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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. V. V. Chari & Patrick J Kehoe, 1998. "Sustainable Plans," Levine's Working Paper Archive 600, David K. Levine.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  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. Christiano, Lawrence J & Eichenbaum, Martin, 1995. "Liquidity Effects, Monetary Policy, and the Business Cycle," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(4), pages 1113-36, November.
  7. Chari V. V. & Kehoe Patrick J., 1993. "Sustainable Plans and Debt," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 230-261, December.
  8. Benhabib, Jess & Farmer, Roger E A, 1996. "Indeterminacy and Sector-specific Externalities," CEPR Discussion Papers 1403, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Bewley, Truman, 1983. "A Difficulty with the Optimum Quantity of Money," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(5), pages 1485-504, September.
  10. Harold L. Cole & Timothy J. Kehoe, 1998. "Self-fulfilling debt crises," Staff Report 211, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  11. repec:nbr:nberre:0126 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Matsuyama, Kiminori, 1991. "Increasing Returns, Industrialization, and Indeterminacy of Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 617-50, May.
  13. 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.
  14. Azariadis, Costas, 1981. "Self-fulfilling prophecies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 380-396, December.
  15. D. Backus & J. Driffil, 1998. "Inflation and Reputation," Levine's Working Paper Archive 625, David K. Levine.
  16. V.V. Chari, 1988. "Time consistency and optimal policy design," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Fall, pages 17-31.
  17. Cass, David & Shell, Karl, 1983. "Do Sunspots Matter?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 193-227, April.
  18. Laurence M. Ball, 1990. "Time-Consistent Policy and Persistent Changes in Inflation," NBER Working Papers 3529, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. V.V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1989. "Sustainable plans and mutual default," Staff Report 124, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  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. Taylor, John B, 1980. "Aggregate Dynamics and Staggered Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 1-23, February.
  22. 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.
  23. Lucas, Robert Jr, 1976. "Econometric policy evaluation: A critique," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 19-46, January.
  24. Abreu, Dilip, 1988. "On the Theory of Infinitely Repeated Games with Discounting," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 383-96, March.
  25. Arthur F. Burns, 1978. "Reflections of an Economic Policy Maker," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 725136, 4.
  26. Stokey, Nancy L., 1991. "Credible public policy," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 627-656, October.
  27. 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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