John G. Matsusaka



Classes Research Vitae 




     John Matsusaka is Charles F. Sexton Chair in American Enterprise in the the Marshall School of Business, Gould School of Law, and Department of Political Science at the University of Southern California, and Executive Director of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at USC. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago, and has held visiting appointments at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, UCLA, Caltech, and the University of Chicago. His research focuses on the financing, governance, and organization of corporations and governments. He has published numerous scholarly articles, served as a consultant for the White House Council of Economic Advisors, and is the author of For the Many or the Few: The Initiative, Public Policy, and American Democracy (University of Chicago Press, 2004). From 2007 to 2013 he served as Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs in the USC Marshall School of Business.



Contact information

John G. Matsusaka

Marshall School of Business

University of Southern California

Los Angeles CA 90089


horizontal rule


From the Publisher

"For the Many or the Few is a comprehensive historical, empirical, and theoretical examination of how direct democracy functions within our representative democracy to increase political competition while avoiding the tyranny of the majority."


"A remarkable achievement. This is the first comprehensive scientific examination of how voter initiatives affect public policy in the United States. This extremely well-written book deserves attention not only from academics but also from anyone who cares about direct democracy's impact on public policy. It is essential reading for those who want to battle long-standing conjectures about the initiative process with systematic evidence."

Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan, coauthor of The Democratic Dilemma: Can Citizens Learn What They Need to Know? and Stealing the Initiative


"Matsusaka's scholarly masterpiece arrives at a critical time when advances in telecommunications technology make the adoption of direct democracy mechanisms more feasible than ever before. His diligently constructed analysis of data for the twentieth century presents the facts required to evaluate the effects of the initiative process and whether it promotes policies desired by citizens."

W. Mark Crain, Lafayette University, author of Volatile States: Institutions, Policy, and the Performance of American State Economies


"This carefully researched and well-written study weaves together history, political science, and economics to examine the initiative process, which has been a subject of great controversy for more than a century. As recent events in California testify, initiatives can generate important new policies, such as tax limitations, and they can transform the political landscape. This volume goes behind the headlines to offer careful empirical evidence on the political and economic effects of the initiative process. Any scholar or concerned citizen interested in the legislative and policy process will find this a fascinating and informative study."

James M. Poterba, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, coauthor of Fiscal Rules and State Borrowing Costs


"A nice piece of research with many good findings and valuable data. For the Many or the Few extends the analysis of the fiscal effects of the initiative process in an important way by asking whether the policies that are produced in initiative states are more or less majoritarian. Matsusaka looks at the policies implemented in a clear and non-technical manner."

Bruce Cain, UC-Berkeley, coauthor of Congressional Redistricting


"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


"Matsusaka's valuable, accessible book represents one of the few studies that attempts 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


"For the Many or the Few presents the results of a ten-year research project that compiled the available historical data for a century of initiatives from all states and municipalities in the United States. Matsusaka combines these data with 100 years of revenue and spending data from each state and city. This remarkable undertaking yields a data set that is not so much a sample as a census of the initiative process and its relation to government spending."

Public Opinion Quarterly


"I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn something about democracy. In fact, all the constructivists who think about the design of a future European constitution should read this book.

Public Choice

Review at USC News

Reviewed in Election Law Journal, Journal of Politics, Perspectives on Politics, Political Science Quarterly, Public Choice, Public Opinion Quarterly.



horizontal rule


    The USC Marshall School of Business, located south of  downtown Los Angeles, is one of the top business schools in the world. The undergraduate program is typically ranked in the top 10 nationally by U.S. News & World Report, and the Executive MBA program is typically ranked in the top 10 nationally by Bloomberg Business Week. USC is listed as one 10 "dream schools" by Princeton Review. The Marshall School was ranked #10 for research productivity during 2009-2013 in the UTD Business Research Rankings. 


horizontal rule


    The Initiative & Referendum Institute is a non-partisan educational institute in the USC Marshall School of Business and USC Gould School of Law. The Institute collects and distributes information about the initiative and referendum and promotes the study of ballot propositions in the United States (and across the Atlantic through its sister organization, IRI Europe). The Institute maintains one of the most extensive online archives of initiative and referendum materials.


horizontal rule

This page copyright 2001-2015 by John G. Matsusaka

Last update: September 2015