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The Trilemma in History:Tradeoffs among Exchange Rates, Monetary Policies,and Capital Mobility

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  • Maurice Obstfeld
  • Jay C.Shambaugh
  • Alan M.Taylor

Abstract

Recently, the political economy of macroeconomic policy choice has increasingly been guided by the simple prescriptions of the classic trilemma. For example, policymakers often speak of the hollowing out of exchange rate regimes in a world of unstoppable capital mobility; and policy autonomy and a fixed nominal anchor present an unpleasant dichotomy for emerging markets beset by the fear of floating. Yet the trilemma is not an uncontroversial maxim, and its empirical foundations deserve greater attention. Some authors (e.g., Calvo and Reinhart 2001, 2002) have argued that under the modern float there could be limited policy autonomy given the rapid international transmission of interest rate shocks; others (e.g., Bordo and Flandreau 2003) that even under the classical gold standard there actually was considerable policy autonomy given the gold point spread and the use of gold devices and other tricks. Such arguments turn the trilemma on its head. Resolving this debate is ultimately an empirical matter, where the broadest span of data should be scrutinized. Using new techniques to study the coherence of international interest rates at high frequency, in conjunction with an examination of capital mobility policies and a data-based classification of exchange rate regimes, we look at the empirical content of the trilemma based on consistent data over 130+ years. On the whole, the predictions of this influential adage are borne out by history.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Netherlands Central Bank in its series DNB Staff Reports (discontinued) with number 94.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:dnb:staffs:94

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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Falso trilema (para econs)
    by Javier Finkman in Exabruptos on 2010-05-14 09:24:00
  2. Blogs review: Navigating the open economy trilemma
    by ? in Bruegel blog on 2013-10-01 08:15:34
  3. China's Capital Controls and the Exchange Rate Regime
    by Steve Cecchetti and Kim Schoenholtz in Money, Banking and Financial Markets on 2014-08-28 12:12:18
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