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Expectations, traps and discretion

  • V.V. Chari
  • Lawrence J. Christiano
  • Martin Eichenbaum

We argue that discretionary monetary policy exposes the economy to welfare-decreasing instability. It does so by creating the potential for private expectations about the response of monetary policy to exogenous shocks to be self-fulfilling. Among the many equilibria that are possible, some have good welfare properties. But, others exhibit welfare decreasing volatility in output and employment. We refer to the latter type of equilibria as expectation traps. In effect, our paper presents a new argument for commitment in monetary policy because commitment eliminates these bad equilibria. We show that full commitment is not necessary to achieve the best outcome, and that more limited forms of commitment suffice.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory with number 96-04.

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Date of creation: 1996
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Publication status: Published in Monetary Policy: Measurement and Management : a conference (1996: March 1) ; Journal of Economic Theory, August 1998, Vol. 81, no. 2, p 462-492
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfap:96-04
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  1. Farmer Roger E. A. & Guo Jang-Ting, 1994. "Real Business Cycles and the Animal Spirits Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 42-72, June.
  2. Benhabib, Jess & Farmer, Roger E.A., 1996. "Indeterminacy and Sector-Specific Externalities," Working Papers 96-12, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  3. V. V. Chari & Patrick J Kehoe, 1998. "Sustainable Plans," Levine's Working Paper Archive 600, David K. Levine.
  4. Laurence Ball, 1991. "The Genesis of Inflation and the Costs of Disinflation," NBER Working Papers 3621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Cole, Harold L & Kehoe, Timothy J, 2000. "Self-Fulfilling Debt Crises," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(1), pages 91-116, January.
  6. Christiano, Lawrence J & Eichenbaum, Martin & Evans, Charles, 1996. "The Effects of Monetary Policy Shocks: Evidence from the Flow of Funds," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(1), pages 16-34, February.
  7. Matsuyama, Kiminori, 1991. "Increasing Returns, Industrialization, and Indeterminacy of Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 617-50, May.
  8. Cass, David & Shell, Karl, 1983. "Do Sunspots Matter?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 193-227, April.
  9. Ball, Laurence, 1995. "Time-consistent policy and persistent changes in inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 329-350, November.
  10. Chari V. V. & Kehoe Patrick J., 1993. "Sustainable Plans and Debt," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 230-261, December.
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  12. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum, 1992. "Liquidity effects, monetary policy and the business cycle," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 92-15, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  13. Chari, V V & Kehoe, Patrick J, 1993. "Sustainable Plans and Mutual Default," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(1), pages 175-95, January.
  14. Calvo, Guillermo A, 1978. "On the Time Consistency of Optimal Policy in a Monetary Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1411-28, November.
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  16. repec:nbr:nberre:0126 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. David Backus & John Driffill, 1984. "Inflation and Reputation," Working Papers 560, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  18. Abreu, Dilip, 1988. "On the Theory of Infinitely Repeated Games with Discounting," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 383-96, March.
  19. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
  20. Bryant, John, 1983. "A Simple Rational Expectations Keynes-Type Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(3), pages 525-28, August.
  21. Lucas, Robert Jr, 1976. "Econometric policy evaluation: A critique," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 19-46, January.
  22. Robert J. Barro & David B. Gordon, 1983. "Rules, Discretion and Reputation in a Model of Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 1079, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Bewley, Truman, 1983. "A Difficulty with the Optimum Quantity of Money," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(5), pages 1485-504, September.
  24. Azariadis, Costas, 1981. "Self-fulfilling prophecies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 380-396, December.
  25. V.V. Chari, 1988. "Time consistency and optimal policy design," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Fall, pages 17-31.
  26. Taylor, John B, 1980. "Aggregate Dynamics and Staggered Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 1-23, February.
  27. Alan S. Blinder, 1982. "The Anatomy of Double-Digit Inflation in the 1970s," NBER Chapters, in: Inflation: Causes and Effects, pages 261-282 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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