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Monetary Policy Mistakes and the Evolution of Inflation Expectations

In: The Great Inflation: The Rebirth of Modern Central Banking

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  • Athanasios Orphanides
  • John C. Williams

Abstract

What monetary policy framework, if adopted by the Federal Reserve, would have avoided the Great Inflation of the 1960s and 1970s? We use counterfactual simulations of an estimated model of the U.S. economy to evaluate alternative monetary policy strategies. We show that policies constructed using modern optimal control techniques aimed at stabilizing inflation, economic activity, and interest rates would have succeeded in achieving a high degree of economic stability as well as price stability only if the Federal Reserve had possessed excellent information regarding the structure of the economy or if it had acted as if it placed relatively low weight on stabilizing the real economy. Neither condition held true. We document that policymakers at the time both had an overly optimistic view of the natural rate of unemployment and put a high priority on achieving full employment. We show that in the presence of realistic informational imperfections and with an emphasis on stabilizing economic activity, an optimal control approach would have failed to keep inflation expectations well anchored, resulting in highly volatile inflation during the 1970s. Finally, we show that a strategy of following a robust first-difference policy rule would have been highly successful in the presence of informational imperfections. This robust monetary policy rule yields simulated outcomes that are close to those seen during the period of the Great Moderation starting in the mid-1980s.
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Suggested Citation

  • Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2012. "Monetary Policy Mistakes and the Evolution of Inflation Expectations," NBER Chapters,in: The Great Inflation: The Rebirth of Modern Central Banking, pages 255-288 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:9176
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Levin, Andrew T. & Williams, John C., 2003. "Robust monetary policy with competing reference models," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(5), pages 945-975, July.
    2. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2009. "Imperfect Knowledge and the Pitfalls of Optimal Control Monetary Policy," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel & Carl E. Walsh & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel (Series (ed.), Monetary Policy under Uncertainty and Learning, edition 1, volume 13, chapter 4, pages 115-144 Central Bank of Chile.
    3. Athanasios Orphanides & John Williams, 2004. "Imperfect Knowledge, Inflation Expectations, and Monetary Policy," NBER Chapters,in: The Inflation-Targeting Debate, pages 201-246 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2007. "Inflation targeting under imperfect knowledge," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, pages 1-23.
    5. Robert J. Tetlow, 2010. "Real-time model uncertainty in the United States: 'Robust' policies put to the test," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-15, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    6. Kalchbrenner, J H & Tinsley, Peter A, 1976. "On the Use of Feedback Control in the Design of Aggregate Monetary Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 349-355, May.
    7. Lindsey, David E. & Orphanides, Athanasios & Rasche, Robert H., 2013. "The Reform of October 1979: How It Happened and Why," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Nov, pages 487-542.
    8. Croushore, Dean & Stark, Tom, 2001. "A real-time data set for macroeconomists," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 111-130, November.
    9. Orphanides, Athanasios & Williams, John C., 2005. "The decline of activist stabilization policy: Natural rate misperceptions, learning, and expectations," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 29(11), pages 1927-1950, November.
    10. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2003. "The quest for prosperity without inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 633-663, April.
    11. Milani, Fabio, 2007. "Expectations, learning and macroeconomic persistence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 2065-2082, October.
    12. Goodfriend, Marvin & King, Robert G., 2005. "The incredible Volcker disinflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(5), pages 981-1015, July.
    13. Herbert Stein, 1996. "A Successful Accident: Recollections and Speculations about the CEA," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 3-21, Summer.
    14. Dean Croushore, 1993. "Introducing: the survey of professional forecasters," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Nov, pages 3-15.
    15. Branch, William A. & Evans, George W., 2006. "A simple recursive forecasting model," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 158-166, May.
    16. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2002. "Robust Monetary Policy Rules with Unknown Natural Rates," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 33(2), pages 63-146.
    17. Franco Modigliani & Lucas Papademos, 1975. "Targets for Monetary Policy in the Coming Year," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 6(1), pages 141-166.
    18. Athanasios Orphanides, 2002. "Monetary-Policy Rules and the Great Inflation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 115-120, May.
    19. Schmidt-Hebbel, Klaus & Tapia, Matias, 2002. "Inflation targeting in Chile," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 125-146, August.
    20. Marc Giannoni & Michael Woodford, 2004. "Optimal Inflation-Targeting Rules," NBER Chapters,in: The Inflation-Targeting Debate, pages 93-172 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Michael D. Bordo & Pierre L. Siklos, 2015. "Central Bank Credibility: An Historical and Quantitative Exploration," NBER Working Papers 20824, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Athanasios Orphanides, 2011. "Monetary Policy Lessons from the Crisis," Chapters,in: Handbook of Central Banking, Financial Regulation and Supervision, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. John C. Williams, 2010. "The Zero Lower Bound: Lessons from the Past Decade," NBER Chapters,in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2009, pages 367-375 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Hashem Pesaran, M. & Smith, Ron P., 2016. "Counterfactual analysis in macroeconometrics: An empirical investigation into the effects of quantitative easing," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 262-280.
    5. Lukáš Pfeifer & Zdeněk Pikhart, 2014. "Vztah finanční a cenové stability v podmínkách ČR
      [The Relationship of Financial and Price Stability in the Context of the Czech Republic]
      ," Politická ekonomie, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2014(1), pages 49-66.
    6. Allan H. Meltzer, 2013. "What's Wrong with the Fed? What Would Restore Independence?," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 33(3), pages 401-416, Fall.
    7. Athanasios Orphanides, 2012. "New Paradigms in Central Banking?," Chapters in SUERF Studies, SUERF - The European Money and Finance Forum.
    8. Davide Debortoli & Ricardo Nunes, 2014. "Monetary Regime Switches and Central Bank Preferences," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 46(8), pages 1591-1626, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy

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