USC Gould Search

John Matsusaka
USC Gould School of Law

John Matsusaka

Professor of Business, Law and Political Science

Telephone: (213) 740-6495
699 Exposition Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90089-0074 USA Personal Website: Link
SSRN Author Page: Link

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Last Updated: July 5, 2018

John Matsusaka is an expert on initiatives and referendums, politics, budgeting, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate diversification. He is the Executive Director of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at USC, which studies and tracks ballot measures and propositions throughout the country.

Matsusaka has been a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University; John M. Olin Professor of Economics at the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago; and has had visiting appointments at the University of California, Los Angeles and the California Institute of Technology. He graduated from the University of Washington and earned his MA and PhD from the University of Chicago.

Matsusaka’s publications include “For the Many or the Few: The Initiative, Public Policy, and American Democracy” (University of Chicago Press, 2004) and "Direct Democracy Works," (Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2005).

Works in Progress

  • "Managerial Accommodation, Proxy Access, and the Cost of Shareholder Empowerment" (with Oguzhan Ozbas, 2013).
  • "Direct Democracy," in Elgar Companion to Public Choice (2d ed.) (forthcoming).
  • "Disentangling the Direct and Indirect Effects of the Initiative Process." - (PDF)
  • "Direct Democracy and Social Issues." - (www)


  • For the Many or the Few: The Initiative, Public Policy, and American Democracy, University of Chicago Press, 2004. (Reviewed in Journal of Politics, Perspectives on Politics, and Public Opinion Quarterly.)

Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Ballot Order Effects in Direct Democracy Elections.” 167 Public Choice 257 (2016).
  • 2012 Ballot Propositions.” In The Book of the States 2013. Lexington, KY: The Council of State Governments, 2013.
  • "Disobedience and Authority," with Anthony M. Marino and Jan Zabojnik, 26.3 Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 427 (December 2010). - (www)
  • "When Are Outside Directors Effective?," with Ran Duchin and Oguzhan Ozbas, 92.2 Journal of Financial Economics 195 (May 2010). - (www)
  • "50+ Years of Diversification Announcements," with Mehmet E. Akbulut, 45.2 Financial Review 231 (May 2010). - (www)
  • "Popular Control of Public Policy: A Quantitative Approach," 5.2 Quarterly Journal of Political Science 133 (2010). - (PDF)
  • "Aggressive Enforcement of the Single Subject Rule," in 9.4 Election Law Journal 399 (with Richard Hasen) (2010). - (PDF)
  • "From Families to Formal Contract: An Approach to Development," 90.1 Journal of Development Economics 106 (with Krishna B. Kumar) (2009). - (PDF)
  • "Direct Democracy and Public Employees,” 99.5 American Economic Review 2227 (2009). - (www)
  • "Direct Democracy and the Executive Branch," in Direct Democracy's Impact on American Political Institutions (with Shaun Bowler, Amihai Glazer, Palgrave Macmillian, eds.) (2008).
  • "M&A in the U.S.A.: Lessons from the Last 100 Years," in Institutional and Policy Reforms to Enhance Corporate Efficiency in Korea (with Lee-Jay Cho, Somi Seong, Sang-Hyop Lee, eds.) (Korea Development Institute, 2007).
  • "Public Choice Principles of Redistricting," 129 Public Choice 381 (with Thomas W. Gilligan) (2006). - (www)
  • "The Endogeneity of the Initiative: A Comment on Marschall and Ruhil," 5.4 State Politics and Policy Quarterly 356 (Winter 2005).
  • “Direct Democracy and Fiscal Gridlock: Have Voter Initiatives Paralyzed the California Budget?,” 5.3 State Politics and Policy Quarterly 248 (Fall 2005). - (www)
  • "The Eclipse of Legislatures: Direct Democracy in the 21st Century," 124 Public Choice 157 (July 2005). - (www)
  • “Direct Democracy Works,” 19.2 Journal of Economic Perspectives 185 (Spring 2005). - (www)
  • “Decision Processes, Agency Problems, and Information: An Economic Analysis of Capital Budgeting Procedures,” with Anthony M. Marino, 18.1 Review of Financial Studies 301 (Spring 2005). - (www)
  • "Subversion of the Many by the Few: Some Scientific Evidence on the Initiative Process," 13.2 Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues 511 (2004). - (Hein)
  • “Direct Democracy: New Approaches to Old Questions,” 7 Annual Review of Political Science 463 (with Arthur Lupia) (2004). Selected Emerging Research Front paper by Thompson Scientific, April 2006, as "one of the most cited recent papers in Social Sciences." - (www)
  • “Budget Referendums and Government Spending: Evidence from Swiss Cantons,” 87 Journal of Public Economics 2703 (with Lars P. Feld) (December 2003). - (www)
  • “Corporate Diversification, Value Maximization, and Organizational Capabilities,” 74 Journal of Business 409 (July 2001). Awarded Merton Miller Prize for “most significant” paper in JB in 2001. Featured in MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter 2002. - (www)
  • “Internal Capital Markets and Corporate Refocusing,” with Vikram Nanda, 11 Journal of Financial Intermediation 176 (April 2002).
  • “Problems with a Methodology Used to Test the Responsiveness of Policy to Public Opinion in Initiative States,” 63 Journal of Politics 1250 (November 2001).
  • “Political Resource Allocation: Benefits and Costs of Voter Initiatives,” 17 Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 413 (with Nolan M. McCarty) (October 2001).

Other Works

  • "Prop. 1A Won't Cure State's Overspending," Sacramento Bee, May 15, 2009. - (PDF)
  • "Budget Crisis Is Built on Spending Gone Wild," Sacramento Bee, August 15, 2008. - (PDF)
  • "Where Does All That State Money Go?," Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2008. - (PDF)


Politi Fact
May 23, 2023
Re: David B. Cruz

Professor David Cruz was recently interviewed about a controversial bill that was passed in Connecticut. "Paying even modest attention to the bill’s definitions should make it clear beyond doubt that it will not be the source of protections based upon the age of people to whom one is attracted or with whom one has sex," Cruz said.


Jonathan Barnett
April, 2023

Comment Letter from Law Professors, Economists, and Business School Professors to the Federal Trade Commission on Proposed Non-Compete Clause Rule, Jonathan Barnett (co-lead author, with Adam Mossoff and Ted Sichelman), April 19, 2023.

Robin Craig
April, 2023

"Survival Equity and Climate Change Triage: How to Decide Who Lives and Who Dies," presentation as part of Adapting to a Warming World: Perspectives from the Environmental Law Collaborative, Hubbell Environmental Law Initiative, University of Iowa School of Law, Iowa City, IA, April 14, 2023.

Robin Craig
April, 2023

Robin Craig's recent research on tribal water rights and COVID-19, comparing the Navajo Nation and the Klamath Tribes, was featured on NPR's "Academic Minute" on Monday, April 17, 2023.