How Solutions Chase Problems: Instrument Constituencies in the Policy Process

Daniel Beland, Michael Howlett


Public policies are composed of complex arrangements of policy goals and policy means matched through some decision-making process. Exactly how this process works and which comes first—problem or solution—is an outstanding research question in the policy sciences. This article argues the emerging concept of an “instrument constituency”—a subsystem component dedicated to the articulation and promotion of particular kinds of solutions regardless of problem context—can help policy scholars answer this critical question and better understand policymaking. At present, however, there is only limited empirical evidence of the existence, accuracy, and relevance of the instrument constituency concept. This article clarifies and refines the concept through cross-sectoral and cross-national case studies, demonstrating its utility in aiding our understanding of policy processes and their dynamics, including the issue of how prob- lems and solutions are proposed and matched in the course of policy adoption.


policy tools, policy instruments, instrument constituencies

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@Annual Review of Policy Design ISSN: ISSN 2291-6989