Weighing the Wrath of the Referendums
Dec 20, 2018 | 10:00 GMT
(JEFF J MITCHELL/Getty Images)
- Referendums are a compelling tool to engage the public when it has lost faith in the ability of political institutions to uphold a social contract. It is little wonder, then, that referendums have seen a resurgence alongside the rise of populism in parts of the world.
- Referendums come with considerable risk: Power-hungry leaders can use them to consolidate their authority while well-intentioned democratic leaders can see their moves spectacularly backfire when nuance is lost in popular debate.
- Even as the chaos of Brexit is seen as a cautionary tale, a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice may have the effect of encouraging more referendums by EU states looking to bargain on matters of national sovereignty.
- Mexico's new president will rely heavily on referendums to pursue an aggressive populist agenda at the cost of souring the country's investment climate.
- America's Founding Fathers insulated the country from the volatility that comes with national plebiscites, but shutting off such populist valves could have bigger unintended consequences for the republic.