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Monetary Policy Mistakes and the Evolution of Inflation Expectations

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  • Orphanides, Athanasios
  • Williams, John C

Abstract

What monetary policy framework, if adopted by the Federal Reserve, would have avoided the Great Inflation of the 1960s and 1970s? We use counterfactual simulations of an estimated model of the U.S. economy to evaluate alternative monetary policy strategies. We show that policies constructed using modern optimal control techniques aimed at stabilizing inflation, economic activity, and interest rates would have succeeded in achieving a high degree of economic stability as well as price stability only if the Federal Reserve had possessed excellent information regarding the structure of the economy or if it had acted as if it placed relatively low weight on stabilizing the real economy. Neither condition held true. We document that policymakers at the time both had an overly optimistic view of the natural rate of unemployment and put a high priority on achieving full employment. We show that in the presence of realistic informational imperfections and with an emphasis on stabilizing economic activity, an optimal control approach would have failed to keep inflation expectations well anchored, resulting in highly volatile inflation during the 1970s. Finally, we show that a strategy of following a robust first-difference policy rule would have been highly successful in the presence of informational imperfections. This robust monetary policy rule yields simulated outcomes that are close to those seen during the period of the Great Moderation starting in the mid-1980s.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7892.

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Date of creation: Jun 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7892

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Keywords: Great Inflation; model uncertainty; natural rate of unemployment; rational expectations; robust control;

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References

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  1. Marvin Goodfriend & Robert G. King, 2005. "The Incredible Volcker Disinflation," Boston University - Department of Economics - Macroeconomics Working Papers Series WP2005-007, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  2. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2003. "The quest for prosperity without inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 633-663, April.
  3. Lindsay, David E. & Orphanides, Athanasios & Rasche, Robert H., 2004. "The reform of October 1979: How it happened and why," CFS Working Paper Series 2005/01, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  4. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2008. "Imperfect Knowledge and the Pitfalls of Optimal Control Monetary Policy," Working Papers 2008-5, Central Bank of Cyprus.
  5. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2006. "Inflation targeting under imperfect knowledge," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2006-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  6. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2004. "The decline of activist stabilization policy: natural rate misperceptions, learning, and expectations," International Finance Discussion Papers 804, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  7. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2002. "Robust Monetary Policy Rules with Unknown Natural Rates," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 33(2), pages 63-146.
  8. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2003. "Imperfect Knowledge, Inflation Expectations, and Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 9884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Herbert Stein, 1996. "A Successful Accident: Recollections and Speculations about the CEA," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 3-21, Summer.
  10. Dean Croushore & Tom Stark, 1999. "A real-time data set for macroeconomists," Working Papers 99-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  11. Fabio Milani, 2005. "Expectations, Learning and Macroeconomic Persistence," Macroeconomics 0510022, EconWPA.
  12. Athanasios Orphanides, 2002. "Monetary policy rules and the Great Inflation," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-8, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  13. Robert J. Tetlow, 2010. "Real-time model uncertainty in the United States: 'Robust' policies put to the test," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-15, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  14. John C. Williams & Andrew T. Levin, 2003. "Robust Monetary Policy with Competing Reference Models," Computing in Economics and Finance 2003 291, Society for Computational Economics.
  15. Kalchbrenner, J H & Tinsley, Peter A, 1976. "On the Use of Feedback Control in the Design of Aggregate Monetary Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 349-55, May.
  16. Dean Croushore, 1993. "Introducing: the survey of professional forecasters," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Nov, pages 3-15.
  17. Branch, William A. & Evans, George W., 2006. "A simple recursive forecasting model," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 158-166, May.
  18. Marc P. Giannoni & Michael Woodford, 2003. "Optimal Inflation Targeting Rules," NBER Working Papers 9939, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Franco Modigliani & Lucas Papademos, 1975. "Targets for Monetary Policy in the Coming Year," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 6(1), pages 141-166.
  20. Schmidt-Hebbel, Klaus & Tapia, Matias, 2002. "Inflation targeting in Chile," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 125-146, August.
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Cited by:
  1. M. Hashem Pesaran & Ron P. Smith, 2012. "Counterfactual Analysis in Macroeconometrics: An Empirical Investigation into the Effects of Quantitative Easing," CESifo Working Paper Series 3879, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Athanasios Orphanides, 2010. "Monetary Policy Lessons from the Crisis," Working Papers 2010-1, Central Bank of Cyprus.
  3. Athanasios Orphanides, 2012. "New Paradigms in Central Banking?," Chapters in SUERF Studies, SUERF - The European Money and Finance Forum.

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