How to Run a Target Zone ? Age Old Lessons from an Austro-Hungarian Experiment
This paper considers what we argue was the first experiment of an exchange rate band. This experiment took place in Austria-Hungary between 1896 and 1914. The rationale for introducing this policy rested on precisely those intuitions that modern target zone literature has recently emphasized: the band was designed to secure both exchange rate stability and monetary policy autonomy. However, unlike more recent experiences, such as the ERM, this policy was not undermined by credibility problems. In other words the episode provides us with an ideal testing ground for some important ideas in modern macroeconomics: specifically, can formal rules, when faithfully adhered to, provide policy makers with some advantages such as short term flexibility? First, we find that a credible band has a “microeconomic” influence on exchange rate stability. By reducing uncertainty, a credible fluctuation band improves the quality of expectations, a channel that has been neglected in the modern literature. Second, we show that the standard test of the basic target zone model is flawed and develop an alternative methodology. This enables us to understand why Austro-Hungarian policy makers were so upbeat about the merits of exchange rate target zones. We believe that these findings shed a new light on the economics of exchange rate bands.
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