Conditions for democratic legitimacy of independent agencies

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific and ANU College of Business & Economics

Over the past half century or more, the regulatory state, comprising agencies more or less insulated from day-to-day politics, have grown and grown. Activities led in the past by the elected executive government are now delegated to powerful, independent and unelected officials.

For some, this is warranted in terms of delivering better results. For others, it is unavoidable given the complexity of modern life. For others still, it is acceptable solely on the basis of active oversight by the courts of compliance with public law. But for some, a democratic deficit violates deep principles of liberal democracies. Few political theorists have said much about this, and economists have tended to focus solely on whether it delivers better results .

This talk will address whether there are principles for the design of independent agencies that would endow them with legitimacy, and whether present day institutional structures live up to those principles. Central banks, in their monetary and in their regulatory roles, will be used as one example, highlighting some successes and some problems.

Sir Paul Tucker is a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Business School. He was Deputy Governor at the Bank of England from 2009 to October 2013, having joined the Bank in 1980. He was a member of all of the Bank of England’s statutory policy committees: the Monetary Policy Committee, Financial Policy Committee (vice chair), Prudential Regulatory Authority Board (vice chair), as well as of the Court of Directors. Internationally, he was a member of the steering committee of the G20 Financial Stability Board, and chaired its Committee on the Resolution of Cross-Border Banks in order to solve the ‘too big to fail’ problem. He was a member of the board of directors of the Bank for International Settlements, and was chair of the Basel Committee for Payment and Settlement Systems from April 2012. He is a Visiting Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, and a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation.

This lecture is presented by Crawford School of Public Policy and the Research School of Economics, at The Australian National University.