Policy Tool Interactions and Instrument Bundling

Review Essay

"The Politics of Policy Instrument Choice"

The literature on policy instrument selection typically describes a linear process by a set of rational policy makers (Weimer and Vining, 2004). What is omitted by this economic perspective is the political conflict that precedes and shapes the choice of policy instruments. Because policy instrument selection has consequences for the distribution of benefits and costs in society, it cannot be a politically neutral choice. The political factors that affect the initial choice of policy tools also shape the life cycle of these policies from design to implementation, continuation, modification, or termination (Peters, 2002).

This essay review of the literature on the politics of policy instrument at the local level building from the political market to advance a framework for instrument selection and bundling. The literature captures the political dynamics of policy instruments throughout their life cycle from the design and adoption of specific policy instruments, to bundling and interactions among multiple instruments in implementation, to decisions to continue or terminate use of an instrument. Directions for future research are discussed in conclusion.

ongoing projects

Policy Design at the Intersection of Energy, Environment, Development and Sustainability

Energy consumption and GHG emissions have become a complex, multidimensional, and differentiated policy arena that requires policies with multifaceted functions, collaboration between local governments as well as coproduction between governments and citizens.  Currently, we have multiple ongoing projects studying energy policy and customer behavior, including: (a) finding best route to reduced carbon footprint in local electricity system; (b) demand side energy consumption analysis; and (c) individual consumption behavior and change.

Planning Processes, Instrument Choices and Outcomes

Public policy instrument selection has consequences for the distribution of benefits and costs in society. Not only do politics shape the choice of policy and the specific instruments of government action but the policy arena and nature of the problems also shape politics (Peters 2002; Ostrom 1990). For instance, solar photovoltaic installations have been growing rapidly in the United States over the last few years. The complex relationships between solar policies at multiple levels of government and solar deployment are questions of importance to policy makers and scholars. Several ongoing projects try to understand the impact of different models of solar panel policies across the state, including the form of government, policy rationale, effectiveness and redistribution outcome, and the relationships among solar policy at the household (rooftop), neighborhood (solar gardens and co-ops) and city (solar farm) scale.

Policy Instrument Design and Individual Energy Consumption Behavior

The idea of coproduction is that government and individuals work together to jointly produce a public good. This new conceptualization identifies three forms of coproduction: enabled, voluntary, and incentivized. Previous research (Curley, 2013) suggests that information and the source of that information along with the monetary costs of participation are the largest barriers to participation in programs that result in coproduction and that the magnitude of these impacts change according to the form of coproduction. We are currently looking at how messaging (bill-inserts from city utility) impacts customers’ energy consumption behavior in Tallahassee, FL and Fort Collins, MN. We are seeking to better understand how comments from audits translate into citizens’ energy saving behavior in Tallahassee, FL.




  • Clingermayer, J., & Feiock, R. (2001). Institutional Constraints and Local Policy Choices: An Exploration of Local Governance. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Book Chapters

  • Feiock, R. and Yi, H. (2017) Politics and Policy Instrument Choice. In Ken Richards and Josephine van Zeben (Eds.), Policy Instruments in Environmental Law, forthcoming.
  • Feiock, R. (2002). The Implications of Local Government Structure for Manager Turnover and Policy Choice. In H. George Fredrickson, & John Nalbandian (Eds.), The Future of Local Government Administration: A Tribute to William Hansel. Washington DC: ICMA.