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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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  • Gauti B. Eggertsson & Eric Le Borgne, 2010. "A Political Agency Theory of Central Bank Independence," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 42(4), pages 647-677, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcb:jmoncb:v:42:y:2010:i:4:p:647-677
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    Cited by:

    1. JoAnne Morris & Tonny Lybek, 2004. "Central Bank Governance; A Survey of Boards and Management," IMF Working Papers 04/226, International Monetary Fund.
    2. Masciandaro, Donato & Romelli, Davide, 2015. "Ups and downs of central bank independence from the Great Inflation to the Great Recession: theory, institutions and empirics," Financial History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 22(03), pages 259-289, December.
    3. 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.
    4. Donato Masciandaro & Davide Romelli, 2015. "Ups and Downs. Central Bank Independence from the Great Inflation to the Great Recession: Theory, Institutions and Empirics," BAFFI CAREFIN Working Papers 1503, BAFFI CAREFIN, Centre for Applied Research on International Markets Banking Finance and Regulation, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    5. Libich, Jan, 2008. "An explicit inflation target as a commitment device," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 43-68, March.
    6. 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, May.
    7. Gauti B. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.

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