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

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  • James Forder

Abstract

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'.

Suggested Citation

  • James Forder, 2002. "Interests and 'Independence': The European Central Bank and the theory of bureaucracy," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 51-69.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:irapec:v:16:y:2002:i:1:p:51-69
    DOI: 10.1080/02692170110109335
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Peter Howells & Iris Mariscal, 2006. "Monetary Policy Regimes. A Fragile Consensus," International Journal of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(1), pages 62-83.
    2. Paolo PAESANI, 2003. "Will the Monetary Pillar Stay? A Few Lessons from the UK," Economics Working Papers ECO2003/10, European University Institute.
    3. Siklos, Pierre L., 2008. "No single definition of central bank independence is right for all countries," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 802-816, December.
    4. Voutsinas, Konstantinos & Werner, Richard A., 2011. "New evidence on the effectiveness of "Quantitative Easing" in Japan," CFS Working Paper Series 2011/30, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    5. Singleton,John, 2010. "Central Banking in the Twentieth Century," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521899093, October.
    6. Athina Zervoyianni & Athanasios Anastasiou & Andreas Anastasiou, 2014. "Does central bank independence really matter? Re-assessing the role of the independence of monetary policy-makers in macroeconomic outcomes," International Journal of Economics and Business Research, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 8(4), pages 427-473.
    7. Ullrich, Katrin, 2003. "Unabhängigkeit und Verantwortlichkeit der Europäischen Zentralbank," ZEW Discussion Papers 03-65, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.

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