Beyond the 'Tinbergen Rule' in Policy Design: Matching Tools and Goals in Policy Portfolios

25 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2013 Last revised: 15 Apr 2013

See all articles by Pablo del Rio

Pablo del Rio

Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC)

Michael P. Howlett

Simon Fraser University

Date Written: April 8, 2013


Existing studies of policy mixes do not use consistent terminology and fail to carefully define the dependent variable of the inquiry. As a result theorization has lagged, the cumulative impact of empirical studies has not been great and understanding of the phenomena, despite many observations of its significance in policy studies, has not improved significantly over the past three decades. This paper continues the process of revitalizing policy design studies by carefully distinguishing between mix types, first drawing a distinction between 'instrument mixes' and 'policy mixes' often glossed in existing studies, and then defining key types and sub-types of both kinds of mixes based on the complexity of design variables such as the number of goals, the number of policies and the number of levels of government involved in the design of a policy "portfolio" or "bundle". The taxonomy helps to assess the validity and applicability of oft-cited design principles such as the "Tinbergen Rule" and unifies studies of synergistic and counter-productive tool relationships while also providing some insights and promising research directions for future studies of policy formulation and design.

Keywords: policy consultants, policy analysis, policy capacity, contracting

Suggested Citation

del Rio, Pablo and Howlett, Michael, Beyond the 'Tinbergen Rule' in Policy Design: Matching Tools and Goals in Policy Portfolios (April 8, 2013). Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Research Paper No. 13-01, Available at SSRN: or

Pablo Del Rio

Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) ( email )

28006 Madrid

Michael Howlett (Contact Author)

Simon Fraser University ( email )

Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6

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