Roy Ulrich

Roy Ulrich is a lecturer at the Goldman School of Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley and a policy analyst at Demos.

Recent Articles

The Subversion of Direct Democracy

(Flickr/Neon Tommy)
A few months ago, I attended a large political gathering. There, a gentleman was handing out flyers which read, “Abolish the Congress and replace it with direct citizen voting by phone or television.” A few days later, a newly-arrived transplant to Southern California wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times . He said he was mystified by California’s method of writing and enacting laws by ballot initiative. He wondered what happened to the concept of laws being written by elected legislators. The flyer and the letter represent polar opposite views about direct versus representative democracy. The major complaint I hear about the initiative process is that it is dominated by those very interests it was originally designed to overcome. For one thing, proponents write initiatives as a wish list. Unlike the legislative process, which involves hearings, debates, and compromise, drafters of initiatives often write extreme measures representing their own agenda in the hopes of boosting...