After Backyard Environmentalism: Toward a Performance-Based Regime of Environmental Regulation

Bradley C. Karkkainen, Archon Fung, Charles F. Sabel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


This article develops a model of environmental regulation that promises to be at once more flexible, democratic, and effective than the familiar methods of central command or market-based control. Local units—such as firms, factories, or regional ecosystem management authorities—enjoy the autonomy to determine their environmental protection goals and methods to reach them. In exchange for this latitude, they report their plans and progress to central authorities that monitor local planning efforts and pool the information generated by them to formulate minimum performance standards and identify effective practices. This arrangement produces contextually tailored regulation, rich information feedback, and continuous adjustment of ends and means in light of new learning. Elements of this model have been adopted in large-scale reforms in areas as diverse as toxics use reduction, endangered species protection, and ecosystem management. Writ large, this model entails a fundamental reorientation of government institutions that the authors call neo-Madisonian.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)692-711
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2000


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