Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics
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Department of Economics, Lund University Working Papers, Department of Economics, Lund University

No 2005:21:
Central bank power is a matter of faith

Ingemar Bengtsson ()

Abstract: This paper reconsiders how central banks get involved in the process of determining nominal variables such as market interest rates and inflation rates. It is argued that the traditional story deriving central bank power from its monopoly of issuing base money is flawed. That story - in its various guises - is based on the quantity equation. This equation, however, is only applicable in the hypothetical only-cash-world, i.e. in a world where all transactions has to be paid for with central bank issued notes and coins. Nevertheless, the vast majority of economists would agree that, in practice, central banks seem to influence interest and inflation rates. Here, we suggest that the explanation is that central banks have acquired a role as focal point for those variables. It is possible because interest setting is a coordination game, in which agents have to predict each others expectations.

Keywords: Central Banking; Focal Points; Inflation; Monetary Policy; Money; Quantity Theory; (follow links to similar papers)

JEL-Codes: C70; E31; E42; E43; E44; E51; E52; E58; (follow links to similar papers)

18 pages, March 4, 2005

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This paper is published as:
Bengtsson, Ingemar, (2005), 'Central bank power is a matter of faith', The ICFAI Journal of Monetary Economics, Vol. 3, August, No. 3, pages 70-84

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