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Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School

Is the Case for Central Bank Independence Dead? A Discussion with Larry Summers, Alberto Alesina, Ed Balls and Anna Stansbury

March 27, 2017
6:00pm - 7:30pm
Langdell Hall North (225 Vorenberg Clasroom), Harvard Law School
March 27, 2017
6:00pm - 7:30pm
Langdell Hall North (225 Vorenberg Clasroom), Harvard Law School

The power and independence of central banks has been much criticized in the wake of the recent election in the US, and Brexit in the UK. So, should we be worried about the powers held by central bankers?

Join two of the original proponents of central bank independence, and one of the architects of Bank of England independence, to explore whether we still need independent central banks in an age of low inflation, rapidly rising central bank powers and intensifying political attacks in the US and elsewhere.


The Mossavar Rahmani Center for Business and Government, HKS British and Irish Caucus and the HLS Tax Law and Financial Regulation Association are delighted to welcome Prof. Lawrence Summers President Emeritus and University Professor, Harvard University, and Former US Treasury Secretary; Alberto Alesina, Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy and Director of the NBER Political Economy Program; Ed Balls, visiting fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, and UK Shadow Chancellor from 2011 to 2015; and Anna Stansbury, Economics PhD student at Harvard University to a discussion on central bank independence.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, countries around the world have dramatically expanded the objectives and powers of central banks beyond their traditional inflation targets and policy rates. The consensus around central bank independence has broken down, seen in challenges to its relevance in a world of macroprudential policies and monetary-fiscal coordination, as well as political movements like Audit the Fed. This panel discussion examines the role of central banks in a post-crisis world: does independence still matter? What should be the role of central banks in financial stabilization and crisis management? And how can central banks operate without endangering their credibility or accountability?

Lawrence H. Summers is President Emeritus of Harvard University. During the past two decades he has served in a series of senior policy positions, including Vice President of development economics and chief economist of the World Bank, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, Director of the National Economic Council for the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2011, and Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, from 1999 to 2001. He is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University.

Alberto Alesina is Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University. He is the director of the Political Economy program of the NBER, a co-editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics and a member of the Econometric Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has published extensively in all major academic journals in economics, on issues including political business cycles, central bank independence, inflation stabilization policies, the political economy of fiscal policy, and has published five books including The Future of Europe: Reform or Decline.

Ed Balls was UK Shadow Chancellor from 2011 to 2015 and co-chaired the Inclusive Prosperity Commission with former US Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, which reported in January 2015. He served in the British Cabinet as Education Secretary (2007-2010). He was previously the UK Minister for Financial Services (2006-2007) and the Chief Economic Adviser to the UK Treasury (1997-2004), during which time he was the Chair of the IMFC Deputies and UK G20 Deputy. As a visiting fellow at M-RCBG he wrote a Working Paper on Central Bank Independence exploring parameters for a model central bank.

Anna Stansbury is a PhD student in the Harvard Economics department and has a Masters of Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School and a BA in Economics from Cambridge University. She is a co-author of the working paper on Central Bank Independence with Ed Balls.

This event is co-sponsored by: