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The incredible Volcker disinflation

  • Goodfriend, Marvin
  • King, Robert G.

The reduction in inflation that occurred in the early 1980s, when the Federal Reserve was headed by Paul Volcker, is arguably the most widely discussed and visible macroeconomic event of the last 50 years of U.S. history. Inflation had been dramatically rising, but under Volcker, the Fed first contained and then reversed this process. Using a simple modern macroeconomic model, we argue that the real effects of the Volcker disinflation were mainly due to its imperfect credibility. In our view, the observed upward volatility and subsequent stubborn elevation of long-term interest rates during the disinflation are key indicators of its imperfect credibility. Studying transcripts of the Federal Open Market Committee recently released to the public, we find — to our surprise — that Volcker and other FOMC members likewise regarded the long-term interest rates as indicative of inflation expectations and of the credibility of their disinflationary policy. Drawing from the transcripts and other contemporary sources, we consider the interplay of monetary targets, operating procedures, and credibility during the Volcker disinflation.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Monetary Economics.

Volume (Year): 52 (2005)
Issue (Month): 5 (July)
Pages: 981-1015

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Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:52:y:2005:i:5:p:981-1015
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505566

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  1. Christopher J. Erceg and Andrew T. Levin, 2001. "Imperfect Credibility and Inflation Persistence," Computing in Economics and Finance 2001 19, Society for Computational Economics.
  2. Ball, Laurence, 1995. "Disinflation with imperfect credibility," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 5-23, February.
  3. Romer, Christina D. & Romer, David H., 1989. "Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt5h07k8vf, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  4. Marvin Goodfriend & Robert King, 1997. "The New Neoclassical Synthesis and the Role of Monetary Policy," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 231-296 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  13. Parkin, Michael, 1978. "A Comparison of Alternative Techniques of Monetary Control under Rational Expectations," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 46(3), pages 252-87, September.
  14. Sargent, Thomas J & Wallace, Neil, 1975. ""Rational" Expectations, the Optimal Monetary Instrument, and the Optimal Money Supply Rule," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(2), pages 241-54, April.
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