March 01, 2014

Anti-Fracking Initiatives: Power to the People or More of the Same?

Rebecca W. Watson and Jennifer Cadena

Considering today’s dysfunctional Congress—the failed 2011 grand bargain, the 2012 fiscal cliff, and the 2013 government shutdown—it does not take much of a cynic to question James Madison’s faith in representative democracy rather than pure democracy. Madison argued that, “a pure democracy . . . can admit of no cure for the mischief of faction,” but a republican government, by passing public views “through the medium of a chosen body of citizens” can refine “temporary or partial considerations.” Federalist No. 10. Today, many see the citizen initiative as a much-needed corrective to our twenty-first century democracy—the voice of the people without a legislative filter. But is the citizen initiative an improvement or does it contribute to the break-down of political discourse?

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