“Everything reminds Paul Krugman of the GOP. Everything reminds me of sex, but I try to keep it out of my papers.”

This is Paul Krugman:

Actually, before I get there, a word about self-styled conservative “market monetarists”: guys, have you noticed who your real policy enemies are? People like me, Brad DeLong, etc. are skeptical about the Fed’s ability to offset the effects of fiscal austerity, but we do want it to try. The furious academic opposition to quantitative easing is instead coming from moderate conservative macroeconomists, notably Taylor and Feldstein. So your problem isn’t just that the GOP’s effective leader on economic issues gets his macro from Francisco D’Anconia; it’s that even the not-so-silly wing of the party is dead set against what you consider reform.

When I read Krugman’s comment I came to think about what Robert Solow once said about Milton Friedman:

“Everything reminds Milton Friedman of the money supply. Everything reminds me of sex, but I try to keep it out of my papers.”

Paul Krugman undoubtedly is an extremely clever economist and when he actually writes about economics – rather than about obsessing about the US Republican party – he can be very interesting to read.

Unfortunately he is no better than the people on the right in US politics he so hates. It seems like every issue he writes about has to involve the Republican Party. Frankly speaking I find that extremely boring and massively counterproductive.

Personally I refuse to participate in the tribalism advocated by Paul Krugman. I do not judge economists and their views on whether they are affiliated with the Republican party or the Democrat party in the US. I find these affiliations utterly irrelevant.

It is of course correct that Market Monetarists tend to agree with Keynesians like Krugman and Brad DeLong that the main economic problem  in the US, Japan and the euro zone right now is weak aggregate demand (we would say weak NGDP growth). None of ever denied that. However, we equally agree with John Taylor that monetary policy should be rule based and we agree with Allan Meltzer (at least the ‘old’ Meltzer) that monetary policy is highly potent. That is as least as important – or maybe even more important – when it comes to policy advocacy.

Furthermore, as particularly Scott Sumner often has argued that Paul Krugman has been extremely inconsistent on his view of monetary policy – sometimes he seems to that there is no role for monetary policy (he seems as obsessed with the imaginary liquidity trap as he is with the GOP) and sometimes he thinks monetary easing is great and will work. Or said in another way – we tend to agree the New Keynesian Krugman, but have no time for the paleo-Keynesian Krugman.

Finally would you all stop calling Market Monetarists “conservative”. As far as I know most of the Market Monetarist bloggers are either apolitical or think of themselves as libertarian or classical liberal. I am certainly no conservative – neither was Hayek nor was Friedman.

PS Josh Barro might be to “blame” to this discussion. It is probably this comment that triggered Krugman’s response:

“But while market monetarism is the shining success of the conservative reform movement, it also points to trouble for the reformists. We have had zero success in convincing Republican elected officials that easy money is ever a good idea. The Republican party has gotten, if anything, more rabidly afraid of inflation and more flirtatious with the idea of returning to a gold standard. The 2012 Republican National Convention adopted a platform calling for a “commission to investigate possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar.”

PPS I feel that this blog post might have been a complete waste of time writing so I hope that I at least have not wasted your time as well.

PPPS Scott also comments on Krugman as do Dilbert:




Taylor, rules and central bank independence – When Taylor is right and wrong

John Taylor is out with new paper on “The Effectiveness of Central Bank Independence Versus Policy Rules”.

Here is the abstract:

“This paper assesses the relative effectiveness of central bank independence versus policy rules for the policy instruments in bringing about good economic performance. It examines historical changes in (1) macroeconomic performance, (2) the adherence to rules-based monetary policy, and (3) the degree of central bank independence. Macroeconomic performance is defined in terms of both price stability and output stability. Factors other than monetary policy rules are examined. Both de jure and de facto central bank independence at the Fed are considered. The main finding is that changes in macroeconomic performance during the past half century were closely associated with changes the adherence to rules-based monetary policy and in the degree of de facto monetary independence at the Fed. But changes in economic performance were not associated with changes in de jure central bank independence. Formal central bank independence alone has not generated good monetary policy outcomes. A rules-based framework is essential.”

