IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Central Banker Contracts, Incomplete Information, and Monetary Policy Surprises: In Search of a Selfish Central Banker?

  • Chortareas, Georgios E
  • Miller, Stephen M

Approaching monetary policy as a principal-agent problem provides a useful framework for interpreting alternative delegation schemes. In this paper, we consider the effectiveness of central banker incentive schemes when the principal delegates monetary policy through contracts but remains uncertain about the central banker's responsiveness to such schemes. We adopt a simple principal-agent model and assume that the central banker's trade-off between social welfare and the incentive scheme is private information. We consider two types of central bankers; one who responds to the incentive scheme ("selfish") and one who does not and only cares about social welfare ("benevolent"). We demonstrate that when a benevolent central banker accepts a contract designed for a selfish central banker, positive inflation surprises occur and output exceeds its natural rate. We further show that a benevolent central banker with an inflation bias has an incentive to masquerade as selfish. Mechanisms exist that solve that problem by achieving preference revelation. We consider a simple mechanism in dominant strategies that induces the benevolent type either not to breach or not to accept the appointment (contract) in the first place. This multi-period mechanism works with either inflation targets, or the appointment of a conservative central banker. Our results suggest that more complicated incentive schemes, embedded within broader constitutional arrangements, are required in the presence of private information for them to work effectively. Copyright 2003 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: link to full text
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

Volume (Year): 116 (2003)
Issue (Month): 3-4 (September)
Pages: 271-95

in new window

Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:116:y:2003:i:3-4:p:271-95
Contact details of provider: Web page:

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Levy, Philip I., 1999. "Lobbying and international cooperation in tariff setting," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 345-370, April.
  2. Fratianni, Michele & von Hagen, Jurgen & Waller, Christopher J, 1997. "Central Banking as a Political Principal-Agent Problem," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(2), pages 378-93, April.
  3. Cukierman, Alex & Meltzer, Allan H, 1986. "A Theory of Ambiguity, Credibility, and Inflation under Discretion and Asymmetric Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(5), pages 1099-1128, September.
  4. Lawler, Phillip, 2000. "Centralised Wage Setting, Inflation Contracts, and the Optimal Choice of Central Banker," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(463), pages 559-75, April.
  5. Beetsma, Roel & Jensen, Henrik, 1997. "Inflation Targets and Contracts with Uncertain Central Banker Preferences," CEPR Discussion Papers 1562, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  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. Fudenberg, Drew & Maskin, Eric, 1986. "The Folk Theorem in Repeated Games with Discounting or with Incomplete Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 533-54, May.
  8. Herrendorf, Berthold & Lockwood, Ben, 1996. "Rogoff's Conservative Central Banker Restored," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 450, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  9. James W. Friedman, 1971. "A Non-cooperative Equilibrium for Supergames," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(1), pages 1-12.
  10. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1992. "Protection For Sale," NBER Working Papers 4149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Buchanan, James M, 1987. "The Constitution of Economic Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 243-50, June.
  12. Jensen, Henrik, 1997. "Credibility of Optimal Monetary Delegation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 911-20, December.
  13. D. Backus & J. Driffil, 1998. "Inflation and Reputation," Levine's Working Paper Archive 625, David K. Levine.
  14. 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.
  15. Carl E. Walsh, 2002. "When should central bankers be fired?," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 1-21, 03.
  16. Alex Cukierman, 1992. "Central Bank Strategy, Credibility, and Independence: Theory and Evidence," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262031981, December.
  17. Vickers, John, 1986. "Signalling in a Model of Monetary Policy with Incomplete Information," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(3), pages 443-55, November.
  18. McCallum, Bennett T., 1997. "Crucial issues concerning central bank independence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 99-112, June.
  19. Avinash Dixit, 1996. "Special-Interest Lobbying and Endogenous Commodity Taxation," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 375-388, Fall.
  20. Georgios E. Chortareas & Stephen M. Miller, 2000. "Monetary Policy Delegation, Contract Costs, and Contract Targets," Working papers 2000-01, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  21. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 1993. "Trade Wars and Trade Talks," Papers 1-93, Tel Aviv.
  22. Lohmann, Susanne, 1992. "Optimal Commitment in Monetary Policy: Credibility versus Flexibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 273-86, March.
  23. Christopher J. Waller, 1995. "Performance contracts for central bankers," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 3-14.
  24. Barro, Robert J. & Gordon, David B., 1983. "Rules, discretion and reputation in a model of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 101-121.
  25. Cukierman, Alex & Liviatan, Nissan, 1991. "Optimal accommodation by strong policymakers under incomplete information," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 99-127, February.
  26. Jensen, Henrik, 2000. "Optimal monetary policy cooperation through state-independent contracts with targets," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 517-539, March.
  27. David Backus & John Driffill, 1985. "Rational Expectations and Policy Credibility Following a Change in Regime," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(2), pages 211-221.
  28. Muscatelli, V Anton, 1999. "Inflation Contracts and Inflation Targets under Uncertainty: Why We Might Need Conservative Central Bankers," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 66(262), pages 241-54, May.
  29. Robert J. Barro, 1986. "Reputation in a Model of Monetary Policy with Incomplete Information," NBER Working Papers 1794, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Canzoneri, Matthew B, 1985. "Monetary Policy Games and the Role of Private Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 1056-70, December.
  31. Lossani, Marco & Natale, Piergiovanna & Tirelli, Patrizio, 1998. "Incomplete Information in Monetary Policy Games: Rules Rather Than a Conservative Central Banker," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 45(1), pages 33-47, February.
  32. Walsh, Carl E, 1995. "Optimal Contracts for Central Bankers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 150-67, March.
  33. Alberto Alesina, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-Party System as a Repeated Game," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(3), pages 651-678.
  34. 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.
  35. Eric Schaling & Marco Hoeberichts & Sylvester Eijffinger, 1998. "Incentive schemes for central bankers under uncertainty: inflation targets versus contracts," Bank of England working papers 88, Bank of England.
  36. 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.
  37. Charles Nolan & Eric Schaling, 1996. "Monetary Policy Uncertainty and Central Bank Accountability," Bank of England working papers 54, Bank of England.
  38. McCallum, Bennett T, 1995. "Two Fallacies Concerning Central-Bank Independence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 207-11, May.
  39. Jonsson, Gunnar, 1997. "Monetary politics and unemployment persistence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 303-325, July.
  40. Michelle R. Garfinkel & Seonghwan Oh, 1990. "Strategic discipline in monetary policy with private information: optimal targeting periods," Working Papers 1990-001, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  41. Clive Briault & Andrew Haldane & Mervyn King, 1996. "Independence and Accountability," Bank of England working papers 49, Bank of England.
  42. Kenneth Rogoff, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-1189.
  43. Becker, Gary S, 1993. "Nobel Lecture: The Economic Way of Looking at Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 385-409, June.
  44. Alesina, Alberto, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-party System as a Repeated Game," Scholarly Articles 4552531, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  45. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:116:y:2003:i:3-4:p:271-95. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla)

or (Rebekah McClure)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.