A large literature establishes the benefits of central bank independence, yet very few have shown directly negative economic consequences. Furthermore, while prevailing monetary theory suggests CBI should enhance management of economic distress, I argue that independent central banks exhibit tepid responsiveness to banking instability due to a myopic focus on inflation. I show that banking crises produce larger unemployment shocks and credit and stock market contractions when the level of central bank independence is high. Further, I show that these significant economic costs are mitigated when central banks do not have the inflation-centric policy mandates predominantly considered necessary. When the bank has high operational and political independence, banks’ whose policy mandate does not rigidly prioritize inflation produce significantly better outcomes during banking crises. At the same time, I show that this configuration does not produce higher inflation, suggesting it achieves a more flexible design without incurring significant costs.