So far I have only run thought very fast, but it looks very interesting and I certainly do agree with the main conclusion that the important thing is a rule-based monetary framework rather than central bank independence. Taylor obviously prefers his own Taylor rule – Market Monetarists including myself prefer NGDP level targeting. Nonetheless getting central banks to follow a rule based monetary policy must be the key objective for monetary policy pundits. That is the view of John Taylor and Market Monetarists alike.

Here is another very interesting paper – “The Influence of the Taylor rule on US monetary policy” – certainly related to Taylor and the Taylor rule.

Here is the abstract:

“We analyze the influence of the Taylor rule on US monetary policy by estimating the policy preferences of the Fed within a DSGE framework. The policy preferences are represented by a standard loss function, extended with a term that represents the degree of reluctance to letting the interest rate deviate from the Taylor rule. The empirical support for the presence of a Taylor rule term in the policy preferences is strong and robust to alternative specifications of the loss function. Analyzing the Fed’s monetary policy in the period 2001-2006, we find no support for a decreased weight on the Taylor rule, contrary to what has been argued in the literature. The large deviations from the Taylor rule in this period are due to large, negative demand-side shocks, and represent optimal deviations for a given weight on the Taylor rule.”

John Taylor has long argued have long argued that the present crisis was a result of the Federal Reserve diverging from the Taylor rule in years just prior to 2008 and that caused a boom-bust in the UK economy. The aforementioned paper by Pelin Ilbas, Øistein Røisland and Tommy Sveen indicate that John Taylor is wrong on that view.

So concluding, John Taylor is right that we need a rule based monetary policy framework, but he is wrong about what rule we need.

HT Jens Pedersen

PS I still find Taylor’s focus on interest rates as a monetary policy instrument both frustrating and very wrong. It might have been the biggest problem with the Taylor rule – that central bankers have been led to think that “the” interest rate is the only instrument at their disposal.


Buy “The Great Recession: Market Failure or Policy Failure”

It official! Bob Hetzel’s book The Great Recession: Market Failure or Policy Failure” is finally out. Buy it! Needless to say I ordered it long ago.

We all know it – Bob Hetzel has a Market Monetarist explanation for the Great Recession. It was caused by overly tight monetary policy – what Bob calls the Monetary Disorder view of the Great Recession.

John Taylor has a favourable review of the book here.

David Beckworth comments on Taylor here.

Scott Sumner comments on Hetzel, Taylor and Beckworth.

And finally Bill Woolsey also has a wrap-up on Hetzel, Taylor, Beckworth and Sumner (and Marcus Nunes for that matter).

Do I need to add anything? Well no, other than just buy that book NOW!!

Here is that official book description:

“Since publication of Robert L. Hetzel’s The Monetary Policy of the Federal Reserve (Cambridge University Press, 2008), the intellectual consensus that had characterized macroeconomics has disappeared. That consensus emphasized efficient markets, rational expectations, and the efficacy of the price system in assuring macroeconomic stability. The 2008-2009 recession not only destroyed the professional consensus about the kinds of models required to understand cyclical fluctuations but also revived the credit-cycle or asset-bubble explanations of recession that dominated thinking in the 19th and first half of the 20th century. These “market-disorder” views emphasize excessive risk taking in financial markets and the need for government regulation. The present book argues for the alternative “monetary-disorder” view of recessions. A review of cyclical instability over the last two centuries places the 2008-2009 recession in the monetary-disorder tradition, which focuses on the monetary instability created by central banks rather than on a boom-bust cycle in financial markets.”



UPDATE: David Glasner also has a comment related to Taylor-Hetzel.

Lets concentrate on the policy framework

Here is Scott Sumner:

I’ve noticed that when I discuss economic policy with other free market types, it’s easier to get agreement on broad policy rules than day-to-day discretionary decisions.

I have noticed the same thing – or rather I find that when pro-market economists are presented with Market Monetarist ideas based on the fact that we want to limit the discretionary powers of central banks then it is much easier to sell our views than when we just argue for monetary “stimulus”. I don’t want central bank to ease monetary policy. I don’t want central banks to tighten monetary policy. I simply want to central banks to stop distorting relative prices. I believe the best way to ensure that is with futures based NGDP targeting as this is the closest we get to the outcome that would prevail under a truly free monetary system with competitive issuance of money.

