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Monetary policy in deflation: the liquidity trap in history and practice

  • Athanasios Orphanides

The experience of the U.S. economy during the mid-1930s, when short-term nominal interest rates were continuously close to zero, is sometimes taken as evidence that monetary policy was ineffective and the economy was in a "liquidity trap." Close examination of the historical policy record for the period indicates that the evidence does not support such assertions. The incomplete and erratic recovery from the Great Depression can be traced to a failure to pursue consistently expansionary policy resulting from an incorrect understanding of monetary policy in an environment of very low short-term nominal interest rates. Commonalities with the Japanese experience during the late 1990s and the inadequacy of short-term interest rates as indicators of the stance of monetary policy are discussed, and a robust operating procedure for implementing monetary policy in a low interest rate environment by adjusting the maturity of targeted interest rate instruments is described.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2004-01.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2004-01
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  1. Paul R. Krugman, 1998. "It's Baaack: Japan's Slump and the Return of the Liquidity Trap," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(2), pages 137-206.
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  3. Svensson, Lars, 2000. "The Zero Bound in an Open Economy: A Foolproof Way of Escaping from a Liquidity Trap," Seminar Papers 687, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  4. Coenen, Guenter & Wieland, Volker, 2003. "The Zero-Interest-Rate and the Role of the Exchange Rate for Monetary Policy in Japan," CFS Working Paper Series 2003/09, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
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  7. Marvin Goodfriend, 2000. "Overcoming the zero bound on interest rate policy," Working Paper 00-03, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  8. Christina D. Romer, 1991. "What Ended the Great Depression?," NBER Working Papers 3829, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. James Clouse & Dale Henderson & Athanasios Orphanides & David Small & Peter Tinsley, 2000. "Monetary policy when the nominal short-term interest rate is zero," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-51, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. David Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 2000. "Three lessons for monetary policy in a low-inflation era," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, pages 936-978.
  11. Yutaka Yamaguchi, 2002. "Monetary policy in a changing economic environment," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 241-251.
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  13. Meltzer, Allan & Goodhart, C.A.E., 2005. "A History Of The Federal Reserve," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(02), pages 267-275, April.
  14. Athanasios Orphanides & Volker Wieland, 1999. "Efficient monetary policy design near price stability," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-67, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  15. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2003. "Historical monetary policy analysis and the Taylor rule," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(5), pages 983-1022, July.
  16. Okina, Kunio, 1999. "Monetary Policy under Zero Inflation: A Response to Criticisms and Questions Regarding Monetary Policy," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 17(3), pages 157-182, December.
  17. Kenneth N. Kuttner & Adam S. Posen, 2001. "The Great Recession: Lessons for Macroeconomic Policy from Japan," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 32(2), pages 93-186.
  18. Karl Brunner & Allan H. Meltzer, 1968. "Liquidity Traps for Money, Bank Credit, and Interest Rates," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 1.
  19. Alan Ahearne & Joseph Gagnon & Jane Haltmaier & Steve Kamin ... [et al.]., 2002. "Preventing deflation: lessons from Japan's experience in the 1990s," International Finance Discussion Papers 729, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  20. Reifschneider, David & Willams, John C, 2000. "Three Lessons for Monetary Policy in a Low-Inflation Era," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 32(4), pages 936-66, November.
  21. Krugman, Paul, 2000. "Thinking About the Liquidity Trap," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 221-237, December.
  22. Alexander L. Wolman, 1998. "Staggered price setting and the zero bound on nominal interest rates," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Fall, pages 1-24.
  23. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2003. "The Zero Bound on Interest Rates and Optimal Monetary Policy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 139-235.
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