The Ramsey approach to policy analysis finds the best competitive equilibrium given a set of available instruments. This approach is silent about unique implementation, namely designing policies so that the associated competitive equilibrium is unique. This silence is particularly problematic in monetary policy environments where many ways of specifying policy lead to indeterminacy. We show that sophisticated policies which depend on the history of private actions and which can differ on and off the equilibrium path can uniquely implement any desired competitive equilibrium. A large literature has argued that monetary policy should adhere to the Taylor principle to eliminate indeterminacy. Our findings say that adherence to the Taylor principle on these grounds is unnecessary. Finally, we show that sophisticated policies are robust to imperfect information.
Innovative activities have public good characteristics in the sense that the cost of producing the innovation is high compared to the cost of producing subsequent units. Moreover, knowledge of how to produce subsequent units is widely known once the innovation has occurred and is, therefore, non-rivalrous. The main question of this paper is whether mechanisms can be found which exploit market information to provide appropriate incentives for innovation. The ability of the mechanism designer to exploit such information depends crucially on the ability of the innovator to manipulate market signals. We show that if the innovator cannot manipulate market signals, then the efficient levels of innovation can be implemented without deadweight losses–for example, by using appropriately designed prizes. If the innovator can use bribes, buybacks, or other ways of manipulating market signals, patents are necessary.
Macroeconomists have largely converged on method, model design, reduced-form shocks, and principles of policy advice. Our main disagreements today are about implementing the methodology. Some think New Keynesian models are ready to be used for quarter-to-quarter quantitative policy advice; we do not. Focusing on the state-of-the-art version of these models, we argue that some of its shocks and other features are not structural or consistent with microeconomic evidence. Since an accurate structural model is essential to reliably evaluate the effects of policies, we conclude that New Keynesian models are not yet useful for policy analysis.
In the 1970s macroeconomists often disagreed bitterly. Macroeconomists have now largely converged on method, model design, and macroeconomic policy advice. The disagreements that remain all stem from the practical implementation of the methodology. Some macroeconomists think that New Keynesian models are on the verge of being useful for quarter-to-quarter quantitative policy advice. We do not. We argue that the shocks in these models are dubiously structural and show that many of the features of the model as well as the implications due to these features are inconsistent with microeconomic evidence. These arguments lead us to conclude that New Keynesian models are not yet useful for policy analysis.
We analyze the setting of monetary and nonmonetary policies in monetary unions. We show that in these unions a time inconsistency problem in monetary policy leads to a novel type of free-rider problem in the setting of nonmonetary policies, such as labor market policy, fiscal policy, and bank regulation. The free-rider problem leads the union’s members to pursue lax nonmonetary policies that induce the monetary authority to generate high inflation. The free-rider problem can be mitigated by imposing constraints on the nonmonetary policies, like unionwide rules on labor market policy, debt constraints on members’ fiscal policy, and unionwide regulation of banks. When there is no time inconsistency problem, there is no free-rider problem, and constraints on nonmonetary policies are unnecessary and possibly harmful.
Robert Solow has criticized our 2006 Journal of Economic Perspectives essay describing “Modern Macroeconomics in Practice.” Solow eloquently voices the commonly heard complaint that too much macroeconomic work today starts with a model with a single type of agent. We argue that modern macroeconomics may not end too far from where Solow prefers. He is also critical of how modern macroeconomists use data to construct models. Specifically, he seems to think that calibration is the only way that our models encounter data. To the contrary, we argue that modern macroeconomics uses a wide variety of empirical methods and that this big-tent approach has served macroeconomics well. Solow also questions our claim that modern macroeconomics is firmly grounded in economic theory. We disagree and explain why.
The optimal choice of a monetary policy instrument depends on how tight and transparent the available instruments are and on whether policymakers can commit to future policies. Tightness is always desirable; transparency is only if policymakers cannot commit. Interest rates, which can be made endogenously tight, have a natural advantage over money growth and exchange rates, which cannot. As prices, interest and exchange rates are more transparent than money growth. All else equal, the best instrument is interest rates and the next-best, exchange rates. These findings are consistent with the observed instrument choices of developed and less-developed economies.