Public Policy Instruments

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A public policy

Instrument constitutes a device that is both technical and social, that organizes

specific social relations between the state and those it is addressed to, according

to the representations and meanings it carries. It is a particular type of institution, a technical device with the generic purpose of carrying a concrete concept

of the politics/society relationship and sustained by a concept of regulation

It is possible to differentiate between levels of observation by distinguishing between “instrument,” “technique,” and “tool”: for the sake of

clarity we suggest to understand

1. The instrument as a type of social institution (census taking, map

making, statutory regulation, taxation).

2. The technique as a concrete device that operationalizes the instrument (statistical nomenclature, a type of graphic representation, a

type of law or decree).

3. The tool as a micro device within a technique (statistical category,

the scale of definition of a map, the type of obligation provided for

by a legal text, presence/absence of sanction).


The ‘menu’ of policy instruments available to governments falls into four broad categories:

• Suasive approaches: policy tools that encourage changes in behaviour through the provision of information, such as via general education programs, guidelines and codes of practice, training programs, extension services and research and development. • Regulatory approaches: require changes in behaviour by introducing penalties for parties who don’t comply with the regulatory provisions. Types of regulatory instruments include standards (including planning instruments), licensing, mandatory management plans and covenants. • Market based instruments: policy tools that encourage behavioral change through market signals rather than through explicit directives. There are a range of types of market based instruments including trading schemes, offset schemes, subsidies and...
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