My favorite political science professor in college, Paul A. Woelfl, S.J., liked to shake up young idealistic students with the notion that America is not a Democracy; it's a free enterprise system, not a democracy, he'd insist.
I thought of him today when I read this blog post by Frank Hecker. Frank took up the intellectual ball I dropped in this post about the latest effort to legislate by referendum.
Frank reminds us that the concept of the referendum in American democracy is a relatively new idea.
“… it’s important to note that the idea of direct democracy through referendums and ballot initiatives isn’t sanctified by association with the Founders. It didn’t gain traction until the advent of the Progressive movement in the late 19th century, in reaction to the perceived corruption of state legislatures by corporate interests.”
He then proceeds to dissect the reasoning and intent of the ballot initiative process and how that relates to both the GOP Taxpayer Protection Initiative and the Taxpayer Against Giveaways effort to overturn the Town Center redevelopment process.
“I’ll leave to others the task of providing a full argument against the proposed Town Center referendum. I’ll simply say that given the long period of public consultation and the fact that the entire county council voted unanimously for the GGP plan, it’s hard to make the argument that an unjust outcome was forced on the populace by a legislative minority captured by special interests.
With the Taxpayer Protection Initiative I think it’s also hard to make the argument that the popular will is being thwarted in a manner that makes it imperative that the normal legislative process be bypassed. Given the recent 4-1 council vote to pass the Howard County 2010 budget and the lack of any apparent major public outcry over that vote, I think a more reasonable take on the situation is that Howard County voters have elected a solid council majority in favor of the current fiscal strategy, and for the most part are fine with that approach. Why then is the Taxpayer Protection Initiative necessary?”
An interesting read for all concerned.