Coherence, Congruence and Consistency in Policy Mixes

Authored by: Michael Howlett , Jeremy Rayner

Routledge Handbook of Policy Design

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9780815369189
eBook ISBN: 9781351252928
Adobe ISBN:


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Thinking about policy mixes is at the forefront of current research work in the policy sciences and raises many significant questions with respect to policy tools and instruments, processes of policy formulation and the evolution of tool choices over time. Not least among these is the potential for multiple policy tools to achieve policy goals in an efficient and effective way. Previous work on policy mixes has highlighted evaluative criteria such as ‘consistency’ (the ability of multiple policy tools to reinforce rather than undermine each other in the pursuit of individual policy goals), ‘coherence’ (or the ability of multiple policy goals to co-exist with each other in a logical fashion) and ‘congruence’ (or the ability of multiple goals and instruments to work together in a unidirectional or mutually supportive fashion) as important design principles and measures of optimality in policy mixes. Other work on the evolution of policy mixes has highlighted how these three criteria are often lacking in mixes that have evolved over time as well as in those that have not been consciously designed. This chapter assesses the reasons why many policy mixes are sub-optimal and the consequences this has for thinking about policy design and for the practices of policy design themselves. Adding the dimensions of ‘intentionality,’ ‘context,’ ‘goodness of fit’ and ‘degrees of freedom’ to earlier thinking about policymaking through processes such as policy layering, conversion and drift helps to more precisely specify the impact of context on policy design decisions and the practical activities required to enhance policy consistency, coherence and congruence in mixes.

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