I’ll admit, after reading Fareed Zakaria’s The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, I’m not necessarily a huge fan of California’s Ballot Propositions, where big policy decisions are made by popular vote. For one thing, it resulted in the passage of Prop 8 during the last election, amending California’s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.
But what’s more, it also eliminates the specialization that representative democracies allow*. The potentially beautiful thing about a representative government is the fact that it allows citizens to hire (elect) someone to devote their time to becoming experts on the issues, something which the rest of us often don’t have the time to do. This is why I prefer to vote for legislators who aren’t just mouthpieces for the poll numbers in their district, but rather who I trust to analyze issues and make decisions about the best course based on all of the information available to them. That’s why I think Russ Feingold is such a great Senator, because whether I agree or disagree with his votes in the Senate, he has convinced me that he will take all of the information that he has into account and make the best decision for his constituents.
But, the fact of the matter is that California allows Props, so the best I can do is try to vote on those the same way I would expect a legislator to vote: educate myself to the extent possible, and vote accordingly. Since I’ve got this forum, I’m going to post the results of this research here over the next few days.
* The fact that a representative democracy allows this specialization does not imply that it always results in such specialization.