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Fear of Liftoff: Uncertainty, Rules, and Discretion in Monetary Policy Normalization

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  • Orphanides, Athanasios

    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Abstract

As the author describes it, the Federal Reserve’s muddled mandate to attain simultaneously the incompatible goals of maximum employment and price stability invites short-term-oriented discretionary policymaking inconsistent with the systematic approach needed for monetary policy to contribute best to the economy over time. Fear of liftoff—the reluctance to start the process of policy normalization after the end of a recession—serves as an example. Drawing on public choice and cognitive psychology perspectives, the author discusses causes of this problem: The Federal Reserve could adopt a framework that relies on a simple policy rule subject to periodic reviews and adaptation. Replacing meetingby- meeting discretion with a simple policy rule would eschew discretion in favor of systematic policy. Periodic review of the rule would allow the Federal Reserve the flexibility to account for and occasionally adapt to the evolving understanding of the economy. Congressional legislation could guide the Federal Reserve in this direction. However, the Federal Reserve may be best placed to select the simple rule and could embrace this improvement on its own, within its current mandate, with the publication of a simple rule along the lines of its statement of longer-run goals.

Suggested Citation

  • Orphanides, Athanasios, 2015. "Fear of Liftoff: Uncertainty, Rules, and Discretion in Monetary Policy Normalization," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 97(3), pages 173-196.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:00042
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stefania D’Amico & William English & David López‐Salido & Edward Nelson, 2012. "The Federal Reserve's Large‐scale Asset Purchase Programmes: Rationale and Effects," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(564), pages 415-446, November.
    2. Goodfriend, Marvin, 2014. "Lessons from a century of FED policy: Why monetary and credit policies need rules and boundaries," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 112-120.
    3. Wieland, Volker & Cwik, Tobias & Müller, Gernot J. & Schmidt, Sebastian & Wolters, Maik, 2012. "A new comparative approach to macroeconomic modeling and policy analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 83(3), pages 523-541.
    4. Bennett T. McCallum, 2004. "Misconceptions Regarding Rules vs. Discretion for Monetary Policy," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 23(3), pages 365-372, Winter.
    5. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2003. "The quest for prosperity without inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 633-663, April.
    6. Hetzel,Robert L., 2008. "The Monetary Policy of the Federal Reserve," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521881326, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bletzinger, Tilman & Wieland, Volker, 2016. "Forward guidance and "lower for longer": The case of the ECB," CEPR Discussion Papers 11117, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Lucio Gobbi & Ronny Mazzocchi & Roberto Tamborini, 2018. "Monetary policy, de-anchoring of inflation expectations, and the 'new normal'," DEM Working Papers 2018/04, Department of Economics and Management.
    3. Federico Favaretto & Donato Masciandaro, 2016. "Too Little, Too Late? Monetary Policymaking Inertia and Psychology: A Behavioral Model," BAFFI CAREFIN Working Papers 1617, BAFFI CAREFIN, Centre for Applied Research on International Markets Banking Finance and Regulation, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    4. Łyziak, Tomasz & Paloviita, Maritta, 2017. "Anchoring of inflation expectations in the euro area: Recent evidence based on survey data," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 52-73.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination

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