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            the myth of neutrality

Cambridge Studies in
Comparative Politics

Cambridge University Press
April 2013

CUP (hardback) · CUP (ebook)
Amazon (US) · Amazon (UK) · Foyles (UK)
Barnes & Noble (US) · Powell’s (US)


Most studies of the political economy of money focus on the laws protecting central banks from government interference; this book turns to the overlooked people who actually make monetary policy decisions. Using formal theory and statistical evidence from dozens of central banks across the developed and developing worlds, this book shows that monetary policy agents are not all the same. Molded by specific professional and sectoral backgrounds, and driven by career concerns, central bankers with different career trajectories choose predictably different monetary policies. These differences undermine the widespread belief that central bank independence is a neutral solution for macroeconomic management. Instead, through careful appointment and retention of central bankers, partisan governments can and do influence monetary policy – preserving a political trade-off between inflation and real economic performance even in an age of legally independent central banks.

Replication Data:  Available here for selected chapters; more coming soon.

“In this path-breaking book Adolph offers a new approach to the study of central banks and monetary policy. Challenging the conventional assumption that central banks choose optimal policies if given enough autonomy to do so, Adolph argues that central bankers -- the people who actually make monetary policy -- are driven by their own narrow professional perspectives and ambitions. Often concerned to please potential future employers, they bend policies to win approval of ‘shadow principals’ -- especially big banks -- while the public interest takes a backseat. The argument has stark implications for government policies and central bank design, especially in a world that is still reeling from the financial crisis. Important and timely, this book will be widely read and debated.”
Torben Iversen, Harvard University

“Adolph combines good intuition with strong theorizing and thorough and imaginative empirical work to produce an analog in the bureaucratic world to the ‘citizen candidate’ model of electoral politics: central bankers’ career paths are a strong predictor of inflation rates. This is excellent, timely scholarship that will surely trigger a flurry of new studies. This is, in my view, a book ready for prime time.”
Frances Rosenbluth, Yale University

Bankers, Bureaucrats, and Central Bank Politics is an important scholarly work that raises an issue that economists have largely missed: central bankers are people and have private incentives. How do these incentives affect their decisions? Adolph puts together the first data set on the career paths of central bank decision makers and subjects it to careful empirical analysis. A major contribution sure to be of interest to students of monetary policy and political economy.”
Dick Startz, University of California, Santa Barbara


Revue française de science politique, August 2014, 64(4).

Anne-Caroline Hüser, International Journal of Constitutional Law, July 2014, 12(3), 835–840.

Cristina Bodea, Journal of Politics, July 2014, 76(3), E22.

Mikael Wendschlag, Financial History Review, March 2014, 21(1), 103–106.

Francesco Visconti, “Unveiling the Myth of Central Bankers’ Neutrality,” The International Spectator, March 2014, 49(1), 152–154.

Donato Masciandaro, Journal of Economic Literature, March 2014, 52(1), 223–226.

Chris Rogers, Journal of Global Faultlines, September 2013, 1(1), 157–158.


Eric Gil, “O ministério dos banqueiros: sobre a tese da independência do banco central,” Pragmatismo Político, 9 September 2014.

John Quiggin, “Bookplugs,” Crooked Timber, 17 September 2013.

Michael Knigge, “Yin or yang for the Fed?,” Deutsche Welle, 14 August 2013.

José Fernández Albertos, “La neutralidad de los bancos centrales,” El Diario, 8 July 2013.

Lars Christensen, “Christopher Adolph on the politics of central banking,” The Market Monetarist, 17 February 2012.

José Fernández Albertos, “Astérix, Spiderman y el Banco de España,”
El País,
17 October 2011.

Howard Davies, “The Bank should pick a deputy for our times,”
Financial Times,
28 May 2008.

University of Washington link

CSSS Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences link

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