Comparative European Politics

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 303–327

The Same, But Different: Central Banks, Regulatory Agencies, and the Politics of Delegation to Independent Authorities

  • Fabrizio Gilardi
Original Article


Independent regulatory agencies are the institutional foundations of the regulatory state that, during the past 15 years, has gained prominence throughout Europe. This article studies the rise of independent authorities in European countries by comparing regulatory agencies and central banks. Delegation to independent central banks and to independent regulatory agencies is similar in many respects. In both cases, agents are deliberately made independent from political principals through a specific institutional design. Moreover, it has been argued that delegation to both central banks and regulatory agencies is linked to the need for policy-makers to improve the credibility of policy commitments, to the wish of incumbent politicians to tie the hands of future majorities, and to the extent to which the institutional contexts safeguard policy stability. Through an analysis of the formal independence of central banks and regulatory agencies in Western Europe, this article identifies an empirical puzzle that casts doubts on the accuracy of current explanations. Veto players and the uncertainty of incumbent policy-makers in respect to their re-election prospects matter for delegation to both central banks and regulatory agencies, but in opposite ways. Making sense of these anomalies is necessary to achieve a better understanding of delegation to independent authorities.


delegation regulatory agencies central banks veto players regulatory state 

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabrizio Gilardi
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut d'Etudes Politiques et Internationales, Université de Lausanne, Bâtiment Anthropole, CH-1015LausanneSwitzerland

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