I have often argued that NGDP level targeting is not about monetary stimulus (See here, here and here) and argued that NGDP level targeting is the truly free market alternative (see here).

This in my view is the uniting view for free market oriented economists. We can disagree about whether monetary policy was too loose in the US and Europe prior to 2008 or whether it became too tight in 2008/9. My personal view is that both US and European monetary policy likely was (a bit!) too loose prior to 2008, but then turned extremely tight in 2008/09. The Great Depression was not caused by too easy monetary policy, but too tight monetary policy. However, in terms of policy recommendations is that really important? Yes it is important in the sense of what we think that the Fed or the ECB should do right now in the absence of a clear framework of NGDP targeting (or any other clear nominal target). However, the really important thing is not whether the Fed or the ECB will ease a little bit more or a little less in the coming month or quarter, but how we ensure the right institutional framework to avoid a future repeat of the catastrophic policy response in 2008/9 (and 2011!). In fact I would be more than happy if we could convince the ECB and the Fed to implement NGDP level target at the present levels of NGDP in Europe and the US – that would mean a lot more to me than a little bit more easing from the major central banks of the world (even though I continue to think that would be highly desirable as well).

What can Scott Sumner, George Selgin, Pete Boettke, Steve Horwitz, Bob Murphy and John Taylor all agree about? They want to limit the discretionary powers of central banks. Some of them would like to get rid of central banks all together, but as long as that option is not on the table they they all want to tie the hands of central bankers as much as possible. Scott, Steve and George all would agree that a form of nominal income targeting would be the best rule. Taylor might be convinced about that I think if it was completely rule based (at least if he listens to Evan Koeing). Bob of course want something completely else, but I think that even he would agree that a futures based NGDP targeting regime would be preferable to the present discretionary policies.

So maybe it is about time that we take this step by step and instead of screaming for monetary stimulus in the US and Europe start build alliances with those economists who really should endorse Market Monetarist ideas in the first place.

Here are the steps – or rather the questions Market Monetarists should ask other free market types (as Scott calls them…):

1) Do you agree that in the absence of Free Banking that monetary policy should be rule based rather than based on discretion?

2) Do you agree that markets send useful and appropriate signals for the conduct of monetary policy?

3) Do you agree that the market should be used to do forecasting for central banks and to markets should be used to implement policies rather than to leave it to technocrats? For example through the use of prediction markets and futures markets. (See my comments on prediction markets and market based monetary policy here and here).

4) Do you agree that there is good and bad inflation and good and bad deflation?

5) Do you agree that central banks should not respond to non-monetary shocks to the price level?

6) Do you agree that monetary policy can not solve all problems? (This Market Monetarists do not think so – see here)

7) Do you agree that the appropriate target for a central bank should be to the NGDP level?

I am pretty sure that most free market oriented monetary economists would answer “yes” to most of these questions. I would of course answer “yes” to them all.

So I suggest to my fellow Market Monetarists that these are the questions we should ask other free market economists instead of telling them that they are wrong about being against QE3 from the Fed. In fact would it really be strategically correct to argue for QE3 in the US right now? I am not sure. I would rather argue for strict NGDP level targeting and then I am pretty sure that the Chuck Norris effect and the market would do most of the lifting. We should basically stop arguing in favour of or against any discretionary policies.

PS I remain totally convinced that when economists in future discuss the causes of the Great Recession then the consensus among monetary historians will be that the Hetzelian-Sumnerian explanation of the crisis was correct. Bob Hetzel and Scott Sumner are the Hawtreys and Cassels of the day.

Taylor fires at NGDP targeting – the Market Monetarists fire back

John Taylor has a comment on NGDP targeting. Let’s just say he is not a fan of NGDP targeting.

Taylor’s comments have provoked the Market Monetarists bloggers to fire back at Taylor. See the comments from:

Scott Sumner
Nick Rowe
Marcus Nunes
Bill Woolsey

I don’t have a lot to add, but I would note that it seems like Taylor wrongly thinks that NGDP targeting is discretionary. I have already commented on that common misperception.

See my comment “NGDP targeting is not a Keynesian business cycle policy”

PS To me actually the worst thing about the Taylor rule is that it has created the very damaging misconception that monetary policy is about controlling interest rates. Interest rates is NOT the price of money – it is the price of credit.

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