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

The initiative process is a direct democracy device that allows ordinary citizens to propose and pass laws without the involvement of their elected representatives. The process has long been controversial, with a main point of contention whether it promotes the interests of the majority or allows wealthy special interests to subvert the popular will. The book examines a century of fiscal data in order to discover whose interests are promoted by the initiative. The core of the book is evidence showing how the initiative affects fiscal policy (for example, it cuts spending and taxes), and what voters think of these effects. The evidence indicates that a majority of voters favor the policy changes brought about by the initiative, which suggests that it promotes the interests of the many rather than the few.

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"Prop. 1A won't cure state's overspending" (Sacramento Bee, May 15, 2009)

"Budget crisis is built on spending gone wild" (Sacramento Bee, August 15, 2008)

"Where does all that state money go?" (Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2008)


Working papers

NEW: "Opportunistic Proposals by Union Shareholders," with Oguzhan Ozbas and Irene Yi (September 2015)


  "The Precarious Link between Legislators and Constituent Opinion: Evidence from Matched Roll Call and Referendum Votes" (May 2015)


"`Responsiveness' in the Study of Representation" (June 2015)


REVISED: "The Effect of Forced Refocusing on the Value of Diversified Firms," with Yongxiang Wang (March 2015)


REVISED: "Ballot Order Effects in Referendum Elections" (February 2014/April 2015)


"In Search of Ballot Order Effects in Proposition Elections" (August 2013)


"Managerial Accommodation, Proxy Access, and the Cost of Shareholder Empowerment," with Oguzhan Ozbas (2012/February 2014). [PDF]


"Direct Democracy and Social Issues" (May 2007) [PDF]



"Disentangling the Direct and Indirect Effects of the Initiative Process," Public Choice, 2014. [MS PDF]


"A Case Study on Direct Democracy: Have Voter Initiatives Paralyzed the California Budget?," Book of States, 2010.


"Aggressive Enforcement of the Single Subject Rule," with Richard L. Hasen, Election Law Journal, 2010.


"Popular Control of Public Policy: A Quantitative Approach," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 2010.


"Disobedience and Authority," with Anthony Marino and Jan Zabojnik, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 2010. [PDF]


"When Are Outside Directors Effective?," with Ran Duchin and Oguzhan Ozbas, Journal of Financial Economics, May 2010. [MS PDF]


"50+ Years of Diversification Announcements," The Financial Review, 2010.


"Direct Democracy and Public Employees," American Economic Review, December 2009. [PDF]


"From Families to Formal Contracts: An Approach to Development," Journal of Development Economics, with Krishna B. Kumar, September 2009.


"Direct Democracy and the Executive Branch," Direct Democracy's Impact on American Political Institutions (Palgrave Macmillan), 2008. Manuscript version: [PDF]


"Public Choice Principles of Redistricting" with Thomas W. Gilligan, Public Choice, December 2006.


"Direct Democracy and Electoral Reform," The Marketplace of Democracy (Brookings Institution Press), 2006. Manuscript version: [PDF]

"The Eclipse of Legislatures: Direct Democracy in the 21st Century," Public Choice, July 2005.

"Direct Democracy and Fiscal Gridlock: Have Voter Initiatives Paralyzed the California Budget?," State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Fall 2005. Update in Books of States 2010.

"Direct Democracy Works," Journal of Economic Perspectives, Spring 2005.

"Decision Processes, Agency Problems, and Information: An Economic Analysis of Capital Budgeting Procedures," with Anthony M. Marino, Review of Financial Studies, Spring 2005.

"Direct Democracy: New Approaches to Old Questions," with Arthur Lupia, Annual Review of Political Science, 2004. [Selected by Thompson Scientific as an "Emerging Research Front" for April 2006 as "one of the most recently cited papers" [Read interview and comments.]

"Subversion of the Many by the Few: Some Scientific Evidence on the Initiative Process," Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, 2004. Manuscript version: [PDF]

"Budget Referendums and Government Spending: Evidence from Swiss Cantons," with Lars P. Feld, Journal of Public Economics, December 2003.

"Direct Democracy," in Encyclopedia of Public Choice, edited by C. Rowley and F. Schneider (Kluwer), 2003. Manuscript version: [PDF]

"Initiative and Referendum," in Encyclopedia of Public Choice, edited by C. Rowley and F. Schneider (Kluwer), 2003. Manuscript version: [PDF]

"I&R in American Cities: Basic Patterns," in Initiative and Referendum Almanac, edited by M. Dane Waters (Carolina), 2003. Manuscript version: [PDF]

"Fiscal Policy, Legislature Size, and Political Parties: Evidence from State and Local Governments in the First Half of the 20th Century," with Thomas W. Gilligan, National Tax Journal, 2001.

"Political Resource Allocation: Benefits and Costs of Voter Initiatives," with Nolan M. McCarty, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 2001.

"Corporate Diversification, Value Maximization, and Organizational Capabilities," Journal of Business, 2001. [Winner of Merton Miller Prize for "most significant paper"]

"Fiscal Effects of the Voter Initiative in the First Half of the Twentieth Century," Journal of Law and Economics, 2000.

"Structural Constraints on Partisan Bias under the Efficient Gerrymander," with Thomas W. Gilligan, Public Choice, 1999.

"Voter Turnout: How Much Can We Explain?," with Filip Palda, Public Choice, 1999.

"Demand for Environmental Goods: Evidence from Voting Patterns on California Initiatives," with Matthew E. Kahn, Journal of Law and Economics, 1997.

"Did Tough Antitrust Enforcement Cause the Diversification of American Corporations?," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, 1996.

"Deviations from Constituent Interests: The Role of Legislative Structure and Political Parties in the States," with Thomas W. Gilligan, Economic Inquiry, 1995.

"Consumer Confidence and Economic Fluctuations," with Argia M. Sbordone, Economic Inquiry, 1995.

"Explaining Voter Turnout Patterns: An Information Theory," Public Choice,1995.

"Takeover Motives during the Conglomerate Merger Wave," Rand Journal of Economics, 1993.

"Target Profits and Managerial Discipline during the Conglomerate Merger Wave," Journal of Industrial Economics, 1993.

"The Downsian Voter Meets the Ecological Fallacy," with Filip Palda, Public Choice, 1993.

"Election Closeness and Voter Turnout: Evidence from California Ballot Propositions," Public Choice, 1993.

"Economics of Direct Legislation," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1992.



"Explaining the Market Price of the 'Tribute Penny': Evidence from 132 Auctions," The Celator, March 2004.

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