties, and the system of representative government, are in many ways representative of the old system of one fits all; the system under which we were content with package deals, under which a basket of goods had been selected for us by the benevolent shopkeeper. Sure, we were able to choose between different packages, but the shopping baskets on offer in the political supermarket were – and to some extend still are – essentially the same. This system will no longer do. As individuals and as

in Direct democracy
An empirical assessment
Matt Qvortrup

we have seen the most widespread use of the initiative, and it is, consequently, in this country that we find the best and the worst examples of its use. Kimitaka Matsuzato (2005) ‘Semi-­ Presidentialism in Ukraine: Institutionalist Centrism in Rampant Clan Politics’, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-­ Soviet Democratization Vol. 13, No. 1, 45–58.  3 28 Direct democracy The initiative in the United States Twenty-­four out of the 50 states have provisions for initiatives, though the provisions have been used with varying frequency (ostensibly due to

in Direct democracy