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Is monetary policy a science? the interaction of theory and practice over the last 50 years

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  • William R. White

Abstract

In recent decades, the declarations of “independent” central banks and the conduct of monetary policy have been assigned an ever increasing role in the pursuit of economic and financial stability. This is curious since there is, in practice, no body of scientific knowledge (evidence based beliefs) solid enough to have ensured agreement among central banks on the best way to conduct monetary policy. Moreover, beliefs pertaining to every aspect of monetary policy have also changed markedly and repeatedly. This paper documents how the objectives of monetary policy, the optimal exchange rate framework, beliefs about the transmission mechanism, the mechanism of political oversight, and many other aspects of domestic monetary frameworks have all been subject to great flux over the last fifty years. ; The paper also suggests ways in which the current economic and financial crisis seems likely to affect the conduct of monetary policy in the future. One possibility is that it might lead to yet another fundamental reexamination of our beliefs about how best to conduct monetary policy in an increasingly globalized world. The role played by money and credit, the interactions between price stability and financial stability, the possible medium term risks generated by “ultra easy” monetary policies, and the facilitating role played by the international monetary (non) system all need urgent attention. The paper concludes that, absent the degree of knowledge required about its effects, monetary policy is currently being relied on too heavily in the pursuit of “strong, balanced and sustainable growth.”

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  • William R. White, 2013. "Is monetary policy a science? the interaction of theory and practice over the last 50 years," Globalization and Monetary Policy Institute Working Paper 155, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:feddgw:155
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    File URL: http://www.dallasfed.org/assets/documents/institute/wpapers/2013/0155.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
    2. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2014. "This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 15(2), pages 1065-1188, November.
    3. Carmen M. Reinhart & M. Belen Sbrancia1, 2015. "The liquidation of government debt," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 30(82), pages 291-333.
    4. Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart, 2010. "After the fall," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 17-60.
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    1. repec:kap:revaec:v:30:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11138-016-0340-5 is not listed on IDEAS

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    National security;

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