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Liquidity Traps: How to Avoid Them and How to Escape Them


  • Willem H. Buiter
  • Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou


The paper considers ways of avoiding a liquidity trap and ways of getting out of one. Unless lower short nominal interest rates are associated with significantly lower interest volatility, a lower average rate of inflation, which will be associated with lower expected nominal interest rates, increases the odds that the zero nominal interest rate floor will become a binding constraint. The empirical evidence on this issue is mixed. Once in a liquidity trap, there are two means of escape. The first is to use expansionary fiscal policy. The second is to lower the zero nominal interest rate floor. This second option involves paying negative interest on government 'bearer bonds' -- coin and currency, that is 'taxing money', as advocated by Gesell. This would also reduce the likelihood of ending up in a liquidity trap. Taxing currency amounts to having periodic 'currency reforms', that is, compulsory conversions of 'old' currency into 'new' currency, say by stamping currency. The terms of the conversion can be set to achieve any positive or negative interest rate on currency. There are likely to be significant shoe leather costs associated with such schemes. The policy question then becomes how much shoe leather it takes to fill an output gap? Finally the paper develops a simple analytical model showing how the economy can get into a liquidity trap and how Gesell money is one way of avoiding it or escaping from it.

Suggested Citation

  • Willem H. Buiter & Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, 1999. "Liquidity Traps: How to Avoid Them and How to Escape Them," NBER Working Papers 7245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7245
    Note: IFM ME

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1997. "Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number rome97-1, January.
    2. Buiter, Willem H. & Panigirtzoglou, Nikolaos, 1999. "Liquidity Traps: How to Avoid Them and How to Escape Them," CEPR Discussion Papers 2203, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Coenen Günter & Orphanides Athanasios & Wieland Volker, 2004. "Price Stability and Monetary Policy Effectiveness when Nominal Interest Rates are Bounded at Zero," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-25, February.
    4. Taylor, John B., 1981. "On the relation between the variability of inflation and the average inflation rate," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 57-85, January.
    5. J. Tobin, 1958. "Liquidity Preference as Behavior Towards Risk," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(2), pages 65-86.
    6. repec:bin:bpeajo:v:2:y:1971:i:1971-2:p:485-498 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Chadha, Jagjit S & Haldane, Andrew G & Janssen, Norbert G J, 1998. "Shoe-Leather Costs Reconsidered," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(447), pages 363-382, March.
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    9. Martin S. Feldstein, 1997. "The Costs and Benefits of Going from Low Inflation to Price Stability," NBER Chapters,in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 123-166 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Chan, K C, et al, 1992. " An Empirical Comparison of Alternative Models of the Short-Term Interest Rate," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 47(3), pages 1209-1227, July.
    11. 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.
    12. Karen H. Johnson & David H. Small & Ralph W. Tryon, 1999. "Monetary policy and price stability," International Finance Discussion Papers 641, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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    14. Karl-Heinz Todter & Gerhard Ziebarth, 1997. "Price Stability vs. Low Inflation in Germany: An Analysis of Costs and Benefits," NBER Working Papers 6170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Clouse James & Henderson Dale & Orphanides Athanasios & Small David H. & Tinsley P.A., 2003. "Monetary Policy When the Nominal Short-Term Interest Rate is Zero," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-65, September.
    16. Buiter, Willem H., 1977. "`Crowding out' and the effectiveness of fiscal policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 309-328, June.
    17. Tödter, Karl-Heinz & Ziebarth, Gerhard, 1997. "Price stability versus low inflation in Germany: An analysis of costs and benefits," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 1997,03e, Deutsche Bundesbank.
    18. Laurence Ball & Stephen G. Cecchetti, 1990. "Inflation and Uncertainty at Long and Short Horizons," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 21(1), pages 215-254.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B22 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Macroeconomics
    • E41 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Demand for Money

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