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The Ambivalence of Direct Democracy Essay

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The California Constitution states, “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform it when the public good may require.” (CA Const. art. 2, sect. 1) Indeed, the age-old maxim that the government is for the people is evident in California’s Constitution, and the inception of direct democracy by the early 20th century Progressive movement follows this ideology. The 2nd article of California’s constitution includes three forms of direct democracy: the initiative, referendum, and recall. Respectively, these forms of direct democracy grant electors the power to propose statutes and amendments, adopt or reject statutes and…show more content…
Direct democracy’s initiative sounds appealing in theory, but realistically, history has shown that the average voter is incapable of truly assessing the effects and repercussions of these ballot proposals. This is clearly exemplified by Proposition 13, an initiative that, as author Isaac Martin states, became a “nationwide symbol of tax revolt” (Martin). Proposition 13 essentially set the property tax rate to 1% and stated that the assessed value of homes could not exceed the 1975-76 assessed value. This reduced taxes by about 57% (californiataxdata.com), a truly drastic decrease, which translates to a loss of $7 billion in property taxes during the 1978-79 fiscal year (McCaffery & Bowman, 530). Consequently, Proposition 13 led to intense repercussions; the huge decreases in finances forced local agencies to look for funding elsewhere, and severe cuts were made. The Los Angeles Times conducted a survey of 70 southern school districts and found that two-thirds of them had eliminated or sharply curtailed summer school. Also, Long Beach school sent layoff notices to nearly half of its staff of teachers, and by June 28th there was a total of 3,252 estimated layoffs with 165,000 imminent layoffs. The repercussions continued, with prices escalating to cover the decline of financing. And ironically,
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