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Currency boards, depoliticization and macroeconomic stability: the political economy of institutional complementarities

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This article analyzes the potential for institutional design to depoliticize macroeconomic policy-making by examining currency board arrangements. It develops a novel argument to understand the effects of institutional design based on institutional complementarities. This argument highlights that the functioning of a given institution is conditioned by the broader institutional context. The article contrasts this framework with two common approaches – here termed the institutional design and the epiphenomenalism views – and argues that the centrality of institutional complementarities can account for the mixed record of currency boards. The most important complementarities of a currency board are with fiscal, labor market and informal institutions, which are important prerequisites for successful currency boards. By drawing on recent advances in the study of depoliticization, we show how these institutions contribute to governmental, societal and discursive depoliticization. This argument is evaluated by examining three case studies of currency boards – Argentina, Estonia and Lithuania. The article also explores some broader implications of this analysis for understanding the depoliticization of economic policy.
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Keywords: Argentina; Currency boards; Estonia; Lithuania; depoliticization; institutional complementarities; institutional design; macroeconomic policy; political economy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK 2: Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania

Publication date: July 4, 2017

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