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The Case for Open-Market Purchases in a Liquidity Trap

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  • Auerbach, Alan J.
  • Obstfeld, Maurice

Abstract

Prevalent thinking about liquidity traps suggests that the perfect substitutability of money and bonds at a zero short-term nominal interest rate renders open-market operations ineffective for achieving macroeconomic stabilization goals. We show that even were this the case, there remains a powerful argument for large-scale open market operations as a fiscal policy tool. As we also demonstrate, however, this same reasoning implies that open-market operations will be beneficial for stabilization as well, even when the economy is expected to remain mired in a liquidity trap for some time. Thus, the microeconomic fiscal benefits of open-market operations in a liquidity trap go hand in hand with standard macroeconomic objectives. Motivated by Japan’s recent economic experience, we use a dynamic general-equilibrium model to assess the welfare impact of open-market operations for an economy in Japan’s predicament. We argue Japan can achieve a substantial welfare improvement through large open-market purchases of domestic government debt.

Suggested Citation

  • Auerbach, Alan J. & Obstfeld, Maurice, 2004. "The Case for Open-Market Purchases in a Liquidity Trap," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt1dn4d9sr, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ciders:qt1dn4d9sr
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    liquidity trap; zero bound; Japan;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E43 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E63 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Comparative or Joint Analysis of Fiscal and Monetary Policy; Stabilization; Treasury Policy

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