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TheMoneyIllusion货币幻觉

美国本特利大学经济学教授斯科特·萨姆纳(Scott Sumner)

 
 
 

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美国本特利大学经济学教授

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慎重对待经济预期  

2009-05-31 08:21:24|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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假定你有预测未来的方法,并在将来能达到一个高峰,比如2011年5月,但只允许你看一个变量——不是道琼指数,而是联邦基金利率。现在假设我告诉你的,是下面两个数字中的一个:

a.   0.25%

b.   3.75%

你会选择哪一个?当你观察水晶球的时候你更希望看到哪个数字?我知道我想看到的,但是在给出我的回答之前,让我们看看一些专家的意见。曼昆在博客链接了下面标准型的美联储文章:

像许多个人预言者一样,联邦公开市场委员会的成员预见在今后几年最有可能保持持续的高失业率和低通货膨胀率。图2中的虚线是基于历史性政策规则估算的联邦基金利率所制定的未来政策和这些经济预测。这条虚线表明,为了在某种程度上使未来货币刺激符合其过去的行为,联邦公开市查委员会将在今年年底把联邦基金利率降低到-5 %,远低于它的零下限。

根据历史政策规则和联邦公开市场委员会的经济预测,联邦基金利率应该在未来的几年,而不是六个月或九个月,接近零下线。即使美国经济预计在今年下半年将开始增长,这个政策缺口依然持续。鉴于现行经济严重衰退,在积极的基金利率政策和大多数疲软经济消除之前,需要几年经济强劲的增长。

经济理论表明,告知任何政策不足可能的持续对美联储来说都是有益的。货币政策在很大程度上是一个塑造私营部门关于未来短期利率预期的过程,这会影响长期利率和其他的资产价格,以实现不同的宏观经济目标(麦格夫、鲁迪布什和威廉姆斯2005)。在当前的形势下,联邦公开市场委员会指出“预计经济状况可能使联邦基金利率在一个持续期内很低成为一种正当情况”。其他中心银行已经更加明确低利率的持续期。例如,瑞典中央银行最近已明确表示,预计将其政策利率维持在较低水平,直到2011年初。鲁迪布什和威廉姆斯(2008年)描述了如何设计中央银行利率可能有助于中央银行实现其政策目标。

    今年2月,联邦公开市场委员会成员也开始公布其长远预测的产出增长,失业和通货膨胀——符合追求更大的透明度的趋势(鲁迪布什2008年) 。这种长远预测有助于明确FOMC的政策战略和目标,这些表明,大多数联邦公开市场委员会成员希望年通货膨胀率在更远的将来能保持在2%左右。这种关于通胀目标的积极表现可能有助于防止通货膨胀的预期下降太低,并防止任何过分的通货膨胀率下降。

    多年沉闷的讨论、沮丧和厄运将来还会有吗?我们如果提高呢?我们可信地承诺一个扩张性的货币政策,它将在将来持续很长时间。长时间看我这个博客的读者将注意到,我不断地重复这样一个观点,重要的不是目前的设定的货币政策,而是为政策预想的未来道路。所以在这方面,我赞同鲁迪布什——我们必须在一段较长的时间里致力于高扩张性的货币政策。但这也是他让我不明白的地方,不像大多数经济学家那样,我并不把接近零利率与银根松弛等同起来,我把它们等同与货币失效,更具体地来说是过度紧缩银根。

现在让我们回到水晶球的问题。如果我观察这个球并且看到在2011年联邦基金利率是0.25%,我将有一种令人作呕的感觉——像被人打到了太阳穴。克鲁格曼将是正确的,我们将成为另一个日本。我将屏住呼吸抛售我的全部股票。我将投50%的钱购买30年期国债,用另外50%买中国香港股票,希望中国人不会像我们这样愚蠢。相比之下3.75%联邦基金利率会让我眉开眼笑,因为这将表明名义上的GDP增长已强劲反弹。这将是一个V型复苏。

但是很明显,我在这里的少数派。克鲁格曼和曼昆反复地进行这些研究,所以我必须承担他们看到了一些我看不到的东西。在我看来,年复一年接近零利率的希望就像年复一年低于名义上的增长一样。中央银行应采取一种政策,使经济从萧条中快速恢复过来,而不是几年长期的经济惨状。一种能成功地在未来能引起更高的名义利率的政策。

解述常见的评论不是美联储预言失败的工作,他们的工作是创造成功。在经济严重萧条,回顾泰勒规则,它只是失败的规则。令人沮丧的是,美联储似乎不知道如何促成快速的名义GDP增长,罗斯福能够建立在一个更为糟糕的经济环境中创造通胀预期。美联储关于目标名义GDP期货合同的政策以5%的溢价将立即搞活资产市场。我不知道这是一种意愿的失败,还是一种空想的失败,但是在宏观经济显著改善的76年后,有些观点是非常错误的,我们甚至还能够重新取得的像1933年春季那样的成就。

自从大萧条以来,我们已经倒退了,尽管我们所有自以为是的教科书告诉我们,我们比20世纪30年代的政策制定者聪明很多。“哦,不,我们永远不会在经济萧条中增加准备金。 ”当然,我们可能会采取政策,当经济将跌落悬崖之时往银行超额储备,这样具有相同的倍增效应。至少在20世纪30年代,他们有一个用黄金标准约束自己的行为的借口。

