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Making Monetary Policy by Committee

  • Alan S. Blinder

    (Princeton University)

I was Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board while I was preparing my Marshall Lectures for delivery at Cambridge in 1995. So I asked the Board staff to research what had been written about making monetary policy by committees—as opposed to by individuals. Although they were (and remain) a knowledgeable and thorough bunch, they unearthed almost nothing. So when I delivered the Robbins Lectures at the London School of Economics the following year,1 this is what I concluded on the subject: My own hunch is that, on balance, the additional monetary policy inertia imparted by group decisionmaking provides a net benefit to society… But my main point is simpler: My experience as a member of the FOMC left me with a strong feeling that the theoretical fiction that monetary policy is made by a single individual maximizing a well-defined preference function misses something important. In my view, monetary theorists should start paying some attention to the nature of decisionmaking by committee, which is rarely mentioned in the academic literature. (Blinder (1998), p. 22) I made reference in that lecture to only one paper on the subject, Faust’s (1996) clever model of the seemingly-odd construction of the FOMC, though I should have cited Waller’s (1992) earlier work as well. (Mea culpa.) My point is that, up to then, there had been hardly any research on committee decisionmaking. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. By the time of my three Okun lectures at Yale in 2002 (Blinder (2004)), the subject merited a whole lecture, including references to about ten papers on the subject—and I missed some. (Mea culpa again.) The literature has continued to grow since then, including seven papers at a Netherlands Central Bank conference in 2005 and eleven papers at a Bank of Norway conference last year. The study of central banking by committee thus appears to be a growth industry, albeit a small one.

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Paper provided by Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies. in its series Working Papers with number 1051.

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Date of creation: Jun 2008
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Handle: RePEc:pri:cepsud:167blinder
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  1. Chappell, Henry W, Jr & McGregor, Rob Roy & Vermilyea, Todd, 2004. "Majority Rule, Consensus Building, and the Power of the Chairman: Arthur Burns and the FOMC," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 36(3), pages 407-22, June.
  2. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2004. "Choosing the Federal Reserve Chair: Lessons from History," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 129-162, Winter.
  3. Clare Lombardelli & James Proudman & James Talbot, 2002. "Committees versus individuals: an experimental analysis of monetary policy decision-making," Bank of England working papers 165, Bank of England.
  4. Philippe Moutot & Alexander Jung & Francesco Paolo Mongelli, 2008. "The working of the eurosystem - monetary policy preparations and decision-making – selected issues," Occasional Paper Series 79, European Central Bank.
  5. Sibert, Anne, 2006. "Central Banking by Committee," CEPR Discussion Papers 5626, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Blinder, Alan S., 2007. "Monetary policy by committee: Why and how?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 106-123, March.
  7. Szilárd Erhart & Jose Luis Vasquez-Paz, 2007. "Optimal Monetary Policy Committee Size: Theory and Cross Country Evidence," Kiel Advanced Studies Working Papers 439, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  8. Lohmann, Susanne, 1992. "Optimal Commitment in Monetary Policy: Credibility versus Flexibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 273-86, March.
  9. Faust, Jon, 1996. "Whom can we trust to run the Fed? Theoretical support for the founders' views," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 267-283, April.
  10. Waller, Christopher J., 1992. "A bargaining model of partisan appointments to the central bank," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 411-428, June.
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