Amidst the several theories of governance, the policy instruments approach concentrates upon the political consequences of the instrument choice. According to Woods (1998), in the contemporary political environment this political factor means primarily that governments will select the least intrusive instruments.
The argument of this approach is that the choices of tools made by the government to govern will not only have an impact upon the policy area, but also have a secondary impact on the economy as well as on the society. Moreover, it will also impact the government itself. The instrument approach is not much concerned with the relationship between the state and the society. According to this approach, there is a government process and means in place for making choices for achievement of the policy goals. This being so, this approach connects the governance with the large body of public research in political science and public administration.
Under the policy instruments approach, governance is reviewed more in the light of the capacity of the government to formulate and implement policy. A tool is regarded as having captured the fundamental question in goal achievement and it provides a means of understanding one of the variables central to success. This approach is an operational view of the governance, which fundamentally concentrates upon the capacity of the government to implement those choices and identify the multiple characteristics of the instrument selected for achieving targets.
In the opinion of the opponents of the tools approach, this approach is based upon the assumption that all the tools are available to all the government, which in fact is simply not the case. It depends very much upon the context of a particular state— e.g. tools such as moral inducement are dependent only upon the degree of legitimacy. In the second place, certain governments are financially stronger and thus can spend more on achievement of their goals. Thirdly, certain governments can use coercion more readily than others and even though it is the most ineffective means to realize their goals, it is often treated as basic to the policy objectives. The opponents to this approach also argue that any tools invented by the government can be dodged by the self-organizing capacity of the society. In this context, one can say that the government can govern to the extent allowed by the society. This view of governing by secrecy runs opposite to the contemporary concern about transparency in the public sector.