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Are Low Interest Rates Deflationary? A Paradox of Perfect-Foresight Analysis

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  • García-Schmidt, Mariana
  • Woodford, Michael

Abstract

A prolonged period of extremely low nominal interest rates has not resulted in high inflation. This has led to increased interest in the “Neo-Fisherian" proposition according to which low nominal interest rates may themselves cause inflation to be lower. The fact that standard models of the effects of monetary policy have the property that perfect foresight equilibria in which the nominal interest rate remains low forever necessarily involve low inflation (at least eventually) might seem to support such a view. Here, however, we argue that such a conclusion depends on a misunderstanding of the circumstances under which it makes sense to predict the effects of a monetary policy commitment by calculating the perfect foresight equilibrium consistent with the policy. We propose an explicit cognitive process by which agents may form their expectations of future endogenous variables. Under some circumstances, such as a commitment to follow a Taylor rule, a perfect foresight equilibrium (PFE) can arise as a limiting case of our more general concept of reflective equilibrium, when the process of reflection is pursued sufficiently far. But we show that an announced intention to fix the nominal interest rate for a long enough period of time creates a situation in which reflective equilibrium need not resemble any PFE. In our view, this makes PFE predictions not plausible outcomes in the case of policies of the latter sort. According to the alternative approach that we recommend, a commitment to maintain a low nominal interest rate for longer should always be expansionary and inflationary, rather than causing deflation; but the effects of such “forward guidance" are likely, in the case of a long-horizon commitment, to be much less expansionary or inflationary than the usual PFE analysis would imply.

Suggested Citation

  • García-Schmidt, Mariana & Woodford, Michael, 2015. "Are Low Interest Rates Deflationary? A Paradox of Perfect-Foresight Analysis," CEPR Discussion Papers 10893, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10893
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Mark Gertler, 2017. "Rethinking the Power of Forward Guidance: Lessons from Japan," IMES Discussion Paper Series 17-E-08, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan.
    2. Robert E. Hall & Ricardo Reis, 2016. "Achieving Price Stability by Manipulating the Central Bank’s Payment on Reserves," NBER Working Papers 22761, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Mengus, Eric & Barthelemy, Jean, 2017. "Credibility and Monetary Policy," Les Cahiers de Recherche 1202, HEC Paris, revised 03 May 2017.
    4. Gabaix, Xavier, 2016. "A Behavioral New Keynesian Model," CEPR Discussion Papers 11729, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Spiegler, Ran, 2016. "Can Agents with Causal Misperceptions be Systematically Fooled?," CEPR Discussion Papers 11379, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Snezana Eminidou & Marios Zachariadis & Elena Andreou, 2017. "Inflation Expectations and Monetary Policy Surprises," 2017 Meeting Papers 919, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. James Bullard, 2016. "Permazero," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 36(2), pages 415-429, Spring/Su.
      • Bullard, James B., 2016. "Permazero," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 98(2), pages 81-92.
      • Bullard, James B., 2015. "Permazero," Speech 256, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    8. Barrdear, John, 2017. "The calm policymaker," Bank of England working papers 653, Bank of England.
    9. Michael D. Bordo, 2016. "The Operation and Demise of the Bretton Woods System; 1958 to 1971," Economics Working Papers 16116, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
    10. Athanasios Geromichalos & Lucas Herrenbrueck, 2017. "The Liquidity-Augmented Model of Macroeconomic Aggregates," Discussion Papers dp17-16, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
    11. Gerke, Rafael & Giesen, Sebastian & Kienzler, Daniel & Tenhofen, Jörn, 2017. "Interest-rate pegs, central bank asset purchases and the reversal puzzle," Discussion Papers 21/2017, Deutsche Bundesbank.
    12. John H. Cochrane, 2017. "Michelson-Morley, Fisher, and Occam: The Radical Implications of Stable Quiet Inflation at the Zero Bound," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2017, volume 32 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. P. Andrade & G. Gaballo & E. Mengus & B. Mojon, 2015. "Forward Guidance and Heterogeneous Beliefs," Working papers 573, Banque de France.
    14. Cars Hommes & Domenico Massaro & Matthias Weber, 2015. "Monetary Policy under Behavioral Expectations: Theory and Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 15-087/II, Tinbergen Institute.
    15. Mariana Garcıa-Schmidt & Michael Woodford, "undated". "Are Low Interest Rates Deflationary? A Paradox of Perfect- Foresight Analysis," Working Papers Series 18, Institute for New Economic Thinking.
    16. Dmitriy Sergeyev & Luigi Iovino, 2017. "Quantitative Easing without Rational Expectations," 2017 Meeting Papers 1387, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    17. Edward Nelson, 2018. "Seven Fallacies Concerning Milton Friedman's "The Role of Monetary Policy"," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2018-013, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    18. repec:prs:ecstat:estat_0336-1454_2017_num_494_1_10781 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Xavier Gabaix, 2017. "Behavioral Inattention," NBER Working Papers 24096, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. George-Marios Angeletos & Chen Lian, 2016. "Forward Guidance without Common Knowledge," NBER Working Papers 22785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. repec:prs:ecsecs:estat_0336-1454_2017_num_494_1_10781 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. repec:aea:jecper:v:31:y:2017:i:3:p:47-66 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • 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

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