Working paper 220 was presented at The Economic Consequences of Government Deficits: an Economic Policy Conference, cosponsored by the Center for the Study of American Business and the Institute of Banking and Financial Markets at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, October 29-30, 1982.
Different conclusions about the effects of open market operations are reached even among economists using full employment and rational expectations models. I show that these can be attributed to different assumptions regarding (i) the concept of the deficit that is held fixed in the face of an open market operation, (ii) diversity among agents, and (iii) the features generating money demand. With regard to (iii), I argue that plausible ways of explaining the holding of low-return money preclude the kind of perfect credit markets needed to obtain Ricardian equivalence.
This paper was presented for the International Seminar in Public Economics, held in February 1984 at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Current approaches to monetary theory and policy owe much to the "quantity theory of money." However, recent theoretical developments suggest that the manner in which money is introduced is more important, even for price level movements, than the quantity of money. Colonial American experience provides a laboratory for discriminating between these views. It is shown here that the nature of backing, rather than the quantity of money, determined its value. Large secular inflations were ended by changing the nature of backing despite the continuance of large note issues (and despite the absence of a metallic standard). Extremely large note issues and note withdrawals are shown not to have produced inflation (currency depreciation) or deflation (currency appreciation).
The consequences of a straightforward monetary targeting scheme are examined for a simple dynamic macro model. The notion of "targeting" used below is the strategic one introduced by Rogoff (1985). Numerical simulations are used to demonstrate that for the model under consideration, monetary targeting is likely to lead to a deterioration of policy performance. These examples cast doubt upon the general efficacy of simple targeting schemes in dynamic rational expectations models.
Previous authors have argued that the optimal monetary policy is contractionary. If buyers value consumption substantially more than sellers, there is some randomness and informational constraints make asset trading useful, we show that there is an incentive compatible expansionary policy that dominates all incentive compatible contractionary policies.
This technical appendix supports "Liquidity Effects, Monetary Policy, and the Business Cycle" in Journal of Money, Credit and Banking (November 1995, Vol. 27, No. 4, Pt. 1, pp. 1113-1136), https://doi.org/10.2307/2077793.
This paper investigates the effects of changes in a country's monetary policies on its economy and the welfare of its citizens and those of other countries. Each country is populated by two-period lived overlapping agents who reside in either a home service sector or a world-traded good sector. Policy effects are transmitted through changes in the real interest rate, relative prices, and price levels. Welfare effects are sometimes dominated by relative price movements and can thus be opposite of those found in one-good models. Simulation of dynamic paths also reveals that welfare effects for some types of agents reverse between those born in immediate post-shock periods and those born later.
We find conditions for the Friedman rule to be optimal in three standard models of money. These conditions are homotheticity and separability assumptions on preferences similar to those in the public finance literature on optimal uniform commodity taxation. We show that there is no connection between our results and the result in the standard public finance literature that intermediate goods should not be taxed.
Many economists have worried about changes in the demand for money, since money demand shocks can affect output variability and have implications for monetary policy. This paper studies the theoretical implications of changes in money demand for the nonneutrality of money in the limited participation (liquidity) model and the predetermined (sticky) price model. In the liquidity model, we find that an important connection exists between the nonneutrality of money and the relative money demands of households and firms. This model predicts that the real effect of a money shock rose by 100 percent between 1952 and 1980, and subsequently declined 65 percent. In contrast, we find that the nonneutrality of money in the sticky price model is invariant to changes in money demands or other monetary factors. Several researchers have concluded from VAR analyses that the effects of money shock over time are roughly stable. This view is consistent with the predictions of the sticky price model, but is harder to reconcile with the specific pattern of time variation predicted by the liquidity model.
We provide an introduction to optimal fiscal and monetary policy using the primal approach to optimal taxation. We use this approach to address how fiscal and monetary policy should be set over the long run and over the business cycle. We find four substantive lessons for policymaking: Capital income taxes should be high initially and then roughly zero; tax rates on labor and consumption should be roughly constant; state-contingent taxes on assets should be used to provide insurance against adverse shocks; and monetary policy should be conducted so as to keep nominal interest rates close to zero. We begin optimal taxation in a static context. We then develop a general framework to analyze optimal fiscal policy. Finally, we analyze optimal monetary policy in three commonly used models of money: a cash-credit economy, a money-in-the-utility-function economy, and a shopping-time economy.
