From the nature of things, every society must at all times possess within itself the sovereign powers of legislation.

—Thomas Jefferson. Rights of British America, 1774.

It is the people alone who have the right to decide their own affairs. The right to pass legislation by initiative (referendum) is therefore an indefeasible right. Legislation by initiative allows the will of the people to be implemented in place of the will of schemers and those who would otherwise hijack the machinery of government. As Thomas Gordon explained:

The people have no bias to be knaves; the security of their persons and property is their highest aim. No ambition prompts them; they cannot come to be great lords, and to possess great titles, and therefore desire none. No aspiring or unsociable passions incite them; they have no rivals for place, no competitor to pull down; they have no darling child, pimp, or relation, to raise; they have no occasion for dissimulation or intrigue; they can serve no end by faction; they have no interest, but the general interest. (Cato’s Letters No. 24, Of the natural honesty of the people, and their reasonable demands; how important it is to every government to consult their affections and interest, Saturday, April 8, 1721.)

When the legislature passes a law, it is exercising a delegated power on behalf of the electorate. Under the natural law, the actions of an agent are always liable to override the principal; accordingly the constitution should stipulate that legislation passed by initiative ranks ahead of laws passed by the legislature.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove