Central bank independence remains important for core inflation containment in the current age of political populism.

Jonah Whanau

2019-04-21 10:07:54 Sun ET

Central bank independence remains important for core inflation containment in the current age of political populism. In accordance with the dual mandate of both price stability and maximum sustainable employment, most central banks seek to solve the dynamic consistency problem on the basis of a key desire to insulate monetary policy decisions from political influence.

A landmark empirical study of cross-country comparisons by Alberto Alesina and Lawrence Summers confirms that countries with better central bank independence experience lower inflation without suffering any real economic output or labor force penalty. An independent central bank can enhance fiscal discipline by reducing the relative likelihood of fiscal dominance and monetization of perennial budget deficits.

Historical experience and economic theory teach us an informative lesson. When monetary policy is subject to political control, people expect dovish expansionary interest rate adjustments and so anticipate higher wages and prices in response. The undesirable economic outcome is stagflation (or the worst-case scenario of both high inflation and high unemployment). It can cost prohibitive welfare losses for the central bank to bring down inflation with subsequent interest rate hikes. Key credible apolitical monetary policy decisions would thus promote price stability with minimal real impact on economic growth, employment, and capital investment.

 


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