The Young Person's Guide to Neutrality, Price Level Indeterminacy, Interest Rate Pegs, and Fiscal Theories of the Price Level

Willem H. Buiter

NBER Working Paper No. 6396
Issued in February 1998
NBER Program(s):International Finance and Macroeconomics, Monetary Economics

The paper establishes the following: First, money is neutral even if there is a non-zero stock of non-monetary nominal public debt, because the government adjusts real taxes to satisfy its intertemporal budget constraint. Second, Woodford's fiscal theory of the price level, according to which for certain fiscal rules the (initial) price level is independent of the nominal money stock, is invalid. It combines an overdetermined fiscal-financial program with an unwarranted weakening of the government's intertemporal budget constraint, requiring it to hold only in equilibrium, and only for arbitrarily restricted configurations of public spending, taxes and initial debt stocks. Third, there is price level determinacy under an exogenous nominal interest rate rule if the transactions technology has cash-in-advance features. The price level is hysteretic in this case. Finally, it is not possible to draw inferences about the historical process of technological improvements in the transactions technology leading to a cashless economy, by studying the limiting behavior, as a transactions efficiency index takes on successively higher values of a sequence of histories, each one of which is indexed for all time by a given level of efficiency.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6396

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