This paper analyses the effects of open market operations on interest rates in a model in which agents must pay a fixed cost to exchange assets and cash. Asset markets are endogenously segmented in that some agents choose to pay the fixed cost and some do not. When the fixed cost is zero, the model reduces to the standard one in which persistent money injections increase nominal interest rates, flatten the yield curve, and lead to a downward-sloping yield curve on average. In contrast, if markets are sufficiently segmented, then persistent money injections decrease interest rates, steepen or even twist the yield curve, and lead to an upward-sloping yield curve on average.
This paper analyzes the effects of money injections on interest rates and exchange rates in a model in which agents must pay a Baumol-Tobin style fixed cost to exchange bonds and money. Asset markets are endogenously segmented because this fixed cost leads agents to trade bonds and money only infrequently. When the government injects money through an open market operation, only those agents that are currently trading absorb these injections. Through their impact on these agents’ consumption, these money injections affect real interest rates and real exchange rates. We show that the model generates the observed negative relation between expected inflation and real interest rates. With moderate amounts of segmentation, the model also generates other observed features of the data: persistent liquidity effects in interest rates and volatile and persistent exchange rates. A standard model with no fixed costs can produce none of these features.
We analyze the optimal design of monetary rules. We suppose there is an agreed upon social welfare function that depends on the randomly fluctuating state of the economy and that the monetary authority has private information about that state. We suppose the government can constrain the policies of the monetary authority by legislating a rule. In general, well-designed rules trade-off the need to constrain policymakers from the standard time consistency problem arising from the temptation for unexpected inflation with the desire to give them flexibility to react to their private information. Surprisingly, we show that for a wide variety of circumstances the optimal rule gives the monetary authority no flexibility. This rule can be interpreted as a strict inflation targeting rule where the target is a prespecified function of publicly observed data. In this sense, optimal monetary policy is transparent.
A classic question in international economics is whether it is better to use the exchange rate or the money growth rate as the instrument of monetary policy. A common argument is that the exchange rate has a natural advantage since exchange rates provide signals of policymakers’ actions that are easier to monitor than those provided by money growth rates. We formalize this argument in a simple model in which the government chooses which instrument it will use to target inflation. In it, the exchange rate is more transparent than the money growth rate in that the exchange rate is easier for the public to monitor. We find that the greater transparency of the exchange rate regime makes it easier to provide the central bank with incentives to pursue good policies and hence gives this regime a natural advantage over the money regime.
How much discretion is it optimal to give the monetary authority in setting its policy? We analyze this mechanism design question in an economy with an agreed-upon social welfare function that depends on the randomly fluctuating state of the economy. The monetary authority has private information about that state. In the model, well-designed rules trade off society’s desire to give the monetary authority flexibility to react to its private information against society’s need to guard against the standard time inconsistency problem arising from the temptation to stimulate the economy with unexpected inflation. We find that the optimal degree of monetary policy discretion is decreasing in the severity of the time inconsistency problem. As this problem becomes sufficiently severe, the optimal degree of discretion is none at all. We also find that, despite the apparent complexity of this dynamic mechanism design problem, society can implement the optimal policy simply by legislating an inflation cap that specifies the highest allowable inflation rate.
We construct a model where capital competes with fiat money as a medium of exchange, and we establish conditions on fundamentals under which fiat money can be both valued and socially beneficial. When the socially efficient stock of capital is too low to provide the liquidity agents need, they overaccumulate productive assets to use as media of exchange. When this is the case, there exists a monetary equilibrium that dominates the nonmonetary one in terms of welfare. Under the Friedman Rule, fiat money provides just enough liquidity so that agents choose to accumulate the same capital stock a social planner would.
