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Activist vs. non-activist monetary policy: optimal rules under extreme uncertainty

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  • Peter von zur Muehlen

Abstract

This paper analyzes the optimality of reactive feedback rules advocated by neo-Keynesians, and constant money growth rules proposed by monetarists. The basis for this controversy is not merely a disagreement concerning sources and impacts of uncertainty in the economy, but also an apparent fundamental difference in the attitude toward uncertainty about models. To address these differences, this paper compares the relative reactiveness of a monetary policy instrument to conditioning information for two starkly differing versions of model uncertainty about the model and the data driving it: Bayesian uncertainty that assumes known probability distributions for a model's parameters and the data Knightian uncertainty that does not. In the latter case, the policy maker copes with extreme uncertainty by playing a mental game against "natuare," using minmax strategies. Contrary to common intuition, extreme uncertainty about a model's parameters does not necessarily imply less responsiveness to conditioning information--here represented by the lagged gap between nominal income growth and its trend--and it certainly does not justify constancy of money growth except in an extreme version of Brainard's (1967) result. A partial constant growth rule can be derived in only one special case: if the conditioning variable in the feedback rule is also uncertain in either Bayesian or Knightian senses and the authority used Neyman-Pearson likelihood ratio tests to distinguish noise from information with each new observation.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2001-02.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2001-02

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Keywords: Monetary policy ; Econometric models;

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References

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  1. Gordon, Robert J, 1977. "The Theory of Domestic Inflation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(1), pages 128-34, February.
  2. Modigliani, Franco, 1977. "The Monetarist Controversy or, Should We Forsake Stabilization Policies?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 1-19, March.
  3. P.A.V.B. Swamy & P.A. Tinsley, 1976. "Linear prediction and estimation methods for regression models with stationary stochastic coefficients," Special Studies Papers 78, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Calvo, Guillermo A, 1978. "On the Time Consistency of Optimal Policy in a Monetary Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1411-28, November.
  5. Milton Friedman, 1971. "A Theoretical Framework for Monetary Analysis," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie71-1, July.
  6. Tinsley, P. & Von Zur Muehlen, P., 1981. "A maximum probability approach to short-run policy," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 31-48, January.
  7. Buiter, Willem H, 1981. "The Superiority of Contingent Rules over Fixed Rules in Models with Rational Expectations," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 91(363), pages 647-70, September.
  8. Barro, Robert J., 1976. "Rational expectations and the role of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 1-32, January.
  9. P.A.V.B. Swamy & J.R. Barth & P.A. Tinsley, 1980. "The rational expectations approach to economic modelling," Special Studies Papers 143, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. Herschel I. Grossman, 1980. "Rational Expectations, Business Cycles, and Government Behavior," NBER Chapters, in: Rational Expectations and Economic Policy, pages 5-22 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
  12. Fischer, Stanley, 1977. "Long-Term Contracts, Rational Expectations, and the Optimal Money Supply Rule," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 191-205, February.
  13. J.H. Kalchbrenner & P.A. Tinsley, 1976. "On the use of optimal control in the design of monetary policy," Special Studies Papers 76, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  14. Howitt, Peter W, 1981. "Activist Monetary Policy under Rational Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 249-69, April.
  15. Taylor, John B, 1975. "Monetary Policy during a Transition to Rational Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(5), pages 1009-21, October.
  16. Craine, Roger & Havenner, Arthur & Berry, James, 1978. "Fixed Rules vs. Activism in the Conduct of Monetary Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(5), pages 769-83, December.
  17. Craine, Roger, 1979. "Optimal monetary policy with uncertainty," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 59-83, February.
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