Monday, May 13, 2013

Petitions--so many are a waste

I got an email from, an online organization that lets individuals start petitions, and helps them collect signatures. The subject of the e-mail was "What 1,461,948 signatures did:," and it contained descriptions of about a dozen petitions which were successful in achieving the originators' goals. There was one thing that stood out to me about this list: all but two of these petitions were addressed to non-governmental entities (three if you include the University of Virginia). This confirms what I've thought for quite a while.

I am bombarded with e-mails requesting my signature on petitions. Even though I agree with the goals of a large majority of them, I sign relatively few. This is because most are directed to the government, which I know will not normally be swayed by these petitions. About the only time they are is when they bring to officials' attention subjects that they have heard little or nothing about.

Petitions to Congress about gun control, or abortion rights, or the minimum wage, or any other controversial topic, are useless. The petition solicitations from members of Congress to Congress are, at best, a method of getting supporters to feel good about their support. At worst they are more about soliciting campaign contributions than the subject matter.

I've even seen a few petitions directed to judges--anyone who thinks the U.S. Supreme Court will take any notice of a public petition has no idea how the court works. The same thing goes for petitions to churches--they are not going to change their beliefs because of a petition.

However, private concerns, especially companies dealing in consumer items, are very responsive to petitions. They know that every signer is a potential lost customer, so they try to accommodate as many as possible. These are the petitions I am most likely to sign.

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