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On the Effectiveness of Monetary Policy and of Fiscal Policy

  • Philip Arestis
  • Malcolm Sawyer

There has been a major shift within macroeconomic policy over the past two decades or so in terms of the relative importance given to monetary policy and to fiscal policy in both policy and theoretical terms. The former has gained considerably in importance, with the latter being rarely mentioned. Furthermore, the nature of monetary policy has shifted away from any attempt to control some monetary aggregate (prevalent in the first half of the 1980s), and instead monetary policy has focused on the setting of interest rates as the key policy instrument. There has also been a general shift towards the adoption of inflation targets and the use of monetary policy to target inflation. This paper considers the significance of this shift in the nature of monetary policy. This enables us to question the effectiveness of monetary policy, and to explore the role of fiscal policy. We examine these questions from the point of view of the "new consensus" in monetary economics and suggest that it is rather limited in its analysis. When the analysis is broadened out to embrace empirical issues and evidence the clear conclusion emerges that monetary policy is relatively impotent. The role of fiscal policy is also considered, and we argue that fiscal policy (under specified conditions) remains a powerful tool for macroeconomic policy. This is particularly an apt conclusion under current economic conditions.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Review of Social Economy.

Volume (Year): 62 (2004)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 441-463

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Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:62:y:2004:i:4:p:441-463
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  1. Bernanke, Ben S. & Gertler, Mark & Gilchrist, Simon, 1999. "The financial accelerator in a quantitative business cycle framework," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 21, pages 1341-1393 Elsevier.
  2. R. Glenn Hubbard & Anil K Kashyap & Toni M. Whited, 1993. "Internal Finance and Firm Investment," NBER Working Papers 4392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Takeo Hoshi & Anil Kashyap & David Scharfstein, 1989. "Corporate structure, liquidity, and investment: evidence from Japanese industrial groups," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 82, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Philip Arestis & Malcolm Sawyer, 2002. "Can Monetary Policy Affect The Real Economy?," Macroeconomics 0209012, EconWPA.
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