IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Heeding Daedalus: Optimal Inflation and the Zero Lower Bound

  • John C. Williams

This paper reexamines the implications of the zero lower bound on interest rates for monetary policy and the optimal choice of steady-state inflation in light of the experience of the recent global recession. There are two main findings. First, the zero lower bound did not materially contribute to the sharp declines in output in the United States and many other economies through the end of 2008, but it is a significant factor slowing recovery. Model simulations imply that an additional 4 percentage points of rate cuts would have kept the unemployment rate from rising as much as it has and would bring the unemployment and inflation rates more quickly to steady-state values, but the zero bound precludes these actions. This inability to lower interest rates comes at the cost of $1.7 trillion of foregone output over four years. Second, if recent events are a harbinger of a significantly more adverse macroeconomic climate than experienced over the preceding two decades, then a 2 percent steady-state inflation rate may provide an inadequate buffer to keep the zero bound from having noticeable deleterious effects on the macroeconomy assuming the central bank follows the standard Taylor Rule. In such an adverse environment, stronger systematic countercyclical fiscal policy and/or alternative monetary policy strategies can mitigate the harmful effects of the zero bound with a 2 percent inflation target. However, even with such policies, an inflation target of 1 percent or lower could entail significant costs in terms of macroeconomic volatility.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/Programs/ES/BPEA/2009_fall_bpea_papers/2009b_bpea_williams.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Article provided by Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution in its journal Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.

Volume (Year): 40 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (Fall) ()
Pages: 1-49

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:bin:bpeajo:v:40:y:2009:i:2009-02:p:1-49
Contact details of provider: Postal: 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC 20036
Phone: (202) 797-6000
Fax: (202) 797-6004
Web page: http://www.brookings.edu/economics.aspx
Email:


More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. André Meier, 2009. "Panacea, Curse, or Nonevent? Unconventional Monetary Policy in the United Kingdom," IMF Working Papers 09/163, International Monetary Fund.
  2. John C Williams & Athanasios Orphanides, 2005. "Robust Monetary Policy with Imperfect Knowledge," Computing in Economics and Finance 2005 400, Society for Computational Economics.
  3. Jeffrey A. Frankel & Francesco Giavazzi, 2002. "International Seminar on Macroeconomics," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fran02-1, May.
  4. Roberto M. Billi & George A. Kahn, 2008. "What is the optimal inflation rate?," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q II, pages 5-28.
  5. Orphanides, Athanasios & Porter, Richard D. & Reifschneider, David & Tetlow, Robert & Finan, Frederico, 2000. "Errors in the measurement of the output gap and the design of monetary policy," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 52(1-2), pages 117-141.
  6. Andrew T. Levin & John C. Williams, 2003. "Robust monetary policy with competing reference models," Working Paper Series 2003-10, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  7. Thomas Laubach, 2009. "New Evidence on the Interest Rate Effects of Budget Deficits and Debt," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(4), pages 858-885, 06.
  8. John B. Carlson & Ben R. Craig & William R. Melick, 2005. "Recovering market expectations of FOMC rate changes with options on federal funds futures," Journal of Futures Markets, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(12), pages 1203-1242, December.
  9. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2002. "Robust monetary policy rules with unknown natural rates," Working Paper Series 2003-01, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  10. Adam, Klaus & Billi, Roberto M., 2004. "Optimal monetary policy under commitment with a zero bound on nominal interest rates," CFS Working Paper Series 2004/13, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  11. Ben S. Bernanke & Vincent R. Reinhart & Brian P. Sack, 2004. "Monetary policy alternatives at the zero bound: an empirical assessment," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2004-48, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. Rudebusch, Glenn D. & Williams, John C., 2009. "Forecasting Recessions: The Puzzle of the Enduring Power of the Yield Curve," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 27(4), pages 492-503.
  13. John C. Williams, 2009. "The risk of deflation," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue mar27.
  14. Coenen, Günter & Orphanides, Athanasios & Wieland, Volker, 2003. "Price Stability and Monetary Policy Effectiveness when Nominal Interest Rates are Bounded at Zero," CEPR Discussion Papers 3892, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. George W. Evans & Eran Guse & Seppo Honkapohja, 2007. "Liquidity Traps, Learning and Stagnation," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2007-9, University of Oregon Economics Department, revised 05 Jun 2007.
  16. Ben S. Bernanke & Vincent R. Reinhart, 2004. "Conducting Monetary Policy at Very Low Short-Term Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 85-90, May.
  17. Clouse James & Henderson Dale & Orphanides Athanasios & Small David H. & Tinsley P.A., 2003. "Monetary Policy When the Nominal Short-Term Interest Rate is Zero," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-65, September.
  18. Bennett T. McCallum, 2000. "Theoretical analysis regarding a zero lower bound on nominal interest rates," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, pages 870-935.
  19. David Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 1999. "Three lessons for monetary policy in a low inflation era," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-44, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  20. Athanasios Orphanides & Volker Wieland, 1999. "Efficient monetary policy design near price stability," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-67, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  21. John Taylor, 2007. "Housing and Monetary Policy," Discussion Papers 07-003, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  22. Orazio Attanasio & Luigi Guiso & Tullio Jappelli, 1998. "The Demand for Money, Financial Innovation, and the Welfare Cost of Inflation: An Analysis with Households' Data," CSEF Working Papers 03, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  23. Glenn D. Rudebusch, 2009. "The Fed's monetary policy response to the current crisis," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue may22.
  24. Thomas Laubach & John C. Williams, 2001. "Measuring the natural rate of interest," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2001-56, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  25. Reuven Glick & Kevin J. Lansing, 2009. "U.S. household deleveraging and future consumption growth," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue may15.
  26. George A. Akerlof & William R. Dickens & George L. Perry, 1996. "The Macroeconomics of Low Inflation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(1), pages 1-76.
  27. Gauti B. Eggertsson, 2009. "What fiscal policy is effective at zero interest rates?," Staff Reports 402, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  28. Reifschneider, David L. & Roberts, John M., 2006. "Expectations formation and the effectiveness of strategies for limiting the consequences of the zero bound," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 314-337, September.
  29. Bodenstein, Martin & Erceg, Christopher & Guerrieri, Luca, 2010. "The Effects of Foreign Shocks When Interest Rates Are at Zero," CEPR Discussion Papers 8006, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  30. Glenn D. Rudebusch & John C. Williams, 2008. "Revealing the Secrets of the Temple: The Value of Publishing Central Bank Interest Rate Projections," NBER Chapters, in: Asset Prices and Monetary Policy, pages 247-289 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  31. John C. Williams, 2006. "Monetary policy in a low inflation economy with learning," Working Paper Series 2006-30, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  32. Justin Weidner & John C. Williams, 2009. "How big is the output gap?," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue jun12.
  33. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2003. "The Zero Bound on Interest Rates and Optimal Monetary Policy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 139-235.
  34. Flint Brayton & Eileen Mauskopf & David Reifschneider & Peter Tinsley & John Williams, 1997. "The role of expectations in the FRB/US macroeconomic model," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Apr, pages 227-245.
  35. Reifschneider, David & Willams, John C, 2000. "Three Lessons for Monetary Policy in a Low-Inflation Era," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 32(4), pages 936-66, November.
  36. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bin:bpeajo:v:40:y:2009:i:2009-02:p:1-49. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jennifer Ambrosino)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.