Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Robert Lucas in Today's WSJ on Inflation Targeting

Nobel economist Robert Lucas writing in today's WSJ (subscription required) in support of inflation targeting:

In the past 50 years, there have been two macroeconomic policy changes in the United States that have really mattered. One of these was the supply-side reduction in marginal tax rates, initiated after Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980 and continued and extended during the current administration. The other was the advent of "inflation targeting," which is the term I prefer for a monetary policy focused on inflation-control to the exclusion of other objectives. As a result of these changes, steady GDP growth, low unemployment rates and low inflation rates -- once thought to be an impossible combination -- have been a reality in the U.S. for more than 20 years.

I am skeptical about the argument that the subprime mortgage problem will contaminate the whole mortgage market, that housing construction will come to a halt, and that the economy will slip into a recession. Every step in this chain is questionable and none has been quantified. If we have learned anything from the past 20 years it is that there is a lot of stability built into the real economy.

To me, inflation targeting at its best is an application of Milton Friedman's maxim that "inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon," and its corollary that monetary policy should concentrate on the one thing it can do well -- control inflation. It can be hard to keep this in mind in financially chaotic times, but I think it is worth a try.


2 Comments:

At 9/19/2007 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark,

Are you going to post on the Fed move?

 
At 9/19/2007 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernanke went bear hunting - again. For some reason he really is against short sellers. This may be part of managing expectations. Things will look better if traders are afraid to take the down bet on the economy or market.

 

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