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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
Date of revision:
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. repec:nbr:nberre:0126 is not listed on IDEAS
  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. 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.
  4. D. Backus & J. Driffil, 1998. "Inflation and Reputation," Levine's Working Paper Archive 625, David K. Levine.
  5. 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.
  6. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles Evans, 1994. "The effects of monetary policy shocks: evidence from the flow of funds," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, issue Apr.
  7. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1989. "Sustainable plans and debt," Staff Report 125, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Barro, Robert J. & Gordon, David B., 1983. "Rules, discretion and reputation in a model of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 101-121.
  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. V. V. Chari & Patrick J Kehoe, 1998. "Sustainable Plans," Levine's Working Paper Archive 600, David K. Levine.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Ball, Laurence, 1991. "The Genesis of Inflation and the Costs of Disinflation," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 23(3), pages 439-52, August.
  14. Taylor, John B, 1980. "Aggregate Dynamics and Staggered Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 1-23, February.
  15. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1989. "Sustainable plans and mutual default," Staff Report 124, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  16. Harold L. Cole & Timothy J. Kehoe, 1998. "Self-fulfilling debt crises," Staff Report 211, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  17. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:98:y:1983:i:3:p:525-28 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. 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.
  19. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:106:y:1991:i:2:p:617-50 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Lucas, Robert Jr, 1976. "Econometric policy evaluation: A critique," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 19-46, January.
  21. Cass, David & Shell, Karl, 1983. "Do Sunspots Matter?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 193-227, April.
  22. Bewley, Truman, 1983. "A Difficulty with the Optimum Quantity of Money," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(5), pages 1485-504, September.
  23. Stokey, Nancy L., 1991. "Credible public policy," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 627-656, October.
  24. V. V. Chari, 1988. "Time consistency and optimal policy design," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Fall, pages 17-31.
  25. Kiminori Matsuyama, 1990. "Increasing Returns, Industrialization and Indeterminacy of Equilibrium," Discussion Papers 878, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  26. Abreu, Dilip, 1988. "On the Theory of Infinitely Repeated Games with Discounting," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 383-96, March.
  27. Azariadis, Costas, 1981. "Self-fulfilling prophecies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 380-396, December.
  28. Arthur F. Burns, 1978. "Reflections of an Economic Policy Maker," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 725136, September.
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