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Referenda and Liberal Constitutionalism
The essay sets out from analysis of the two conceptions of representative and direct democracy (a) to demonstrate how the conception of democracy most respondent to the values of the liberal tradition is the one based on direct democracy, and (b) to identify the best constitutional strategy not so much to replace representative with direct democracy as to introduce a higher number of elements typical of direct democracy into the decision-making process of contemporary representative democracies. This strategy, designed to introduce new forms of direct citizen consultation as an additional stage (hence as a potential check) in the decision-making process, aims to create a convergence among liberals and socialists of all types on the basis of their common interest for reforms, and thus entails a divergence between liberals and conservatives. The latter, albeit often the allies of liberals on major public policy issues, are opposed to structural reforms even when – as is the case with the introduction of elements of direct democracy – the result may be the reduction of the public sector and the level of politicisation of the economy.