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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, 2013. "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. Orphanides, Athanasios & Williams, John C., 2008. "Learning, expectations formation, and the pitfalls of optimal control monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(Supplemen), pages 80-96, October.
    2. 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.
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    6. 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.
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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: Sylvester Eijffinger & Donato Masciandaro (ed.), 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. Taylor, John B. & Williams, John C., 2010. "Simple and Robust Rules for Monetary Policy," Handbook of Monetary Economics, in: Benjamin M. Friedman & Michael Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Monetary Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 15, pages 829-859, Elsevier.
    6. John C. Williams, 2015. "The view from here: outlook and monetary policy," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    7. Stephanie Aaronson & Mary C. Daly & William L. Wascher & David W. Wilcox, 2019. "Okun Revisited: Who Benefits Most from a Strong Economy," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2019-072, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    8. Aurélien Goutsmedt & Goulven Rubin, 2018. "Robert J. Gordon and the introduction of the natural rate hypothesis in the Keynesian framework," Post-Print halshs-01821825, HAL.
    9. 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, Prague University of Economics and Business, vol. 2014(1), pages 49-66.
    10. 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.
    11. Athanasios Orphanides, 2011. "New Paradigms in Central Banking?," Working Papers 2011-6, Central Bank of Cyprus.
    12. Jerome H. Powell, 2018. "Monetary Policy in a Changing Economy: a speech at \"Changing Market Structure and Implications for Monetary Policy,\" a symposium sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Jacks," Speech 1010, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    13. Peter Hooper & Frederic S. Mishkin & Amir Sufi, 2019. "Prospects for Inflation in a High Pressure Economy: Is the Phillips Curve Dead or is It Just Hibernating?," NBER Working Papers 25792, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Jerome H. Powell, 2021. "Monetary Policy in the Time of COVID," Speech 93064, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    15. Aristidou, Chrystalleni, 2018. "The meta-Phillips Curve: Modelling U.S. inflation in the presence of regime change," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 367-379.
    16. Hooper, Peter & Mishkin, Frederic S. & Sufi, Amir, 2020. "Prospects for inflation in a high pressure economy: Is the Phillips curve dead or is it just hibernating?," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 26-62.
    17. 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.
    18. Simon Gilchrist & Egon Zakrajšek, 2020. "Trade Exposure and the Evolution of Inflation Dynamics," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series, in: Gonzalo Castex & Jordi Galí & Diego Saravia (ed.),Changing Inflation Dynamics,Evolving Monetary Policy, edition 1, volume 27, chapter 6, pages 173-226, Central Bank of Chile.
    19. Rieder, Kilian, 2022. "Monetary policy decision-making by committee: Why, when and how it can work," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).

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    JEL classification:

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

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