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Simple versus optimal rules as guides to policy

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  • William A. Brock
  • Steven N. Durlauf
  • James M. Nason
  • Giacomo Rondina

Abstract

This paper contributes to the policy evaluation literature by developing new strategies to study alternative policy rules. We compare optimal rules to simple rules within canonical monetary policy models. In our context, an optimal rule represents the solution to an intertemporal optimization problem in which a loss function for the policymaker and an explicit model of the macroeconomy are specified. We define a simple rule to be a summary of the intuition policymakers and economists have about how a central bank should react to aggregate disturbances. The policy rules are evaluated under minimax and minimax regret criteria. These criteria force the policymaker to guard against a worst-case scenario, but in different ways. Minimax makes the worst possible model the benchmark for the policymaker, while minimax regret confronts the policymaker with uncertainty about the true model. Our results indicate that the case for a model-specific optimal rule can break down when uncertainty exists about which of several models is true. Further, we show that the assumption that the policymaker’s loss function is known can obscure policy trade-offs that exist in the short, medium, and long run. Thus, policy evaluation is more difficult once it is recognized that model and preference uncertainty can interact.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in its series Working Paper with number 2007-07.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2007-07

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References

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  1. Glenn D. Rudebusch & Lars E. O. Svensson, 1998. "Policy Rules for Inflation Targeting," NBER Working Papers 6512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jörg Stoye, 2011. "Statistical decisions under ambiguity," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 70(2), pages 129-148, February.
  3. McCallum, Bennett T., 1999. "Issues in the design of monetary policy rules," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 23, pages 1483-1530 Elsevier.
  4. Jordi Gali & Mark Gertler, 2000. "Inflation Dynamics: A Structural Econometric Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7551, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Taylor, John B., 1993. "Discretion versus policy rules in practice," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 195-214, December.
  9. Brock, William A. & Durlauf, Steven N. & West, Kenneth D., 2007. "Model uncertainty and policy evaluation: Some theory and empirics," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 136(2), pages 629-664, February.
  10. Brock,W.A. & Durlauf,S.N., 2003. "Elements of a theory of design limits to optimal policy," Working papers 25, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  11. Charles F. Manski, 2006. "Search Profiling With Partial Knowledge of Deterrence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(515), pages F385-F401, November.
  12. Richard Clarida & Jordi Gali & Mark Gertler, 1999. "The Science of Monetary Policy: A New Keynesian Perspective," NBER Working Papers 7147, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Charles Manski, 2003. "Statistical treatment rules for heterogeneous populations," CeMMAP working papers CWP03/03, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  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. Svensson, Lars E O & Williams, Noah, 2007. "Monetary Policy with Model Uncertainty: Distribution Forecast Targeting," CEPR Discussion Papers 6331, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Onatski, Alexei & Williams, Noah, 2002. "Modeling model uncertainty," Working Paper Series 0169, European Central Bank.
  17. Lars E. O. Svensson, 2003. "What Is Wrong with Taylor Rules? Using Judgment in Monetary Policy through Targeting Rules," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(2), pages 426-477, June.
  18. Brock,W.A. & Durlauf,S.N., 2004. "Local robustness analysis : theory and application," Working papers 22, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  19. Giannoni, Marc P., 2002. "Does Model Uncertainty Justify Caution? Robust Optimal Monetary Policy In A Forward-Looking Model," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(01), pages 111-144, February.
  20. Brock, William A. & Durlauf, Steven N. & Rondina, Giacomo, 2013. "Design limits and dynamic policy analysis," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 2710-2728.
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