How much discretion should the monetary authority have in setting its policy? This question is analyzed in an economy with an agreed-upon social welfare function that depends on the randomly fluctuating state of the economy. The monetary authority has private information about that state. In the model, well-designed rules trade off society’s desire to give the monetary authority discretion to react to its private information against society’s need to guard against the time inconsistency problem arising from the temptation to stimulate the economy with unexpected inflation. Although this dynamic mechanism design problem seems complex, society can implement the optimal policy simply by legislating an inflation cap that specifies the highest allowable inflation rate. The more severe the time inconsistency problem and the less important is private information, the smaller is the optimal degree of discretion. As either the time inconsistency problem becomes sufficiently severe or private information becomes sufficiently unimportant, the optimal degree of discretion is none.
I develop an asset-pricing model in which financial assets are valued for their liquidity—the extent to which they are useful in facilitating exchange—as well as for being claims to streams of consumption goods. The implications for average asset returns, the equity-premium puzzle and the risk-free rate puzzle, are explored in a version of the model that nests the work of Mehra and Prescott (1985).
Monetary policy instruments differ in tightness—how closely they are linked to inflation—and transparency—how easily they can be monitored. Tightness is always desirable in a monetary policy instrument; when is transparency? When a government cannot commit to follow a given policy. We apply this argument to a classic question: Is the exchange rate or the money growth rate the better monetary policy instrument? We show that if the instruments are equally tight and a government cannot commit to a policy, then the exchange rate’s greater transparency gives it an advantage as a monetary policy instrument.
Theoretical advances in macroeconomics made in the last three decades have had a major influence on macroeconomic policy analysis. Moreover, over the last several decades, the United States and other countries have undertaken a variety of policy changes that are precisely what macroeconomic theory of the last 30 years suggests. The three key developments that have shaped macroeconomic policy analysis are the Lucas critique of policy evaluation due to Robert Lucas, the time inconsistency critique of discretionary policy due to Finn Kydland and Edward Prescott, and the development of quantitative dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models following Finn Kydland and Edward Prescott.
I characterize time consistent equilibrium in an economy with price rigidity and an optimizing monetary authority operating under discretion. Firms have the option to increase their frequency of price change, at a cost, in response to higher inflation. Previous studies, which assume a constant degree of price rigidity across inflation regimes, find two time consistent equilibria—one with low inflation, the other with high inflation. In contrast, when price rigidity is endogenous, the high inflation equilibrium ceases to exist. Hence, time consistent equilibrium is unique. This result depends on two features of the analysis: (1) a plausible quantitative specification of the fixed cost of price change, and (2) the presence of an arbitrarily small cost of inflation that is independent of price rigidity.
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.
The possibility of regime shifts in monetary policy can have important effects on rational agents’ expectation formation and equilibrium dynamics. In a DSGE model where the monetary policy rule switches between a dovish regime that accommodates inflation and a hawkish regime that stabilizes inflation, the expectation effect is asymmetric across regimes. Such an asymmetric effect makes it difficult, but still possible, to generate substantial reductions in the volatilities of inflation and output as the monetary policy switches from the dovish regime to the hawkish regime.
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.
In this article, we analyze the implications of price-setting restrictions for the conduct of cyclical fiscal and monetary policy. We consider standard monetary economies that differ in the price-setting restrictions imposed on the firms. We show that, independently of the degree or type of price stickiness, it is possible to implement the same efficient set of allocations and that each allocation in that set is implemented with policies that are also independent of the price stickiness. In this sense, environments with different price-setting restrictions are equivalent.
We present a pricing kernel that summarizes well the main features of the dynamics of interest rates and risk in postwar U.S. data and use it to uncover how the pricing kernel has moved with the short rate. Our findings imply that standard monetary models miss an essential link between the central bank instrument and the economic activity that monetary policy is intended to affect, and thus we call for a new approach to monetary policy analysis. We sketch a new approach using an economic model based on our pricing kernel. The model incorporates the key relationships between policy and risk movements in an unconventional way: the central bank’s policy changes are viewed as primarily intended to compensate for exogenous business cycle fluctuations in risk that threaten to push inflation off target. This model, while an improvement over standard models, is considered just a starting point for their revision.
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.
