Central bank independence, inflation and political power

Just a small observation, not particularly original to us. Politics has only controlled the value and quantity of money for a short period of history, roughly WWII through to the 1990s. Perhaps, for purists, really only the 1970s through the 1990s. The period of fiat currencies and government control of central banks.

Before that period we generally had currencies based, however tenuously, upon specie. After we’ve had those independent central banks able to kick back against government policy. Which makes this long term chart of inflation in the UK interesting.

There were inflations - Henry VIII debased the silver coinage for example. There were deflations, QE I tried to restore the value. But to get to consistent inflation we had to wait for politicians to control both fiscal and monetary policy, something that really only did happen post WW II.

One way of looking at this is that the more power politics had the worse matters got. Another, less cynical, is simply that the move to central bank independence from the 1990s onwards was well rooted in empirical justifications.

Our general view around here is that the correct question concerning politics is whether we’re being cynical enough. We’d thus take this record as being a warning about allowing politics, and politicians, to control too much. Or even much.