Understanding Real Interest Rates
This paper outlines an approach to measuring real interest rates and testing hypotheses on their behavior. It then describes what we know about real interest rates in the aggregate economy and provides estimates of real interest rates for the agricultural sector. The evidence presented in this paper indicates that real interest rates for the agricultural economy have been extremely high in the l98Ds and that their behavior seems to be linked to that found for real rates in the aggregate economy. What has been the source of these high real rates? The answer seems to be that it was a result of a concerted effort by the monetary authorities to disinflate the economy. However, the brunt of the Fed's disinflationary policy has fallen more heavily on the farm sector which has had to face far higher reel rates than the rest of the economy. Although breaking the back of inflation was certainly a worthy goal for the Fed, farmers have had to pay a heavy price. They have had to suffer for the sins of an economy that was excessively inflationary, which then had to be brought back into line with disinflationary policy.