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Optimal Commitment in an Open Economy: Credibility vs. Flexibility

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  • Sylvester Eijffinger
  • Eric Schaling

Abstract

The theoretical argument for central bank independence is based on the idea that even if the government represents people's preferences over inflation and output it has an incentive to renege from prearranged plans to gain a short run boost to output. This incentive leads to higher than desired inflation. One solution to this credibility problem is to give control of monetary policy to an independent central bank that is more averse to inflation than society. Central bank independence thus reduces society's credibility problem but this may be at the expense of less flexible countercyclical monetary policy. The aim of this paper is to find the correct balance between credibility and flexibility, ie the optimal degree of central bank independence. The first part of the paper sets out an open economy model and identifies some macroeconomic factors that influence the optimal degree of independence. It finds that the optimal degree of independence increases when; 1) the NAIRU is higher, 2) the benefits of unanticipated inflation are greater, 3) society is less inflation-averse, 4) productivity shocks have smaller variance, 5) the real exchange rate has less variability, 6) the economy is less open. The second part of the paper estimates the relationship between these six factors and measures of central bank independence for 19 industrial countries using a latent variables estimation technique. It finds that, in general, the actual degree of independence is related to these six factors and so the institutional arrangements in most countries are close to the optimum. The main exceptions are Germany and Switzerland - that seem to have an excessively high degree of independence - and Australia, Norway, Sweden and the UK - which have a lower than optimal degree of independence.

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Paper provided by Bank of England in its series Bank of England working papers with number 41.

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Date of creation: Dec 1995
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Handle: RePEc:boe:boeewp:41

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  1. Robert J. Barro & David B. Gordon, 1983. "Rules, Discretion and Reputation in a Model of Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 1079, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Eijffinger, S.C.W. & Schaling, E., 1992. "Central bank independence: Criteria and indices," Research Memorandum 548, Tilburg University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
  3. Romer, David, 1993. "Openness and Inflation: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(4), pages 869-903, November.
  4. Alesina, Alberto & Summers, Lawrence H, 1993. "Central Bank Independence and Macroeconomic Performance: Some Comparative Evidence," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 25(2), pages 151-62, May.
  5. Eijffinger, S-C-W & de Haan, J, 1996. "The Political Economy of Central-Bank Independence," Princeton Studies in International Economics 19, International Economics Section, Departement of Economics Princeton University,.
  6. Robert J. Barro & David B. Gordon, 1981. "A Positive Theory of Monetary Policy in a Natural-Rate Model," NBER Working Papers 0807, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Dornbusch, Rudiger, 1976. "Expectations and Exchange Rate Dynamics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(6), pages 1161-76, December.
  8. Gray, Jo Anna, 1976. "Wage indexation: A macroeconomic approach," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 221-235, April.
  9. Eijffinger, S.C.W. & Keulen, M. van, 1995. "Central bank independence in another eleven countries," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-152914, Tilburg University.
  10. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-89, November.
  11. Eijffinger, S.C.W., 1993. "Central bank independence in twelve industrial countries," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-152908, Tilburg University.
  12. Carl E Walsh, 1993. "Optimal contracts for independent central bankers: private information, performance measures and reappointment," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Mar.
  13. Manfred Neumann, 1991. "Precommitment by central bank independence," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 95-112, June.
  14. Alberto Alesina, 1988. "Macroeconomics and Politics," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1988, Volume 3, pages 13-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Lohmann, Susanne, 1992. "Optimal Commitment in Monetary Policy: Credibility versus Flexibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 273-86, March.
  16. Fischer, Stanley, 1977. "Wage indexation and macroeconomics stability," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 107-147, January.
  17. Taylor, John B., 1983. "`Rules, discretion and reputation in a model of monetary policy' by Robert J. Barro and David B. Gordon," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 123-125.
  18. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1993. "Designing institutions for monetary stability," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 53-84, December.
  19. Eijffinger, S.C.W. & Schaling, E., 1993. "Central bank independence: Theory and evidence (Revised version)," Discussion Paper 1993-25, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
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Cited by:
  1. Alexander Mihailov, 2007. "Does Instrument Independence Matter under the Constrained Discretionof an Inflation Targeting Goal? Lessons from UK Taylor Rule Empirics," Money Macro and Finance (MMF) Research Group Conference 2006 95, Money Macro and Finance Research Group.
  2. Eijffinger, Sylvester C W & Hoeberichts, Marco, 1998. "The Trade off between Central Bank Independence and Conservativeness," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 50(3), pages 397-411, July.
  3. Marcello D'Amato & Riccardo Martina, 2000. "Credibility and Commitment of Monetary Policy in Open Economies," CSEF Working Papers 47, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.

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