U.K. Monetary Policy: Observations on its Theory and Practice
In a dramatic change from the euphoria in the early 2000s based on a widespread belief in the “success” of the partial independence of the Bank of England, UK policymakers are now faced with great uncertainties about the future. The Coalition government responded to the financial crisis by changing the responsibilities for banking supervision and regulation and creating new institutions to deal with them. The UK was not alone in such moves and there is increased attention world-wide to greater regulatory powers and state-dependent provisioning as key to any future financial architecture. However, changes to the conduct of monetary policy are also necessary. Using the UK experience up to 2008 as a case study, we argue that the authorities here placed too much faith in the proposition that inflation-forecast targeting by an independent central bank was all that was needed. Over the previous two decades evidence accumulated that both undermined the belief that the low inflation with stable growth during the so-called “Great Moderation” was due to the new policy regime and that showed systemic risk in the financial sector was rapidly growing. We maintain that these two things were in evidence well before the financial crisis in 2008–9 and the leadership at the BoE was in error not to factor them into their interest rate decisions early on. Had this evidence been taken more seriously and had proactive action been taken based upon it, the effects of the world-wide financial crisis on the UK would very probably have been smaller. This episode highlights both the shortcomings in the DSGE paradigm favoured by the BoE and other central banks for their macroeconomic analysis as well as the very considerable difficulties in practice in creating the sort of open and transparent monetary institutions envisaged in the academic literature.
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