The Secret to Making Democracy More Civil and Less Polarized

When Citizens Get to Decide Big Questions for Themselves, They Act More Responsibly Than Their Politicians

“When you take responsibility away from people you make them irresponsible,” proclaimed English politician Sir Keith Joseph almost half a century ago.

Sir Keith might not be a household name outside his native Britain. But his apt phrase neatly justifies how much societies around the world today need more democracy—and more citizen engagement.

When democracies limit citizen participation to voting for political parties, we can blame our misfortunes on the politicians. Under such circumstances, we easily fall prey to demagogues who promise the earth, but who merely are in it …

California’s Recall Is Riding a Global Wave | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

California’s Recall Is Riding a Global Wave

From Nigeria to Brazil, Democracies Are Experimenting With New Ways for People to Hold Their Elected Officials Accountable

The recall attempt against Gov. Gavin Newsom is being widely—and wrongly—dismissed as a peculiar and illegitimate consequence of California’s strange direct democracy.

The truth is that the recall is very much …

Could California-Style Voting by Referendum Unify the Nation? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Could California-Inspired Voting by Referendum Unify the Nation?

An Expert in Direct Democracy Offers a Plan to Improve the Republic, One Ballot at a Time

California has a solution for America’s putrid populism and political paralysis on issues from abortion to voting rights to reducing greenhouse gases.

That solution is adopting direct democracy at the national …

For Global Democracy, These Are the Worst of Times, But Also the Best of Times | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

For Global Democracy, These Are the Worst of Times, but Also the Best of Times

A Rising Tide of Authoritarianism Co-Exists With Advancing Forms of Participatory and Direct Democracy

Right now, it can feel like the worst of times for democracy. It also can feel like the best of times.

Democracy is under stress around the world from authoritarians and …

In Liechtenstein, Power to the People—And the Prince | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

In Liechtenstein, Power to the People—And the Prince

For Nearly a Century, the Small European Nation Has Fused Monarchy and Direct Democracy Into a Government That Works

Liechtenstein, the nation of 38,500 in the heart of Europe, has for nearly a century deftly governed itself by combining two seemingly contradictory elements: direct democracy and monarchy. Rather than …

Who Should Rule These Scottish Islands?

Even if All of Scotland Achieves Independence, the Archipelago of Orkney May Not Gain Sovereignty

Ten years ago a farmer was digging in his backyard in Ness of Brodgar—a village on one of the islands that makes up the Scottish archipelago of Orkney—when he came …