8. The Strength of Negative Feedback Loops

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Relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against. A negative feedback loop slows down a process, tending to promote stability. The loop will keep the stock near the goal, thanks to parameters, accuracy and speed of information feedback, and size of correcting flows. For example, one way to avoid the lake getting more and more polluted might be through setting up an additional levy on the industrial plant based on measured concentrations of its effluent. Say the plant management has to pay into a water management fund, on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on the actual amount of waste found in the lake; they will, in this case, receive a direct benefit not just from reducing their waste output, but actually reducing it enough to achieve the desired effect of reducing concentrations in the lake. They cannot benefit from “doing damage more slowly” — only from actually helping. If cutting emissions, even to zero, is insufficient to allow the lake to naturally purge the waste, then they will still be on the hook for cleanup. This is similar to the US “Superfund” system, and follows the widely accepted “polluter pays principle”.


This is where the structures of Governing the Commons come into play–the participants create negative (stabilizing) feed back loops, so no one destroys the common pool of resources by depleting it through exponential growth or decay. Needed stabilizing feedback loops in healthcare include:

  1. Ordering of unnecessary tests.
  2. Lack of exercise
  3. Over eating
  4. ACEs
  5. End of life decisions relative to “life saving” measures.
  6. ED visits
  7. Hospitalizations
  8. Health knowledge and skills