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Inflation Stabilization and Welfare: The Case of a Distorted Steady State

  • Pierpaolo Benigno
  • Michael Woodford

This paper considers the appropriate stabilization objectives for monetary policy in a microfounded model with staggered price-setting. Rotemberg and Woodford (1997) and Woodford (2002) have shown that under certain conditions, a local approximation to the expected utility of the representative household in a model of this kind is related inversely to the expected discounted value of a conventional quadratic loss function, in which each period's loss is a weighted average of squared deviations of inflation and an output gap measure from their optimal values (zero). However, those derivations rely on an assumption of the existence of an output or employment subsidy that offsets the distortion due to the market power of monopolistically-competitive price-setters, so that the steady state under a zero-inflation policy involves an efficient level of output. Here we show how to dispense with this unappealing assumption, so that a valid linear-quadratic approximation to the optimal policy problem is possible even when the steady state is distorted to an arbitrary extent (allowing for tax distortions as well as market power), and when, as a consequence, it is necessary to take account of the effects of stabilization policy on the average level of output. We again obtain a welfare-theoretic loss function that involves both inflation and an appropriately defined output gap, though the degree of distortion of the steady state affects both the weights on the two stabilization objectives and the definition of the welfare-relevant output gap. In the light of these results, we reconsider the conditions under which complete price stability is optimal, and find that they are more restrictive in the case of a distorted steady state. We also consider the conditions under which pure randomization of monetary policy can be welfare-improving, and find that this is possible in the case of a sufficiently distorted steady state, though the parameter values required are probably not empirically realistic.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10838.

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Date of creation: Oct 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Pierpaolo Benigno & Michael Woodford, 2005. "Inflation Stabilization And Welfare: The Case Of A Distorted Steady State," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(6), pages 1185-1236, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10838
Note: EFG ME
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  1. Pierpaolo Benigno & Michael Woodford, 2004. "Optimal monetary and fiscal policy: a linear-quadratic approach," International Finance Discussion Papers 806, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Clarida, R. & Gali, J. & Gertler, M., 1999. "The Science of Monetary Policy: A New Keynesian Perspective," Working Papers 99-13, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  3. Marvin Goodfriend & Robert King, 1997. "The New Neoclassical Synthesis and the Role of Monetary Policy," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 231-296 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Michael Woodford, 2001. "Fiscal Requirements for Price Stability," NBER Working Papers 8072, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 1996. "Sticky Price Models of the Business Cycle: Can the Contract Multiplier Solve the Persistence Problem?," NBER Working Papers 5809, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Julio Rotemberg & Michael Woodford, 1997. "An Optimization-Based Econometric Framework for the Evaluation of Monetary Policy," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 297-361 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Marc P. Giannoni & Michael Woodford, 2003. "Optimal Inflation Targeting Rules," NBER Working Papers 9939, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Aubhik Khan & Robert G. King & Alexander L. Wolman, 2001. "Optimal monetary policy," Working Papers 01-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  9. Henry Kim & Jinill Kim & Ernst Schaumburg & Christopher A. Sims, 2005. "Calculating and Using Second Order Accurate Solutions of Discrete Time Dynamic Equilibrium Models," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0505, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  10. Gianluca Benigno & Pierpaolo Benigno, 2004. "Designing Target Rules for International Monetary Policy Cooperation," CEP Discussion Papers dp0666, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  11. Marc P. Giannoni & Michael Woodford, 2003. "Optimal Interest-Rate Rules: I. General Theory," Levine's Bibliography 506439000000000384, UCLA Department of Economics.
  12. Michael Woodford & Pierpaolo Benigno, 2004. "Inflation Stabilization and Welfare: The Case of a Distorted Steady State," 2004 Meeting Papers 481, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Mark Gertler & Kenneth Rogoff, 2004. "NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2003, Volume 18," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gert04-1, December.
  14. Robert King & Alexander L. Wolman, 1999. "What Should the Monetary Authority Do When Prices Are Sticky?," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy Rules, pages 349-404 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Benigno, Gianluca & Benigno, Pierpaolo, 2003. "Designing targeting rules for international monetary policy cooperation," Working Paper Series 0279, European Central Bank.
  16. Erceg, Christopher J. & Henderson, Dale W. & Levin, Andrew T., 2000. "Optimal monetary policy with staggered wage and price contracts," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 281-313, October.
  17. Michael Woodford, 1999. "Commentary : how should monetary policy be conducted in an era of price stability?," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 277-316.
  18. Benigno, Pierpaolo & Woodford, Michael, 2004. "Optimal Stabilization Policy When Wages and Prices are Sticky: The Case of a Distorted Steady State," CEPR Discussion Papers 4740, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  19. Alan Sutherland, 2002. "A Simple Second-Order Solution Method for Dynamic General Equilibrium Models," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 200211, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
  20. Dupor, Bill, 2003. "Optimal random monetary policy with nominal rigidity," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 112(1), pages 66-78, September.
  21. Jinill Kim & Sunghyun Kim & Ernst Schaumburg & Christopher A. Sims, 2003. "Calculating and Using Second Order Accurate Solutions of Discrete Time," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000284, UCLA Department of Economics.
  22. Calvo, Guillermo A., 1983. "Staggered prices in a utility-maximizing framework," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 383-398, September.
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