Advertisement

Book of the week: central bankers and how to hold them to account

Book review: Unelected PowerPaul Tucker, fellow at Harvard University and former deputy governor of the Bank of England, examines the rise of central bankers, a new class of technocrats.

896_MW_P39_reviews_Unelected-Power

Buy at Amazon

Central bankers have played a huge role in both the economy and financial markets over the past decade, most notably through successive rounds of quantitative easing aimed at preventing economic collapse. However, critics allege that they now wield large amounts of power but lack accountability. Regulators and those who run the growing number of semi-autonomous agencies face a similar problem. In this book, Paul Tucker, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England and now a fellow at Harvard University, examines the rise of this new class of technocrats.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Tucker has picked a timely topic, and he tries to examine it in detail, looking at the differences between the way that Britain, America and Europe have handled the growth of the regulatory state. He searches widely for possible solutions, even looking at the experiences of the judiciary and military to see whether they can provide any answers. While he comes to the conclusion that technocrats are here to stay, he clearly thinks there is something unsatisfactory with the status quo, and makes several wide-ranging and detailed suggestions as to how central banks can take public opinion into account in their decision-making.

Unfortunately the book suffers from two major flaws. First, Tucker spreads himself too thin by discussing government agencies in general, rather than just central bankers. Even though the book runs to nearly 600 pages, its conclusions seem a little superficial. And Tucker doesn't do himself any favours by writing in a dry and colourless style: at times the book reads like a regulatory document most readers will struggle to keep reading, let alone engage with his views.

Second, Tucker who served on the Bank's monetary policy committee between 2002 and 2013, and was at one point considered the frontrunner to succeed Mervyn King was obviously at the centre of many crucial discussions. His departure took place at a time when people were starting to ask questions about what the Bank knew about the Libor scandal. So you might expect him to reveal what happened during those crunch meetings during the financial crisis, or at least provide his side of the story. But apart from a few general statements, he keeps his cards close to his chest.

Because of these problems, Unelected Power will be of limited interest to non-academics. This is a pity because the debate over the role of central bankers and how to hold them to account is clearly not going away.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Theatre review: The Visit
Films

Theatre review: The Visit

Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Swiss classic The Visit, transported to 1950s America, poses the question: how much would you kill for?
28 Feb 2020
Six contrarian books for Christmas
Films

Six contrarian books for Christmas

Merryn Somerset Webb picks six of her favourite contrarian books to help you look clever and perhaps win a few arguments over the Christmas dinner tab…
9 Dec 2019
Coming to terms with Anna Sorokin
Films

Coming to terms with Anna Sorokin

My Friend Anna: The true story of the fake heiress of New York CityWilliams is a solid writer who does a good job of explaining how she, and other int…
21 Aug 2019
Book in the news… the inside story of Spain’s tumultuous crisis
Films

Book in the news… the inside story of Spain’s tumultuous crisis

After the Fall Crisis, Recovery and the Making of a New SpainA book that goes beyond politics to offer a deeply sympathetic portrayal of a country.
21 Aug 2019

Most Popular

Eagle Lightweight GT: the reincarnation of the E-type Jag
Toys and gadgets

Eagle Lightweight GT: the reincarnation of the E-type Jag

Jaguar’s classic E-type sports car has been reinvented for the modern age. The result – the Eagle Lightweight GT – is a thing of beauty.
7 Aug 2020
Platinum: the precious metal that looks set to play catch-up with silver and gold
Silver and other precious metals

Platinum: the precious metal that looks set to play catch-up with silver and gold

Gold and silver continue to soar, but there's still time to get in. And there's another precious metal that looks set to go on a bull run too, says Jo…
7 Aug 2020
The MoneyWeek Podcast: how to age well and profit from the “longevity dividend”
Investment strategy

The MoneyWeek Podcast: how to age well and profit from the “longevity dividend”

Merryn talks to economist and author Andrew J Scott and discusses how we can profit from the "longevity dividend" as we live longer; why we need to re…
6 Aug 2020