Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Barro and Gordon. 1983. Rules, discretion, and reputation in a model of monetary policy. Journal of Monetary Economics 12: 101-121.
The model looks something like this: Central bankers know that an unexpected increase in inflation will lower unemployment. It has to be unexpected, otherwise people would anticipate it (and there would be only nominal, not real, effects). Real effects only follow surprise. But if citizens are sophisticated, they will see that central bankers have this incentive. They will therefore anticipate the "unexpected" increase in inflation. To compensate, central bankers must make an even larger increase. It rapidly becomes apparent that this is the path to very high inflation. Therefore, to avoid this cycle, central banks should be bound in some way (i.e. an independent central bank with conservative leadership).
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