The Fourth Branch of Government: How Direct Democracy is Altering the Structure of State Governments

Thomas Helgerman

Abstract


This paper aims to explore how direct democracy (i.e. the initiative and referendum) affect the balance of power in state governments. Traditionally, like the federal government, state governments consist of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Due to a complex system of checks and balances, one branch cannot become too powerful, adhering to an anti-monarchy sentiment of the founders of the United States. In this set-up, the legislative branch is responsible for creating policy, the executive branch is responsible for implementing it, and the judicial branch is responsible for interpreting it. My thesis is that direct democracy, by allowing the populous to directly implement policy without bearing the responsibility for their actions as politicians do, undermines the legislative branch and therefore representative democracy itself, leading to irresponsible legislation that is not subject to the scrutiny of the United States political process.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/ppr.2011.10

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