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Destabilizing Effects of Exchange-Rate Escape Clauses

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  • Maurice Obstfeld

Abstract

This paper studies the merits of policy rules with escape clauses, analyzing as an example fixed exchange-rate systems that allow member countries the freedom to realign in periods of stress. Motivating this example is the debate within the European Monetary System over how quickly to move from the current regime of national currencies, linked by pegged but adjustable exchange rates, to a single European currency. The paper's main point is that while well-designed rules with escape clauses can raise society's welfare in principle, limited credibility makes it difficult for governments to implement such rules in practice. An EMS-type institution - which presumably imposes a political cost on policymakers who realign - may lead to an optimal escape-clause equilibrium, but may just as well lead to alternative equilibria far inferior to an irrevocably fixed exchange rate. Countries can suffer periods in which no realignment occurs, yet unemployment, real wages, and ex post real interest rates remain persistently and suboptimally high.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3603.

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Date of creation: Jan 1991
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Publication status: published as Journal of International Economics, Vol. 43 (August 1997): 61-77.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3603

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  1. Maurice Obstfeld & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 1996. "Foundations of International Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262150476, December.
  2. Maurice Obstfeld, 1994. "The Logic of Currency Crises," NBER Working Papers 4640, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Maurice Obstfeld, 1985. "Floating Exchange Rates: Experience and Prospects," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 16(2), pages 369-464.
  4. Calvo, Guillermo A, 1988. "Servicing the Public Debt: The Role of Expectations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 647-61, September.
  5. Robert P. Flood & Peter Isard, 1990. "Monetary Policy Strategies: A Correction: Reply to Lohmann," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 37(2), pages 446-448, June.
  6. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1993. "Designing institutions for monetary stability," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 53-84, December.
  7. Stanley Fischer, 1995. "The Unending Search for Monetary Salvation," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1995, Volume 10, pages 275-298 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Maurice Obstfeld, 1984. "Rational and Self-Fulfilling Balance-of-Payments Crises," NBER Working Papers 1486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. de Kock, Gabriel & Grilli, Vittorio, 1993. "Fiscal Policies and the Choice of Exchange Rate Regime," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(417), pages 347-58, March.
  10. Susanne Lohmann, 1990. "Monetary Policy Strategies: A Correction: Comment on Flood and Isard," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 37(2), pages 440-445, June.
  11. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-89, November.
  12. Barro, Robert J & Gordon, David B, 1983. "A Positive Theory of Monetary Policy in a Natural Rate Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 589-610, August.
  13. Walsh, Carl E, 1995. "Is New Zealand's Reserve Bank Act of 1989 an Optimal Central Bank Contract?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(4), pages 1179-91, November.
  14. Alesina, Alberto & Tabellini, Guido, 1988. "Credibility and politics," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(2-3), pages 542-550, March.
  15. Robert P. Flood & Peter Isard, 1989. "Monetary Policy Strategies," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 36(3), pages 612-632, September.
  16. Horn, Henrik & Persson, Torsten, 1988. "Exchange rate policy, wage formation and credibility," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 1621-1636, October.
  17. 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.
  18. Walsh, Carl E, 1995. "Optimal Contracts for Central Bankers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 150-67, March.
  19. Lohmann, Susanne, 1992. "Optimal Commitment in Monetary Policy: Credibility versus Flexibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 273-86, March.
  20. Lewis, Karen K., 1989. "On occasional monetary policy coordinations that fix the exchange rate," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1-2), pages 139-155, February.
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