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Activist vs. non-activist monetary policy: optimal rules under extreme uncertainty

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  • Peter von zur Muehlen

Abstract

This paper analyzes the optimality of reactive feedback rules advocated by neo-Keynesians, and constant money growth rules proposed by monetarists. The basis for this controversy is not merely a disagreement concerning sources and impacts of uncertainty in the economy, but also an apparent fundamental difference in the attitude toward uncertainty about models. To address these differences, this paper compares the relative reactiveness of a monetary policy instrument to conditioning information for two starkly differing versions of model uncertainty about the model and the data driving it: Bayesian uncertainty that assumes known probability distributions for a model's parameters and the data Knightian uncertainty that does not. In the latter case, the policy maker copes with extreme uncertainty by playing a mental game against "natuare," using minmax strategies. Contrary to common intuition, extreme uncertainty about a model's parameters does not necessarily imply less responsiveness to conditioning information--here represented by the lagged gap between nominal income growth and its trend--and it certainly does not justify constancy of money growth except in an extreme version of Brainard's (1967) result. A partial constant growth rule can be derived in only one special case: if the conditioning variable in the feedback rule is also uncertain in either Bayesian or Knightian senses and the authority used Neyman-Pearson likelihood ratio tests to distinguish noise from information with each new observation.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter von zur Muehlen, 2001. "Activist vs. non-activist monetary policy: optimal rules under extreme uncertainty," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2001-02, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2001-02
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    12. Craine, Roger & Havenner, Arthur & Berry, James, 1978. "Fixed Rules vs. Activism in the Conduct of Monetary Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(5), pages 769-783, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew Levin & Volker Wieland & John C. Williams, 2003. "The Performance of Forecast-Based Monetary Policy Rules Under Model Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 622-645, June.
    2. Michael Woodford, 2008. "How Important Is Money in the Conduct of Monetary Policy?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 40(8), pages 1561-1598, December.
    3. Robert Tetlow & Peter von zur Muehlen, 2004. "Avoiding Nash Inflation: Bayesian and Robus Responses to Model Uncertainty," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 7(4), pages 869-899, October.
    4. Kilponen, Juha, 2003. "A Positive theory of monetary policy and robust control," Research Discussion Papers 18/2003, Bank of Finland.
    5. W.H. Verhagen, 2002. "Interest Rate Stepping, Interest Rate Smoothing and Uncertainty: Some Views from the Literature," WO Research Memoranda (discontinued) 683, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    6. Stan Žaković & Volker Wieland & Berc Rustem, 2007. "Stochastic Optimization and Worst-Case Analysis in Monetary Policy Design," Computational Economics, Springer;Society for Computational Economics, vol. 30(4), pages 329-347, November.
    7. Zampolli, Fabrizio, 2006. "Optimal monetary policy in a regime-switching economy: The response to abrupt shifts in exchange rate dynamics," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 30(9-10), pages 1527-1567.
    8. Keith Kuester & Volker Wieland, 2010. "Insurance Policies for Monetary Policy in the Euro Area," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(4), pages 872-912, June.
    9. Adam, Klaus, 2004. "On the relation between robust and Bayesian decision making," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 28(10), pages 2105-2117, September.
    10. 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.
    11. Marc Giannoni, 2006. "Robust Optimal Policy in a Forward-Looking Model with Parameter and Shock Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 11942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    Keywords

    Monetary policy ; Econometric models;

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