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A Political Agency Theory of Central Bank Independence

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  • GAUTI B. EGGERTSSON
  • ERIC LE BORGNE

Abstract

We propose a simple theory to explain why, and under what circumstances, a politician delegates policy tasks to a technocrat in an independent institution and then analyze under what conditions delegation is optimal for society. Our theory builds on Holmström's (1982, 1999)"hidden effort" principal-agent model. The election pressures that politicians face, and the absence of such pressures for technocrats, give rise to a dynamic incentive structure that formalizes two rationales for delegation, one highlighted by Hamilton (1788) and the other by Blinder (1998). Delegation trades off the cost of having a possibly incompetent technocrat with a long-term job contract against the benefit of having a technocrat who (i) invests more effort into the specialized policy task and (ii) is better insulated from the whims of public opinion. A natural application of our framework suggests a new theory of central bank independence. Copyright (c) 2010 The Ohio State University.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Blackwell Publishing in its journal Journal of Money, Credit and Banking.

Volume (Year): 42 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (06)
Pages: 647-677

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Handle: RePEc:mcb:jmoncb:v:42:y:2010:i:4:p:647-677

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Web page: http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journal.asp?ref=0022-2879

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  1. Alesina, Alberto & Gatti, Roberta, 1995. "Independent Central Banks: Low Inflation at No Cost?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 196-200, May.
  2. Schellekens, Philip, 2002. "Caution and Conservatism in the Making of Monetary Policy," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 34(1), pages 160-77, February.
  3. Fischer, Stanley, 1995. "Central-Bank Independence Revisited," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 201-06, May.
  4. Guy Debelle & Stanley Fischer, 1994. "How independent should a central bank be?," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 38, pages 195-225.
  5. Lars E.O. Svensson, 1995. "Optimal Inflation Targets, `Conservative' Central Banks, and Linear Inflation Contracts," NBER Working Papers 5251, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Godfrey Keller & Sven Rady, 1997. "Optimal Experimentation in a Changing Environment," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series /1997/333, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  7. Lippi, Francesco, 1998. " On Central Bank Independence and the Stability of Policy Targets," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 100(2), pages 495-512, June.
  8. Waller, Christopher J & Walsh, Carl E, 1996. "Central-Bank Independence, Economic Behavior, and Optimal Term Lengths," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1139-53, December.
  9. Ben Lockwood & Eric Le Borgne, 2003. "Do Elections Always Motivate Incumbents? Experimentation vs. Career Concerns," IMF Working Papers 03/57, International Monetary Fund.
  10. Richard Clarida & Jordi Gali & Mark Gertler, 1999. "The Science of Monetary Policy: A New Keynesian Perspective," NBER Working Papers 7147, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," NBER Working Papers 0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Kenneth Rogoff, 1987. "Equilibrium Political Budget Cycles," NBER Working Papers 2428, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Muscatelli, Anton, 1998. "Optimal Inflation Contracts and Inflation Targets with Uncertain Central Bank Preferences: Accountability through Independence?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(447), pages 529-42, March.
  14. Lockwood, Ben, 1997. "State-Contingent Inflation Contracts and Unemployment Persistence," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 29(3), pages 286-99, August.
  15. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Gauti Eggertsson & Eric Le Borgne, 2005. "The politics of central bank independence: a theory of pandering and learning in government," Staff Reports 205, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  2. Crowe, Christopher, 2008. "Goal independent central banks: Why politicians decide to delegate," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 748-762, December.
  3. Libich, Jan, 2008. "An explicit inflation target as a commitment device," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 43-68, March.
  4. Christopher W. Crowe, 2006. "Goal-Independent Central Banks," IMF Working Papers 06/256, International Monetary Fund.
  5. Roseline Nyakerario Misati & Esman Morekwa Nyamongo & Lucas Kamau Njoroge & Sheila Kaminchia, 2012. "Feasibility of inflation targeting in an emerging market: evidence from Kenya," Journal of Financial Economic Policy, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 4(2), pages 146-159, June.
  6. JoAnne Morris & Tonny Lybek, 2004. "Central Bank Governance," IMF Working Papers 04/226, International Monetary Fund.
  7. Blanes i Vidal, Jordi & Leaver, Clare, 2011. "Are tenured judges insulated from political pressure?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 570-586.
  8. Libich, Jan & Stehlík, Petr, 2010. "Incorporating rigidity and commitment in the timing structure of macroeconomic games," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 767-781, May.

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