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Interests and 'Independence': The European Central Bank and the theory of bureaucracy

  • James Forder

The European Central Bank has an unprecedented degree of statutory independence. This is presumably attributable to the view that central banks, unimpeded by external forces, pursue the public interest. That presumption has not always been common in the economics literature, even in the discussion of central banking. The theory of bureaucracy suggests that such institutions pursue their own interests. It is here applied to the European central bank as it was in the past to other central banks. First, consideration is given to what is today implied by the view that central banks are primarily interested in maintaining their independence, maximising their discretion, and avoiding blame for poor outcomes. Second, the ECB's explanations of how it sees its role and status and its presentation of its strategy are considered. Certain limitations in the form of obscure explanation, confused analysis and selective referencing are identified. These appear to suggest that the ECB is concerned with the pursuit of its own agenda. Particular attention is drawn to the danger of paying too much attention to what it says about its own 'accountability'.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal International Review of Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 16 (2002)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 51-69

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Handle: RePEc:taf:irapec:v:16:y:2002:i:1:p:51-69
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