The UK has had kept returning to the idea that there is some independent professional way of managing the economy free of political dispute or Parliamentary disagreement. Like moths to a flame, this has usually proved destructive to the jobs, incomes and businesses of our country.
During my lecture on Monday I will return to this theme. The UK was mesmerised after 1964 with the idea of German economic performance. Many decided that one of the central differences which delivered this better result was an “independent central bank”. The UK first tried to copy this by linking our currency to the German one. This policy led to a spectacular failure on the markets and a nasty recession.
More recently it led to the UK adopting the underlying idea, and seeking to have its own independent Central Bank. This same Bank presided over a huge build up in credit and risky bank balance sheets. It followed this up by starving the markets and banks of money, leading to the largest banking collapses for over a century.
The truth is you cannot have an independent Central Bank in a democracy. Someone has to appoint the Governor and the Board of the Bank. Someone has to establish the powers of the Bank, and someone has to set the Bank its tasks and targets. All that rightly remains the work of Parliament. So Parliament remains sovereign in these matters. You can have Parliament dismissing the Bank officials or changing the Bank’s powers if it ceases to please. You cannot have the Central Bank dismissing the elected government or changing the government’s powers if they no longer like the government. That remains the electorate’s job.
The German model was no more independent than the UK Bank has proved. The German Bank gave good advice on the hasty and badly drawn up Ostmark DM merger and was overruled. Even more amazing, the so called Central Bank whose main task was to defend the German currency was then overruled with the abolition of the currency itself! Some independence then!