For the second time this year, a referendum has toppled a European government: Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced his resignation after voters rejected constitutional reform. Like David Cameron's Brexit fiasco, this didn't have to happen. Given how widespread referendums have become in the last two decades, it's time for advanced nations to figure out the best practice for plebiscites and stop misusing them.

Matt Qvortrup of the University of Coventry, who specializes in studying referendums, says direct democracy wasn't particularly popular until the 1980s.

The 1990s set a record — 596 nationwide referendums. In the following decade, the number dropped to 440. These numbers don't include hundreds of U.S. ballot initiatives and other regional plebiscites.