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

Pablo del Rio, Michael Howlett


Policies increasingly come in complex packages and the understanding the nature of design criteria for such portfolios of policies and instruments is increasingly important. However 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 of policy design 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 aims to revitalize this important aspects of policy design work and studies by carefully distinguishing between mix types. It first draws a distinction between ‘instrument mixes’ and ‘policy mixes’ often glossed in existing studies, and then defines 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” which suggests each policy goal should be addressed by a single tool and moves policy design studies forward in so doing.


public policy, policy design

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

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