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Falling Behind the Curve: A Positive Analysis of Stop-Start Monetary Policies and the Great Inflation

Author

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  • Andrew Levin
  • John B. Taylor

Abstract

This paper documents the evolution of long-run inflation expectations and models the stance of monetary policy from 1965 to 1980. A host of survey-based measures and financial market data indicate that long-run inflation expectations rose markedly from 1965 to 1969, leveled off in the mid-1970s, and then rose at an alarming pace from 1977 to 1980. While previous studies have shown that the trajectory of the federal funds rate over that period is not well-represented by a Taylor rule with a constant inflation goal, our analysis indicates that the path of policy can be characterized by a reaction function with two breaks in the intercept--in 1970 and 1976--that correspond to discrete shifts in an implicit inflation goal. This reaction function implies that a series of stop-start episodes occurred in 1968-70, 1974-76, and 1979-80. In each episode, policy fell behind the curve by allowing a pickup in inflation before tightening belatedly, and then the subsequent contraction in economic activity led to policy easing before inflation had been brought back down to its previous level. The evidence presented in this paper raises serious doubts about several prominent theories of the Great Inflation and suggests that a simple rule with an explicit inflation goal could serve as a useful benchmark for avoiding its recurrence.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Levin & John B. Taylor, 2010. "Falling Behind the Curve: A Positive Analysis of Stop-Start Monetary Policies and the Great Inflation," NBER Working Papers 15630, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15630
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    Cited by:

    1. John B. Taylor, 2011. "Legislating a Rule for Monetary Policy," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 31(3), pages 407-415, Fall.
    2. repec:cto:journl:v:31:y:2011:i:3:p: is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Carboni, Giacomo, 2014. "Term premia implications of macroeconomic regime changes," Working Paper Series 1694, European Central Bank.
    4. Alexis Flageollet & Hamza Bahaji, 2016. "Monetary Policy and Risk-Based Asset Allocation," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 27(5), pages 851-870, November.
    5. Pittaluga, Giovanni Battista & Seghezza, Elena, 2012. "The Great Inflation in Italy: A Political Economy View - La Grande Inflazione in Italia: un’interpretazione alla luce della political economy," Economia Internazionale / International Economics, Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato Agricoltura di Genova, vol. 65(1), pages 65-81.
    6. Diego Moccero & Shingo Watanabe & Boris Cournède, 2011. "What Drives Inflation in the Major OECD Economies?," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 854, OECD Publishing.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy

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