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Daily Archives: May 13, 2008

Yellen: current state of economy

Janet Yellen, President of San Fransico Fed had a wonderful presentation of current state of the economy, a lot of nice graphs. Her full speech is here.

rethinking central bank doctrines

Leijonhufvud in his piece on VOX challenges two central bank doctrines:

1. inflation targeting;

This strategy failed in the United States. The Federal Reserve lowered the federal funds rate drastically in an effort to counter the effects of the dot.com crash. In this, the Fed was successful. But it then maintained the rate at an extremely low level because inflation, measured by various variants of the CPI, stayed low and constant. In an inflation targeting regime this is taken to be feedback confirming that the interest rate is “right”. In the present instance, however, US consumer goods prices were being stabilised by competition from imports and the exchange rate policies of the countries of origin of those imports. American monetary policy was far too easy and led to the build-up of a serious asset price bubble, mainly in real estate, and an associated general deterioration in the quality of credit. The problems we now face are in large part due to this policy failure.

2. independence

When monetary policy comes to involve choices of inflating or deflating, of favouring debtors or creditors, of selectively bailing out some and not others, of allowing or preventing banks to collude, no democratic country can leave these decisions to unelected technicians. The independence doctrine becomes impossible to uphold.

His argument is quite interesting.

Thaler: Framing and Nudge

Richard Thaler, one of the top-guns in behavior economics, explains how to use nudge or framing to help people make decisions. 
In his new book, “Nudge,” written with University of Chicago Law School professor Cass Sunstein, he looks at how policymakers might go about doing that. He and Mr. Sunstein make an argument for policies that guide people toward making optimal decisions while not depriving them of their ability to make a choice. They call this idea “libertarian paternalism.” (“Why not paternal libertarianism?” asked Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman at a recent event. “It’s no worse,” Mr. Thaler replied.)

Bernanke, the Improviser

The event was a 2002 conference at the University of Chicago to celebrate the Nobel laureate Milton Friedman's 90th birthday. When Ben S. Bernanke rose to speak, he said that the Federal Reserve, of which he was then a governor, had come around to Friedman's view that the central bank's blunders were to blame for the Great Depression. "We're very sorry," Bernanke said, prompting laughter. "But thanks to you, we won't do it again."

From Bernanke's standpoint, there are two major lessons to be learned from the Fed's reaction to the market crash of 1929 that are relevant today. The first is that the Fed should lower rates, not raise them, in the face of an economic contraction. The second is that the Fed must pay careful attention to the health of financial institutions, as lending plays a big role in economic growth.

I had the same feeling: Being a Great Depression buff himself, Bernanke has been so much worried about another great depression under his reign. That partly explains his aggressive monetary policy.  History will tell whether he's right or wrong.
read more here (source: Bloomberg)