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Imperfect Knowledge and the Pitfalls of Optimal Control Monetary Policy

  • Athanasios Orphanides

    ()

    (Central Bank of Cyprus)

  • John C. Williams

    ()

    (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)

This paper examines the robustness characteristics of optimal control policies derived under the assumption of rational expectations to alternative models of expectations formation and uncertainty about the natural rates of interest and unemployment. We assume that agents have imperfect knowledge about the precise structure of the economy and form expectations using a forecasting model that they continuously update based on incoming data. We also allow for central bank uncertainty regarding the natural rates of interest and unemployment. We find that the optimal control policy derived under the assumption of perfect knowledge about the structure of the economy can perform poorly when knowledge is imperfect. These problems are exacerbated by natural rate uncertainty, even when the central bank's estimates of natural rates are efficient. We show that the optimal control approach can be made more robust to the presence of imperfect knowledge by deemphasizing the stabilization of real economic activity and interest rates relative to inflation in the central bank loss function. That is, robustness to the presence of imperfect knowledge about the economy provides an incentive to employ a "conservative" central banker. We then examine two types of simple monetary policy rules from the literature that have been found to be robust to model misspecification in other contexts. We find that these policies are robust to the alternative models of learning that we study and natural rate uncertainty and outperform the optimal control policy and generally perform as well as the robust optimal control policy that places less weight on stabilizing economic activity and interest rates.

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File URL: http://www.centralbank.gov.cy/media/pdf/NPWPE_No5_072008_.pdf
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Paper provided by Central Bank of Cyprus in its series Working Papers with number 2008-5.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cyb:wpaper:2008-5
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.centralbank.gov.cy/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=1
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  2. Marcet, Albert & Sargent, Thomas J., 1989. "Convergence of least squares learning mechanisms in self-referential linear stochastic models," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 337-368, August.
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  8. Alex Cukierman & Francesco Lippi, 2003. "Endogenous Monetary Policy with Unobserved Potential Output," CEIS Research Paper 26, Tor Vergata University, CEIS.
  9. Athanasios Orphanides & Simon van Norden, 1999. "The Reliability of Output Gap Estimates in Real Time," Macroeconomics 9907006, EconWPA.
  10. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2006. "Inflation Targeting Under Imperfect Knowledge," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 398, Central Bank of Chile.
  11. Peter Isard & Douglas Laxton & Ann-Charlotte Eliasson, 1999. "Simple Monetary Policy Rules Under Model Uncertainty," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 537-577, November.
  12. Andrew T.. Levin & Volker Wieland & John Williams, 1999. "Robustness of Simple Monetary Policy Rules under Model Uncertainty," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy Rules, pages 263-318 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Thomas J Sargent, 2007. "Evolution and Intelligent Design," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001821, UCLA Department of Economics.
  14. Clark, Todd E. & Kozicki, Sharon, 2004. "Estimating equilibrium real interest rates in real-time," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2004,32, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
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  16. Milton Friedman, 1947. "Lerner on the Economics of Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55, pages 405.
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  18. Athanasios Orphanides & Richard D. Porter & David Reifschneider & Robert Tetlow & Frederico Finan, 1999. "Errors in the measurement of the output gap and the design of monetary policy," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-45, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  19. Thomas Laubach, 1997. "Measuring the NAIRU : evidence from seven economies," Research Working Paper 97-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
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  23. Gaspar, VĂ­tor & Smets, Frank & Vestin, David, 2006. "Adaptive learning, persistence, and optimal monetary policy," Working Paper Series 0644, European Central Bank.
  24. 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.
  25. Mccallum, Bennet T., 1988. "Robustness properties of a rule for monetary policy," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 173-203, January.
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  29. Wiliam Branch & George W. Evans, 2005. "A Simple Recursive Forecasting Model," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2005-3, University of Oregon Economics Department, revised 01 Feb 2005.
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  31. 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.).
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