Edited by Jean-Philippe Touffut
Jean-Philippe Touﬀut Few institutions have spread as widely throughout the world as central banks have. With 18 in existence at the end of the nineteenth century, their numbers had grown to 173 by the beginning of the twenty-ﬁrst century. Although the ﬁrst central banks were government banks, they progressively incorporated functions that made them into the bank of banks of the twentieth century. The role they were assigned changed during the 1990s as they were gradually required to become more independent from government control. The transformation has aﬀected the whole planet: since 1990, the central banks of 34 countries have adopted new statutes. As the instruments of monetary policy have changed, so its management has evolved: today more importance is attached to the transparency of the Bank’s short- and mid-term objectives, rather than intermediate targets, such as exchange rate stability, growth of the monetary mass or the level of nominal interest rates. It is diﬃcult to separate monetary policy from the instruments used to pursue it and the legitimacy with which it operates. In fact, the strictly economic arguments and the arguments to be drawn from historical analysis are indistinguishable. This work originates from the conference organized at the end of 2006 by the Cournot Centre, the aim of which was precisely to account for the institutional construction of central banks over the last few decades. Current events since the date of the conference have kept these institutions constantly at the centre of the economic stage:...