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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.

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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:wly:jmoncb:v:42:y:2010:i:4:p:647-677
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1538-4616.2010.00302.x
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    2. Jamus Jerome Lim, 2021. "The limits of central bank independence for inflation performance," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 186(3), pages 309-335, March.
    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. D. Masciandaro, 2019. "What Bird Is That? Central Banking And Monetary Policy In The Last Forty Years," BAFFI CAREFIN Working Papers 19127, BAFFI CAREFIN, Centre for Applied Research on International Markets Banking Finance and Regulation, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    5. Anita Angelovska - Bezhoska, 2018. "Central bank independence-the case of the National Bank of Republic of Macedonia," Working Papers 2018-01, National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia.
    6. Mr. Christopher W. Crowe, 2006. "Goal-Independent Central Banks: Why Politicians Decide to Delegate," IMF Working Papers 2006/256, International Monetary Fund.
    7. Ms. JoAnne Morris & Mr. Tonny Lybek, 2004. "Central Bank Governance: A Survey of Boards and Management," IMF Working Papers 2004/226, International Monetary Fund.
    8. Carsten Hefeker, 2019. "Political polarization, term length and too much delegation," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 50-69, March.
    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.
    10. Libich, Jan, 2008. "An explicit inflation target as a commitment device," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 43-68, March.
    11. Donato Masciandaro, 2021. "Central Bank Governance in Monetary Policy Economics (1981-2020)," BAFFI CAREFIN Working Papers 21153, BAFFI CAREFIN, Centre for Applied Research on International Markets Banking Finance and Regulation, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. Donato Masciandaro & Davide Romelli, 2018. "To Be or not to Be a Euro Country? The Behavioural Political Economics of Currency Unions," BAFFI CAREFIN Working Papers 1883, BAFFI CAREFIN, Centre for Applied Research on International Markets Banking Finance and Regulation, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    15. 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.
    16. Rostagno, Massimo & Altavilla, Carlo & Carboni, Giacomo & Lemke, Wolfgang & Motto, Roberto & Saint Guilhem, Arthur & Yiangou, Jonathan, 2019. "A tale of two decades: the ECB’s monetary policy at 20," Working Paper Series 2346, European Central Bank.

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