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The latter “credible threat” seems to work similarly in Denmark, where 30% of the parliament can initiate a referendum. I think this only happened once in 174 years, because the 30% parliament minority uses this institution to force a compromise or even a “deal” (I assume that it’s most of the time a secret deal) with the parties in majority, not for “the people” to decide.

About eliminating those who grow successful or powerful in order to establish a stateless society:

In Italian author Dino Buzzati’s short story La lezione del 1980, God decides to eliminate every Tuesday at midnight the most powerful person on Earth. It takes two months for the world population to understand and be fully convinced of the mechanism, and in the following weeks there is a race down the bottom to give up any little power one has and take every decision collegiately. In three months, with 12 deaths, power becomes an outdated concept. In the following years, when once in a while an ambitious strives for a little power, the Tuesday night sentence reminds everyone of the rules.

I really liked this naive anarchist story.

I recently narrated the story to a Chinese friend who “escaped” Xi’s China. She was very surprised of the end of the story. Hearing that God kills the most powerful person every week, she was convinced that it would lead to a continuous race for entering the restricted Pantheon of the “once most powerful person on Earth” and would in fact reinforce the logics of hierarchy and power, especially among old men who care more for their power and legacy than for anything else.

It reminds me of the “mani pulite” judicial investigations that happened in Italy in the early 90s and led citizens to vote in a referendum to change their proportionally elected parliament for the voting system that allowed Berlusconi to take control and all the following political reforms that only made things worse in Italy (in my opinion).

The consensus today is that “judicial investigations revealed a lot of corruption therefore the political system pre-93 fostered corruption”.

The possibility that the judicial system was simply more effective then, and that this revealed corruption was a sign of this effectiveness, is too often brushed aside.

The the high rejection rate for referendums is explained by a few factors, among which:

  • If a referendum appears to be popular, the legislatures will pass it into a law before the referendum vote, and the initiators of the referendum will remove their initiative. Therefore the only initiatives that go into referendum are the ones that are either obviously unpopular among the majority of citizens, or the ones that the majority in the parliament strongly opposes.
  • Because citizens can initiate a referendum, the legislature is compelled into passing laws on the topics that could be brought through a referendum, therefore what is left for initiatives is more divisive topics.

I have no data to support the following, this is purely my point of view versus yours. I would be really curious about seeing the popularity of ballot initiatives among citizens in different US states, and how they would react if there was a possibility to withdraw this civic right. I believe you are projecting your own point of view here, go in California, in Oregon, in N&S Dakota, in Washington, in Colorado, in Maine and Massachusetts, and you may find that most people have a higher trust in the process of ballot initiatives than in their legislatures.

What about direct democracy in Oregon, does it work well with its 4 millions people? And in Colorado and North Dakota?

I’m also wondering whether proportional vote is important for the Swiss direct democracy to function acceptably, the last canton, Grisons, that did not elect its legislature proportionally just reformed recently.

In California, with the majority vote and the subsequent two-party system, there is such a high contrast between the ideologies prevalent in society and the mix of ideologies in the State legislature that the relation between the civil society and the legislature can only be conflictual (conflictuality which is already inherently fostered by the majority vote).

It would also be interesting to know whether in California direct democracy works better at the county and municipal level.

Anyhow, I would still prefer to live in a state with direct democracy than without it, even with Prop 13 and Prop 26, no doubt whatsoever about this.