Edited by William F. Shughart II, Laura Razzolini and Michael Reksulak
Chapter 8: Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a process by which citizens make laws or public policies without involving their elected representatives. The idea of participatory law-making is well known from classical Greece, the Swiss Landsgemeinde in the Middle Ages, and American colonial town meetings, and the idea of villages and other small communities assembling to resolve public issues is a feature of societies from the distant past to the present. Many modern states have grown too large for all citizens to deliberate face to face, however, so direct democracy nowadays takes more structured forms; citizens go to the polls to register their views for or against a particular law or a proposed constitutional amendment. While town meetings continue to be used in small polities, the more structured forms of direct democracy – initiatives, referendums, and other ballot propositions – are now the most visible and important means of democratic governance, and are the focus of this chapter.
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