(Taylor) Rules versus Discretion in U.S. Monetary Policy
The Taylor rule has been the dominant metric for monetary policy evaluation over the past 20 years, and it has become common practice to identify periods where policy either adheres closely to or deviates from the Taylor rule benchmark. The purpose of this paper is to identify (Taylor) rules-based and discretionary eras solely from the data so that knowledge of subsequent economic outcomes cannot influence the choice of the dates. We define Taylor rules-based and discretionary eras by smaller and larger Taylor rule deviations, the absolute value of the difference between the actual federal funds rate and the federal funds rate prescribed by the original Taylor rule, and use tests for multiple structural changes and Markov switching models to identify the eras. Monetary policy in the U.S. is characterized by a Taylor rules-based (low deviations) era until 1974, a discretionary (high deviations) era from 1974 to about 1985, a rules-based era from about 1985 to 2000, and a discretionary era from 2001 to 2008. The Taylor rule deviations are about three times as large in the discretionary eras than in the rules-based eras and are almost four times larger in the most discretionary era (1974 to 1984) than in the least discretionary era (1985 to 2000). With the Markov switching models, which allow for regime changes at the beginning and end of the sample, we also identify a discretionary era from 1965 to 1968 and a rules-based era in 2006 and 2007. The discretionary and rules-based eras closely correspond to periods where the Taylor rule deviations are above and below two percent.
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