The Right Coast

May 25, 2004
JCLI Direct Democracy Symposium
By Gail Heriot

California did not invent direct democracy. For that honor, one must look beyond the New England town meeting, beyond the Swiss canton, and perhaps even beyond the ancient Athenian city-state. But California is surely at the center of direct democracy today. Its population of about thirty five million makes it easily the largest political entity ever to experiment with the notion of direct legislation--more than a hundred times the size of Athens in the fourth century B.C. With approximately twenty million citizens over the age of eighteen, it has more than six hundred times the number of Athens’ citizens.

That's why it was fitting for USD and the Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues to hold a symposium here last June on the subject of direct democracy. The JCLI is a faculty-run journal of the University of San Diego School of Law. I was the general faculty editor, and if everything goes according to plan, my student editors and I will be sending Volume 13 off to the printer in the next day or so.

The articles include:

Preferences, Priorities, and Plebiscites by Lynn A. Baker

The Character of Direct Democracy by Sherman J. Clark

Direct Democracy and Debt by Clayton P. Gillette

Direct Democracy at the Time of the Framing: Its Failure and the Protestant Ethic That Led to Republicanism by Marci A. Hamilton

Rousseau and Direct Democracy (with a Note on the Supreme Court's Term Limits Decision) by Nelson Lund

Subversion of the Many by the Few: Some Scientific Evidence on the Initiative Process by John G. Matsusaka

Popular Initiatives and American Federalism, or, Putting Direct Democracy in its Place by Maimon Schwarzschild

Comments on Baker, Clark, and Direct Democracy by Richard L. Hasen

Comments of the Initiative Industry: The New Kid on the Block or an Old Friend? By M. Dane Waters

All of the articles are first-rate; I couldn't be more pleased with them.