As a normal citizen, one of the problems in our political system is that the government lacks positive feedback from normal citizens, like me.

For example, let's say the government introduces a new legislation/law. If it makes big businesses disadvantaged, those businesses will lobby against the legislation and vice versa (i.e it will make them advantaged, they will lobby for the legislation). Somewhat similarly, if the legislation makes normal citizens disadvantaged (if they don't like it for some reason), they will protest in many different ways.

However, if new legislation is good for the normal people and they like it, I don't see how the government will know this?


As I have tried to describe above, between the government and businesses, there is a positive & feedback mechanism through lobbying, but between the government and the normal citizens, there is only a negative feedback mechanism through various forms of protests.

What are the practical and effective feedback mechanism that normal citizens can use to present their views to the government? Are there any implementations of such mechanisms in todays world? How effective they are against lobbying?


3 Answers 3


In many political systems there is the kind of "positive feedback" you describe. Go to your representative and tell them that you like something they did and that you want more of it, or that they should start doing something they hadn't considered yet. A single voice might not matter very much, but if there are many voices saying roughly the same it probably matters.

You did not mention where you come from and keep the question pretty abstract, but in Germany it is quite easy to talk to both state and federal legislators of your voting district. They might not do what one asks them to do, but as long as the approach is calm and polite they usually find a few minutes to answer a potential voter. And if it is not just you but many people asking for the same thing, that kind of feedback also shifts policies.

  • Even in the US, calling your congresspeople is a good way to do this. Even though you're unlikely to actually talk to your legislator, actual people calling (and not just reading from a script) do get listened to
    – divibisan
    May 8, 2020 at 14:55
  • @divibisan, a letter beats a hundred emails, a handwritten one even more so. But many (most?) have offices where one can actually see them face to face.
    – o.m.
    May 8, 2020 at 15:18
  • @o.m. is that true any more? I've heard that after the anthrax incidents in 2001 written communications were deprecated, at least for matters other than constituent assistance. May 8, 2020 at 19:41
  • @CharlesE.Grant, I believe that "forward this to your representative" emails are a dime a dozen. An individual taking time and effort to articulate his own views is what counts.
    – o.m.
    May 9, 2020 at 5:01
  • @o.m. That was the standard line, and I believe copy and paste emails are discounted, but I've seen claims that phone calls are now the optimal way to get your opinion noted and that (non-scripted) emails and (non-scripted) letters have about the same impact. See for example newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/… May 9, 2020 at 5:04

Vote for them.

While the lobbying mechanism also exists for individuals and interest groups as much as it does for businesses, normal citizens have one special power that no business has, and that is the right to put an X (or a 1,2,3) on a piece of paper.

If you like what a party has been doing, and you think it will keep on doing the same you can vote for that party, or its representatives. The whole election system can be thought of as a feedback mechanism. Parties that introduce or support legislation that ordinary voters like tend to get more votes, which reinforces that party's position in the government.

This mechanism is practical (it requires no special resources on the part of the citizen) and effective (elections can topple governments, indeed more governments are toppled in elections than in revolutions, but winning elections, especially winning a majority, gives a party and its representatives great power)


Other public interest groups are able to use the very same mechanisms, at least in theory, that are used by business interests. Labor unions, environmental groups, etc. lobby on behalf of their constituents. Here is a good basic overview of the different types of interests groups that try to influence public policy. In theory at least, the non-business interest groups help to counter-balance the power of business.

The question seems to emphasize legislative action, so it may be worth noting that this is not the only area in which interests groups express their views. For example, when it comes to executive actions, there are mechanisms for public comment which are an important opportunity for different views and interests to be expressed.

The question is perhaps mistaken in the suggestion that businesses have some formal institutional channel unique to them. It may be true that businesses have greater resources (especially money), stronger political connections, tend to be better organized and unified in their interests, etc. But from a purely institutional perspective, I'm not aware of any fundamental difference in the way businesses and other interests can influence government.

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