Saturday, October 9, 2010

Precis of the Sumner thesis

Scott Sumner, author of the blog TheMoneyIllusion:

Premise 1: The only coherent way of characterizing monetary policy as being either too“easy” or “tight” is relative to the policy stance expected to achieve the central bank’s goals.

Premise 2: “Monetary policy can be highly effective in reviving a weak economy even if short-term interest rates are already near zero.”

Premise 3: After mid-2008, and especially in early October, the expected growth in the price level and nominal GDP fell increasingly far below the Fed’s implicit target.

In plain English, the first premise means the Fed should adopt the policy stance most likely to achieve its goals. It is a point forcefully advocated by Lars Svensson, who Paul Krugman recently cited as an expert on the role of expectations in monetary policy.

The second is a quotation from Mishkin’s best selling monetary economics text (p. 607), i.e. it’s what we have been teaching our students. And I have encountered few if any economists who disagree with my third assumption.

The logical implication of these three premises is that the Fed has the ability to boost nominal growth expectations, and if they let those expectations fall far below target (as they did last fall) the subsequent recession (depression?) is their fault.

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