In standard approaches to monetary policy, interest rate rules often lead to indeterminacy. Sophisticated policies, which depend on the history of private actions and can differ on and off the equilibrium path, can eliminate indeterminacy and uniquely implement any desired competitive equilibrium. Two types of sophisticated policies illustrate our approach. Both use interest rates as the policy instrument along the equilibrium path. But when agents deviate from that path, the regime switches, in one example to money; in the other, to a hybrid rule. Both lead to unique implementation, while pure interest rate rules do not. We argue that adherence to the Taylor principle is neither necessary nor sufficient for unique implementation with pure interest rate rules but is sufficient with hybrid rules. Our results are robust to imperfect information and may provide a rationale for empirical work on monetary policy rules and determinacy.
Why do some sellers set nominal prices that apparently do not respond to changes in the aggregate price level? In many models, prices are sticky by assumption; here it is a result. We use search theory, with two consequences: prices are set in dollars, since money is the medium of exchange; and equilibrium implies a nondegenerate price distribution. When the money supply increases, some sellers may keep prices constant, earning less per unit but making it up on volume, so profit stays constant. The calibrated model matches price-change data well. But, in contrast with other sticky-price models, money is neutral.
This paper develops a model with partial insurance against idiosyncratic wage shocks to quantify risk sharing, and to decompose inequality into life-cycle shocks versus initial heterogeneity in preferences and productivity. Closed-form solutions are obtained for equilibrium allocations and for moments of the joint distribution of consumption, hours, and wages. We prove identification and estimate the model with data from the CEX and the PSID over the period 1967–2006. We find that (i) 40% of permanent wage shocks pass through to consumption; (ii) the share of wage risk insured privately increased until the early 1980s and remained stable thereafter; (iii) life-cycle productivity shocks account for half of the cross-sectional variance of wages and earnings, but for much less of dispersion in consumption or hours worked.
When the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates binds, monetary policy cannot provide appropriate stimulus. We show that, in the standard New Keynesian model, tax policy can deliver such stimulus at no cost and in a time-consistent manner. There is no need to use inefficient policies such as wasteful public spending or future commitments to low interest rates.
We analyze optimal policy in a simple small open economy model with price setting frictions. In particular, we study the optimal response of the nominal exchange rate following a terms of trade shock. We depart from the New Keynesian literature in that we explicitly model interna-tionally traded commodities as intermediate inputs in the production of local final goods and assume that the small open economy takes this price as given. This modification not only is in line with the long-standing tradition of small open economy models, but also changes the optimal movements in the exchange rate. In contrast with the recent small open economy New Keynesian literature, our model is able to reproduce the comovement between the nominal exchange rate and the price of exports, as it has been documented in the commodity currencies literature. Although we show there are preferences for which price stability is optimal even without flexible fiscal instruments, our model suggests that more attention should be given to the coordination between monetary and fiscal policy (taxes) in small open economies that are heavily dependent on exports of commodities. The model we propose is a useful framework in which to study fear of floating.
This paper makes two straightforward points that we argue are central to understanding the literature and debate surrounding the stability of the Phillips curve. First, the endogeneity of monetary policy implies that aggregate data are largely uninformative as to the existence of a stable relationship between unemployment and future inflation. Second, if the NAIRU model is assumed to be true, regional data can be used to identify the structural relationship between unemployment and future inflation. We find that a 1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate is associated with a roughly 0.3 percentage point decline in inflation over the next year.
We study a model with heterogeneous producers that face collateral and cash-in-advance constraints. These two frictions give rise to a nontrivial financial market in a monetary economy. A tightening of the collateral constraint results in a recession generated by a credit crunch. The model can be used to study the effects on the main macroeconomic variables, and on the welfare of each individual of alternative monetary and fiscal policies following the credit crunch. The model reproduces several features of the recent financial crisis, such as the persistent negative real interest rates, the prolonged period at the zero bound for the nominal interest rate, and the collapse in investment and low inflation in spite of the very large increases in liquidity adopted by the government. The policy implications are in sharp contrast to the prevalent view in most central banks, which is based on the New Keynesian explanation of the liquidity trap.
We study a model with heterogeneous producers that face collateral and cash-in-advance constraints. A tightening of the collateral constraint results in a credit-crunch-generated recession that reproduces several features of the ﬁnancial crisis that unraveled in 2007 in the United States. The model can be used to study the effects of the credit-crunch on the main macroeconomic variables and the impact of alternative policies. The policy implications regarding forward guidance are in contrast with the prevalent view in most central banks, based on the New Keynesian explanation of the liquidity trap.
