Building on theoretically oriented and empirically grounded research on two key macroeconomic institutions in Italy, this article explains how and why civil servants can engineer major policy changes, making a difference in a country's trajectory. Italy provides a challenging testing ground for this kind of analysis, as it is generally portrayed as a highly politicized system in which political parties and politicians fully control public policies. Three general lessons can be learned, the first being that the role of civil servants in changing modes of economic governance depends on the resources that they master in the system in which they operate. "Intangible assets" are of primary importance in complex and perceived technical policies, such as monetary and exchange rate policy, which have high potential for "technocratic capture." Second, in these policies, certain intangible assets, such as specific bodies of economic knowledge or policy paradigms, have a considerable impact on policy making. Third, besides interactions in international fora, the professional training of civil servants is a mainstream way through which economic policy beliefs circulate and gain currency, laying the foundations for policy shifts. By highlighting the importance of the intangible assets of macroeconomic institutions, this research makes an unorthodox contribution to the primarily economic literature on central bank independence.
Bibliographical notePublisher: Blackwell
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