Matsusaka, John G. 1964–

views updated

Matsusaka, John G. 1964–


Born 1964. Education: University of Washington, B.A., 1985; University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1991.


Office—Office of the Vice Dean, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, Bridge 101, Los Angeles, CA 90089. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, educator. University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, lecturer in economics, 1987-89, John M. Olin Visiting Professor of Economics, 2001; University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business, Los Angeles, CA, 1991-2000, began as assistant professor, became associate professor, professor of finance and business economics, 2000—, vice-dean for faculty and academic affairs and president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute. National fellow, Hoover Institution at Stanford University, 1994-95; visiting scholar, University of California at Los Angeles, 1996; visiting associate in economics, California Institute of Technology, 2000. Consultant, White House Council of Economic Advisors.


Initiative and Referendum Institute (member of board, 1998—), Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Delta Omicron Epsilon.


Earhart Foundation research grant, 2000-01; Merton Miller Prize, Journal of Business, 2001; John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation research grant.


For the Many or the Few: The Initiative, Public Policy, and American Democracy, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2004.

Contributor to journals, including Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Politics, Journal of Law and Economics, Journal of Industrial Economics, Public Choice, Economic Inquiry, RAND Journal of Economics, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, National Tax Journal, Journal of Business, Review of Financial Studies, Spectrum: The Journal of State Government, and Independent Review. Member of editorial board, Public Choice, 2004—.


John G. Matsusaka teaches at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, where he also serves as vice-dean for faculty and academic affairs. Matsusaka is the president of the University of Southern California's Initiative and Referendum Institute, which researches the role of initiatives and referendums in American politics, and has been a consultant for the White House Council of Economic Advisors. He has also taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California, been a national fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a visiting scholar at the University of California at Los Angeles, and a visiting associate in economics at the California Institute of Technology.

In 2004, Matsusaka published For the Many or the Few: The Initiative, Public Policy, and American Democracy, a study of the role of voter initiatives in the American democratic process. An initiative brings a matter of public interest to a popular vote. While initiatives on such issues as gay marriage and illegal immigration have gained recent attention, they have been used for a wide variety of public policy issues for over one hundred years. In his preface to the book, Matsusaka writes: "I happen to have spent most of my life in states where citizens have the right to propose and pass laws without the consent of their elected representatives. Most Americans are in the same boat; about 70 percent of us live in a city or state where this option—called the ‘initiative process’—is available. The polls say people like having this right, and most would even add it to the U.S. Constitution if they could."

Writing in the USC News, Elaine Lapriore explained: "To write the book, Matsusaka examined more than a century of data from 50 states and 4,700 cities—including tax and spending data, and opinion data—to gauge the majority's preference. In comparing the policies created by the initiative to the expressed preference of the voters, [Matsusaka] found that in each instance, the initiative reflected the majority's preference." "The idea that the initiative process empowers special interests doesn't fit with the facts," Lapriore quoted Matsusaka as saying. "You can still dislike the initiative process after seeing my results, but not because you think it allows special interests to subvert the majority." Based on the facts uncovered during his investigation, Matsusaka also commented: "The initiative is best seen as a device to push policy back toward the middle of the political spectrum when the elected government strays too far in the conservative or liberal direction."

"One of Matsusaka's simplest and most important accomplishments," John Gastil wrote in the Public Opinion Quarterly, "is to explain clearly that the initiative is a normal practice." Matsusaka especially examines how initiatives have impacted local fiscal policies. "Matsusaka's work admirably encourages a more rigorous scholarship of this timely and important issue," wrote a critic for the Harvard Law Review. "Matsusaka's valuable, accessible book," Todd Donovan wrote in the Political Science Quarterly, "represents one of the few studies that attempt to test how policy outcomes are affected by the initiative process."



Election Law Journal, September 1, 2005, Michael S. Kang, review of For the Many or the Few: The Initiative, Public Policy, and American Democracy, pp. 217-222.

Harvard Law Review, May, 2005, review of For the Many or the Few, p. 2488.

Political Science Quarterly, fall, 2005, Todd Donovan, review of For the Many or the Few, p. 505.

Public Choice, September, 2006, Lars P. Feld, review of For the Many or the Few, pp. 505-509.

Public Opinion Quarterly, spring, 2006, John Gastil, review of For the Many or the Few, p. 127.

USC News, October 4, 2004, Elaine Lapriore, "Few Can Speak for Many in U.S. Politics."


University of Southern California Web site, (May 27, 2008), brief biography of Matsusaka.