This paper formalizes and quantifies the secular stagnation hypothesis, defined as a persistently low or negative natural rate of interest leading to a chronically binding zero lower bound (ZLB). Output-inflation dynamics and policy prescriptions are fundamentally different from those in the standard New Keynesian framework. Using a 56-period quantitative life cycle model, a standard calibration to US data delivers a natural rate ranging from -1.5% to -2%, implying an elevated risk of ZLB episodes for the foreseeable future. We decompose the contribution of demographic and technological factors to the decline in interest rates since 1970 and quantify changes required to restore higher rates.
Between 2007 and 2013, U.S. households experienced a large and persistent decline in net worth. The objective of this paper is to study the business cycle implications of such a decline. We first develop a tractable monetary model in which households face idiosyncratic unemployment risk that they can partially self-insure using savings. A low level of liquid household wealth opens the door to self-fullfilling fluctuations: if wealth-poor households expect high unemployment, they have a strong precautionary incentive to cut spending, which can make the expectation of high unemployment a reality. Monetary policy, because of the zero lower bound, cannot rule out such expectations-driven recessions. In contrast, when wealth is sufficiently high, an aggressive monetary policy can keep the economy at full employment. Finally, we document that during the U.S. Great Recession wealth-poor households increased saving more sharply than richer households, pointing towards the importance of the precautionary channel over this period.
We develop a new tractable model of banks' liquidity management and the credit channel of monetary policy. Banks finance loans by issuing demand deposits. Because loans are illiquid, deposit transfers across banks must be settled with reserves. Deposit withdrawals are random, and banks manage liquidity risk by holding a precautionary buffer of reserves. We show how different shocks affect the banking system by altering the trade-off between profiting from lending and incurring greater liquidity risk. Through various tools, monetary policy affects the real economy by altering that trade-off. In a quantitative application, we study the driving forces behind the decline in lending and liquidity hoarding by banks during the 2008 financial crisis. Our analysis underscores the importance of disruptions in interbank markets followed by a persistent decline in credit demand.
Modern business cycle theory focuses on the study of dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models that generate aggregate fluctuations similar to those experienced by actual economies. We discuss how this theory has evolved from its roots in the early real business cycle models of the late 1970s through the turmoil of the Great Recession four decades later. We document the strikingly different pattern of comovements of macro aggregates during the Great Recession compared to other postwar recessions, especially the 1982 recession. We then show how two versions of the latest generation of real business cycle models can account, respectively, for the aggregate and the cross-regional fluctuations observed in the Great Recession in the United States.
We provide empirical evidence of a novel liquidity-based transmission mechanism through which monetary policy influences asset markets, develop a model of this mechanism, and assess the ability of the quantitative theory to match the evidence.
After the economic reforms that followed the National Revolution of the 1950s, Bolivia seemed positioned for sustained growth. Indeed, it achieved unprecedented growth from 1960 to 1977. Mistakes in economic policies, especially the rapid accumulation of debt due to persistent deficits and a fixed exchange rate policy during the 1970s, led to a debt crisis that began in 1977. From 1977 to 1986, Bolivia lost almost all the gains in GDP per capita that it had achieved since 1960. In 1986, Bolivia started to grow again, interrupted only by the financial crisis of 1998–2002, which was the result of a drop in the availability of external financing. Bolivia has grown since 2002, but government policies since 2006 are reminiscent of the policies of the 1970s that led to the debt crisis, in particular, the accumulation of external debt and the drop in international reserves due to a de facto fixed exchange rate since 2012.
Following the sovereign debt crisis of 2012, some southern European countries have debated proposals to leave the Euro. We evaluate this policy change in a standard monetary model with seigniorage financing of the deficit. The main novel feature is that we depart from rational expectations while maintaining full rationality of agents in a sense made very precise. Our first contribution is to show that small departures from rational expectations imply that inflation upon exit can be orders of magnitude higher than under rational expectations. Our second contribution is to provide a framework for policy analysis in models without rational expectations.