Revisiting Monetary Policy in a Low Inflation Environment
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
The past decade, underscored by the recent financial and economic crises, has shaken the confidence many economists have in some of the received conventional wisdom regarding monetary and macroeconomic policy. The decade featured two episodes of the federal funds rate at or near the zero lower bound, two periods of uncomfortably low inflation, and the first significant use of alternative monetary policy tools to stabilize the economy when conventional policy was constrained.
In the wake of this tumult, this conference aims to spur discussion on a number of questions about which we must admit a considerable degree of humility. Are we likely to be constrained by the zero lower bound more often than we had earlier estimated? If so, do we have sufficient confidence in our alternative monetary policy tools to stabilize the economy in the face of adverse shocks? Might central banks reconsider the optimal level of inflation in light of these experiences? And has our profession given sufficient consideration to the extent to which monetary and fiscal policies can and should overlap?
|6:00 p.m.||Reception , Dinner|
|8:15 a.m.||Conference Commencement , Opening Remarks|
|Welcome:||Eric S. Rosengren President and Chief Executive Officer Federal Reserve Bank of Boston|
The Honorable Ben S. Bernanke Chairman Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Remarks
Today's sessions are moderated by J. Christina Wang, Senior Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of BostonWhat Have We Learned about Monetary Policy in a Low Inflation Environment? A Review of the 2000s
This session will provide an overview of the experience of the first decade of the twenty-first century, with particular attention paid to the issues being examined in more detail in subsequent sessions.
N. Gregory Mankiw Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics Harvard University
John B. Taylor Mary and Robert Raymond Professor Economics Stanford University Presentation
|11:30 a.m.||Have We Underestimated the Probability of Hitting the Zero Lower Bound?|
In 1999 at the joint Federal Reserve System conference on monetary policy in a low inflation environment, most participants were reasonably sanguine about the likelihood of hitting the zero lower bound (ZLB) and about the central bank's ability to use alternative tools to stabilize the economy in that event. Were the estimates from that era accurate? Or should recent experience lead us to re-estimate the probability of hitting the ZLB? How robust are estimates of the probability of hitting the ZLB to model specification? What are our current best estimates of the costs of hitting the ZLB constraint? What has recent experience taught us about the effectiveness of alternative interest-rate policies (nonlinear and expectations-based) in mitigating the costs?
John C. Williams Executive Vice President and Director of Research Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Hess Chung Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Marvin Goodfriend Professor of Economics and Chairman, The Gaillot Center for Public Policy Carnegie Melon Tepper School of Business Presentation
Andrea Tambalotti Senior Economist Federal Reserve Bank of New York Presentation
|2:15 p.m.||The Effectiveness of Alternative Monetary Policy Tools in a Zero Lower Bound Environment|
The last several years have marked the first time that most advanced economies-with the notable exception of Japan-have used alternative monetary policies to stabilize the economy when the inflation rate was pinned at the zero lower bound. What have we learned from this relatively recent experience? How effective were such tools in the United States and in other similarly constrained economies?
James McAndrews Executive Vice President and Director of Financial Research Federal Reserve Bank of New York Presentation
|4:00 p.m||Inflation Dynamics When Inflation is Near Zero The recent behavior of inflation suggests that it may behave differently when inflation is near zero than otherwise. Recent Phillips curve estimates suggest a smaller influence of gap variables than historically has been the case. The importance of expectations that are "anchored" on a central bank inflation goal may also play a role. The experience in Japan, in which prolonged periods of economic slack were not accompanied by a continual downward spiral in inflation, also raises questions about inflation dynamics in a very low inflation environment. What does the recent evidence tell us about the likely behavior of inflation going forward? How does recent experience change our assessment of the probability of deflation? What role does downward rigidity in wages play? How much do the conclusions to these questions depend on the way in which one models inflation, including the role of model-consistent (or other) expectations?|
Jeffrey C. Fuhrer Executive Vice President and Director of Research Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Giovanni P. Olivei Vice President and Economist Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
William T. Dickens Distinguished Professor of Economics and Social Policy Northeastern University Presentation
Peter Hooper Chief Economist Deutsche Bank Securities Discussion
Reception , Dinner
|8:15 a.m.||Conference Remarks|
Eric S. Rosengren President and Chief Executive Officer Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Remarks
Today's sessions are moderated by Giovanni Olivei, Vice President and Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of BostonReconsidering the Optimal Rate of Inflation
Since the mid-to-late 1990s, the general consensus on inflation targeting has held that a 2 percent inflation rate is the best long-run goal. Yet several prominent economists have recently put forward the bold suggestion that central banks might now consider raising their inflation goal in light of concerns about the zero lower bound, the effectiveness of alternative monetary policy instruments, and the possibility of deflation. This session will examine this proposition from multiple perspectives, including optimal taxation and the optimality of the Friedman rule.
Bennett T. McCallum H. J. Heinz Professor of Economics Carnegie Mellon University /-/media/Documents/conference/55/papers/McCallum.pdf Presentation
Joseph E. Gagnon Senior Fellow Peterson Institute for International Economics /-/media/Documents/conference/55/papers/Gagnon.pdf
|10:45 a.m.||Fiscal/Monetary Policy Interactions and Ambiguities in a Low Inflation Environment|
Recent experiences in the United States and other advanced nations have stretched the usual distinction between monetary and fiscal policy. In part, the traditional distinction centers on the premise that the central bank should not take on credit risk, whereas the country's treasury may do so. But it also involves consideration of the extent to which asset purchase programs focusing on particular sectors of the economy may constitute redistributive fiscal policy. This session will discuss the increasingly ambiguous boundaries between fiscal and monetary policy given the low inflation environment, and how permeable these boundaries have been and should be.
|Presenter:||Christopher A. Sims Harold H. Helm '20 Professor of Economics and Banking Princeton University Presentation|
Benjamin M. Friedman William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy Harvard University
Matthew C. Weinzierl Assistant Professor of Business Administration Harvard Business School Presentation
|1:30 p.m.||Policy Panel on Recent International Experiences|
The recent financial and economic crisis was, more than any other episode in the past several decades, an international crisis. Central banks around the world pursued similar policies in many cases, but the experiences were not identical across countries. This panel will draw out the common lessons learned from the experience, while highlighting important differences in the policy approaches of central banks.
Alan S. Blinder Gordon R. Rentschler Memorial Professor of Economics Princeton University Presentation
Richard Portes Professor of Economics, London Business School and President, Centre for Economic Policy Research Presentation