Do We Have Confidence in Economic Institutions?
Excavating the Academia/Policy Pipeline:
Economic analysis at the Bank of England Pre and Post-Crisis
Principal Investigator: Beatrice Cherrier
Dr Beatrice Cherrier is a historian of economics and associate professor at University of Cergy Pontoise. She is currently researching the rise of applied economics from the 1960s, and coordinated a History of Political Economy special issue on the topic (introductory chapter).
Beatrice has also researched the history of the JEL codes to document how the mental map with which economists navigate their discipline came to embody the core/applied structure of economics, compared the dynamics of various applied fields, and tracked changes in the postwar intellectual and prestige structure of economics through the history of the John Bates Clark medal.
Co-Investigators: Juan Acosta (University of Los Andes), François Claveau (University of Sherbrooke & CIRST, UQAM), Clément Fontan (UCLouvain) and Aurélien Goutsmedt (Duke University).
The Bank of England (BoE) holds a peculiar place among central banks in the Western World. At first glance, it seems more entrepreneurial in the type of research papers it publishes, with strong stances taken on financial regulation (in particular on structural reform of banking), distributional effects of quantitative easing, central bank digital currencies or climate change.
The BoE also fosters methodological innovation, as exemplified by Andy Haldane’s recent interest in agent-based modelling. Yet, it is not clear to what extent the macroeconomic policies it implements, or the macroeconometric models its economists rely on for forecasting, simulation and policy analysis, substantially differ from those implemented in other central banks or taught in departments of economics.
In this project, we thus propose to combine quantitative analysis, semi-structured interviews and archival evidence to assess the state of the knowledge produced by BoE economists, their background, networks, influences and impact, and to track the historical roots of their underlying modelling culture back into the 1970s to 2010s.
First, we will mine a database of 3000 documents produced by the BoE since the 1970s to identify patterns and trends in vocabulary and topics, map its positive and normative discourse on financial regulation, “green” monetary policy and inequalities, and compare those results with those obtained for the European Central Bank. How much the BoE public discourse draws on economic analysis will be investigated through archival research, interviews, and network analysis.
We aim to understand which modelling culture and storytelling in-house BoE economists have developed, in particular on transparency, credibility, budgets, monetary vs tax policy. We will research how these economists endorsed the London Business School model in the 1970s, developed the BEQM in the 1980s, then switch to other models. We will track how ideas about Too Big To Fail, government budget, transparency, climate change, digital currencies and others move along the policy pipeline from academic publication to workshops to BoE Quarterly Bulletins to policy briefs to minutes of policy decisions, are transformed along the way, or are halted at some point, thereby creating a divorce between experts and decisions-makers.
We will also profile those staff economists, through documenting their academic and public service backgrounds, and whom they engage with and quote from in their academic vs policy work. Do economists maintain a separation between the models they publish in academic journals and those they use in writing policy briefs? Have some universities taken over the training of macroeconomists in the past decades? Has the 2008 crisis brought new relations with civil society groups and NGOs?
Answering these questions will help economists and citizens alike gain a better understanding of how the knowledge produced by economists affect societies and is affected by public demands. Finally, we will provide online access to our cleaned database of BoE document and economists to allow further research.