Timeless Perspectives vs. Discretionary Monetary Policy In Forward-Looking Models

Bennett T. McCallum, Edward Nelson

NBER Working Paper No. 7915
Issued in September 2000
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Monetary Economics

This paper reviews the distinction between the timeless perspective and discretionary modes of monetary policymaking, the former representing rule-based policy as recently formalized by Woodford (1999b). In models with forward-looking expectations, this distinction is greater than in the models that have been typical in the rules-vs.-discretion literature; typically there is a second inefficiency from discretionary policymaking, distinct from the familiar inflationary bias. The paper presents calculations of the quantitative magnitude of this second inefficiency, using calibrated models of two types prominent in the current literature. In addition, it examines the distinction between instrument rules and targeting rules; the results indicate that targeting-rule outcomes can be very closely approximated by instrument rules. Also included is a brief investigation of operationality issues, involving the unobservability of current output and the possibility that an incorrect concept of the natural-rate level of output, essential in measuring the output gap, is used by the policymaker. In all of the cases examined, the unconditional average performance of timeless perspective policymaking is at least as good as that provided by optimal discretionary behavior.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7915

Published: Bennett T. McCallum & Edward Nelson, 2004. "Timeless perspective vs. discretionary monetary policy in forward-looking models," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 43-56. citation courtesy of

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