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Simple versus optimal rules as guides to policy

  • William A. Brock
  • Steven N. Durlauf
  • James M. Nason
  • Giacomo Rondina

This paper contributes to the policy evaluation literature by developing new strategies to study alternative policy rules. We compare optimal rules to simple rules within canonical monetary policy models. In our context, an optimal rule represents the solution to an intertemporal optimization problem in which a loss function for the policymaker and an explicit model of the macroeconomy are specified. We define a simple rule to be a summary of the intuition policymakers and economists have about how a central bank should react to aggregate disturbances. The policy rules are evaluated under minimax and minimax regret criteria. These criteria force the policymaker to guard against a worst-case scenario, but in different ways. Minimax makes the worst possible model the benchmark for the policymaker, while minimax regret confronts the policymaker with uncertainty about the true model. Our results indicate that the case for a model-specific optimal rule can break down when uncertainty exists about which of several models is true. Further, we show that the assumption that the policymaker’s loss function is known can obscure policy trade-offs that exist in the short, medium, and long run. Thus, policy evaluation is more difficult once it is recognized that model and preference uncertainty can interact.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in its series Working Paper with number 2007-07.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2007-07
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  1. Glenn D. Rudebusch & Lars E. O. Svensson, 1998. "Policy rules for inflation targeting," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 98-03, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  2. Bennett T. McCallum, 1997. "Issues in the Design of Monetary Policy Rules," NBER Working Papers 6016, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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.
  4. Lars Svensson & Noah Williams, 2005. "Monetary Policy with Model Uncertainty: Distribution Forecast Targeting," NBER Working Papers 11733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Hansen, Lars Peter & Sargent, Thomas J., 2003. "Robust control of forward-looking models," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 581-604, April.
  6. Brock,W.A. & Durlauf,S.N., 2004. "Local robustness analysis : theory and application," Working papers 22, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  7. Bennett T. McCallum & Edward Nelson, 2005. "Targeting versus instrument rules for monetary policy," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 597-612.
  8. Manski, Charles F., 2007. "Minimax-regret treatment choice with missing outcome data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 139(1), pages 105-115, July.
  9. Lars E.O. Svensson, 2002. "What Is Wrong with Taylor Rules? Using Judgment in Monetary Policy through Targeting Rules," Working Papers 118, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  10. Brock,W.A., 2004. "Profiling problems with partially identified structure," Working papers 21, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  11. Alan S. Blinder, 1999. "Central Banking in Theory and Practice," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262522608, June.
  12. Richard Clarida & Jordi Gali & Mark Gertler, 1999. "The Science of Monetary Policy: A New Keynesian Perspective," NBER Working Papers 7147, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. William Brock & Steven Durlauf & Kenneth West, 2005. "Model uncertainty and policy evaluation: some theory and empirics," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  14. Alexei Onatski & Noah Williams, 2002. "Modeling model uncertainty," Discussion Papers 0203-05, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  15. Giannoni, Marc P., 2002. "Does Model Uncertainty Justify Caution? Robust Optimal Monetary Policy In A Forward-Looking Model," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(01), pages 111-144, February.
  16. Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Statistical Treatment Rules for Heterogeneous Populations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(4), pages 1221-1246, 07.
  17. Otrok, Christopher, 2001. "Spectral Welfare Cost Functions," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 42(2), pages 345-67, May.
  18. Andrew T. Levin & John C. Williams, 2003. "Robust monetary policy with competing reference models," Working Paper Series 2003-10, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  19. William A. Brock & Steven N. Durlauf, 2004. "Elements of a Theory of Design Limits to Optimal Policy," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 72(s1), pages 1-18, 09.
  20. Alexei Onatski & James H. Stock, 1999. "Robust monetary policy under model uncertainty in a small model of the U.S. economy," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  21. Tobin, James, 1983. "Monetary Policy: Rules, Targets, and Shocks," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 15(4), pages 506-18, November.
  22. William A. Brock & Steven N. Durlauf & Giacomo Rondina, 2008. "Design Limits and Dynamic Policy Analysis," NBER Working Papers 14357, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. repec:cup:macdyn:v:6:y:2002:i:1:p:111-44 is not listed on IDEAS
  24. Charles F. Manski, 2005. "Search Profiling with Partial Knowledge of Deterrence," NBER Working Papers 11848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. J. Tetlow, Robert & von zur Muehlen, Peter, 2001. "Robust monetary policy with misspecified models: Does model uncertainty always call for attenuated policy?," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(6-7), pages 911-949, June.
  26. Jörg Stoye, 2011. "Statistical decisions under ambiguity," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 70(2), pages 129-148, February.
  27. Chamberlain, Gary, 2000. "Econometrics and decision theory," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 95(2), pages 255-283, April.
  28. Jordi Gali & Mark Gertler, 2000. "Inflation Dynamics: A Structural Econometric Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7551, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Taylor, John B., 1993. "Discretion versus policy rules in practice," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 195-214, December.
  30. Rudd, Jeremy & Whelan, Karl, 2005. "New tests of the new-Keynesian Phillips curve," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(6), pages 1167-1181, September.
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