Do ’We The People’ Know Best? Direct Democracy in Action from National Independence to Workers’ Benefits


Friday, March 6, 2015, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Ash Center Foyer, 124 Mount Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Ash Center Student Speaker Series

Joanna Penn, MPP ’15, Georgia Hollister Isman, MC ’15, and Quinton Mayne, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Public Policy (moderator)

Lunch will be provided.

About the Event
The recent referendum on Scottish independence was seen by some as a high point for democracy in the country with record turn out of over 80%. Yet referenda may be better tools for forming policies than others. In Massachusetts, recent policy victories through the referendum process, notably on paid sick leave, have sparked excitement, but most policy issues are dealt with through candidate campaigns. This discussion will use the different experiences across the Atlantic to discuss different ways that voters tackle and reason about issues in electoral politics. Does direct democracy offer a solution to the dissatisfaction the public feels about politicians? How do campaigns differ when they’re asking people to make a policy decision rather than elect someone to represent them? Are certain kinds of issues better served by referendum process then candidate elections, and vice versa?

About the Series
The Ash Center Student Speaker Series highlights and explores the implications and lessons learned from the research projects or applied learning experiences of Harvard University students supported by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Each week, we invite two students to offer brief remarks on their work, or a response to one another’s work, and then open to table for discussion. The series will take place each Friday at noon in the Ash Center foyer, 124 Mount Auburn Street, Suite 200-North. Lunch will be provided.