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Monetary policy mistakes and the evolution of inflation expectations

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  • Athanasios Orphanides
  • John C. Williams

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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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Paper Series with number 2010-12.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2010-12

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Keywords: Monetary policy ; Inflation (Finance);

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References

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  1. Orphanides, Athanasios, 1999. "The Quest for Prosperity Without Inflation," Working Paper Series 93, Sveriges Riksbank (Central Bank of Sweden).
  2. 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.).
  3. 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.
  4. Lindsey, David E & Orphanides, Athanasios & Rasche, Robert H, 2005. "The Reform of October 1979: How it Happened and Why," CEPR Discussion Papers 4866, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Orphanides, Athanasios & Williams, John C, 2005. "The Decline of Activist Stabilization Policy: Natural Rate Misperceptions, Learning and Expectations," CEPR Discussion Papers 4865, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Orphanides, Athanasios & Williams, John C., 2003. "Imperfect knowledge, inflation expectations, and monetary policy," CFS Working Paper Series 2003/40, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  7. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2007. "Inflation targeting under imperfect knowledge," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, pages 1-23.
  8. Marc Giannoni & Michael Woodford, 2004. "Optimal Inflation-Targeting Rules," NBER Chapters, in: The Inflation-Targeting Debate, pages 93-172 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2008. "Imperfect Knowledge and the Pitfalls of Optimal Control Monetary Policy," Working Papers 2008-5, Central Bank of Cyprus.
  11. 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.
  12. Branch, William A. & Evans, George W., 2006. "A simple recursive forecasting model," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 158-166, May.
  13. Milani, Fabio, 2007. "Expectations, learning and macroeconomic persistence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 2065-2082, October.
  14. Croushore, Dean & Stark, Tom, 2001. "A real-time data set for macroeconomists," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 111-130, November.
  15. 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.
  16. Marvin Goodfriend & Robert King, 2005. "The Incredible Volcker Disinflation," NBER Working Papers 11562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. 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.
  18. Dean Croushore, 1993. "Introducing: the survey of professional forecasters," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Nov, pages 3-15.
  19. 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.).
  20. 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.
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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," Working Paper Series 37_12, The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
  2. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2010. "Monetary Policy Lessons from the Crisis," CEPR Discussion Papers 7891, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Athanasios Orphanides, 2012. "New Paradigms in Central Banking?," Chapters in SUERF Studies, SUERF - The European Money and Finance Forum.

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