这个帖子与早期批评克鲁格曼的论证——为了有效货币政策将不得不创造高通胀预期 的帖子有关。 我认为那个论证是非常错误的,而且似乎是以克鲁格曼和曼昆持续做的那些的泰勒规则的研究为基础的。被引用的通货膨胀数字意味着完全难以估计的斜率算法。在现实中,我们并不需要高通胀,我们需要迅速名义GDP的增长。如果担心通货膨胀阻碍我们,那我们已经犯了一个非常昂贵的错误。

尽管它是我所发的最重要的两三篇帖子中的其中一个,但该帖只收到了2条评论,比我的平均跟帖数少25条。我希望博客上能花费更多的时间讨论这个重要的问题。把它尽可能简化,并达到快速的名义增长率(比如5-7%)作为克鲁格曼似乎主张要求高通货膨胀,或者因为不景气的经济状况我们是否可以用相对较低的通货膨胀率?我认为,通货膨胀率将保持在低水平,即使货币政策扩张也足以产生活跃名义GDP增长。

多年来,新凯恩斯主义精英已向我们确保,我们绝不会再犯像日本央行那样的错误,我们的美联储不会坐视年复一年与低于名义GDP增长。他们向我们保证,日本央行有他们不使用的武器。如果这样,那么为什么我们规划着多年相同的接近零利率的失败政策和勉强不足的量子效率?为什么不从其中一个万无一失的退路中脱离困境呢?为什么要继续等待?

(翻译纠错:读者发现任何翻译错误,请发邮件给我们,谢谢。caijingblog#126.com;将#改为@ )


英文原文(地址:http://blogsandwikis.bentley.edu/themoneyillusion/?p=1402):

Be careful what you wish for

Suppose you have a crystal ball, and are given one peak at the future, say May 2011.  But you are only allowed to look at one variable—and it’s not the Dow, it’s the fed funds rate.  Now suppose I tell you the following, it will be one of these two numbers:

a.  0.25%

b.  3.75%

Which one are you rooting for?  Which number do you hope to see as you look into the crystal ball?  I know what I’d like to see, but before giving you my answer, let’s look at some expert opinion.  Mankiw linked to the following SF Fed article today:

Like many private forecasters, FOMC participants foresee persistently high unemployment and low inflation as the most likely outcome over the next few years. The recommended future policy setting of the funds rate based on the estimated historical policy rule and these economic forecasts is given as the dashed line in Figure 2. This dashed line shows that, in order to deliver a degree of future monetary stimulus that is consistent with its past behavior, the FOMC would have to reduce the funds rate to -5% by the end of this year—well below its lower bound of zero. . . .

According to the historical policy rule and FOMC economic forecasts, the funds rate should be near its zero lower bound not just for the next six or nine months, but for several years. The policy shortfall persists even though the economy is expected to start to grow later this year. Given the severe depth of the current recession, it will require several years of strong economic growth before most of the slack in the economy is eliminated and the recommended funds rate turns positive.

Economic theory suggests that it is useful for the Fed to communicate the likely duration of any policy shortfall. Monetary policy is in large part a process of shaping private-sector expectations about the future path of short-term interest rates, which affect long-term interest rates and other asset prices, in order to achieve various macroeconomic objectives (McGough, Rudebusch, and Williams 2005). In the current situation, the FOMC (2009) has noted that it “anticipates that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.” Other central banks have been even more explicit about the duration of low rates. For example, the central bank of Sweden has recently stated explicitly that it expects to keep its policy rate at a low level until the beginning of 2011. Rudebusch and Williams (2008) describe how such revelation of central bank interest rate projections may help a central bank achieve its policy goals.

Last February, FOMC participants also started to publish their long-run projections for output growth, unemployment, and inflation—in keeping with a trend toward greater transparency (Rudebusch 2008). Such long-run projections can help illuminate the FOMC’s policy strategies and goals, and these revealed that most FOMC participants would like to see an annual inflation rate of about 2% in the longer run. Such an expression of a positive inflation objective may help prevent inflationary expectations from falling too low and forestall any excessive decline in inflation.

What a dreary discussion.  Gloom and doom for years out into the future.  And how do we improve things?  We credibly promise an expansionary monetary policy that will persist for years into the future.  Long time readers of this blog will note that I continually harp on the idea that what matters isn’t the current setting of monetary policy, but rather the expected future path of policy.  So in that respect I am with Mr Rudebusch—we need to commit to a highly expansionary monetary policy for an extended period of time.  But here’s where he loses me, unlike most economists I don’t equate near zero interest rates with monetary ease, I equate them with monetary failure, and more specifically with ultra-tight money.

Now let’s return to the crystal ball question.  If I looked into the ball and saw 0.25% fed funds rates in 2011, I would have a sickening feeling—like I’d been punched in the solar plexus.  Krugman would be right, we’d be another Japan.  After catching my breath I’d rush out to sell all my stocks.  I’d put 50% into 30 year T-bonds, and the other 50% into HK/China equities, in the hope that the Chinese aren’t as foolish as we are.  In contrast a 3.75% fed funds rate would put a big smile on my face, as it would indicate nominal GDP growth had bounced back strongly.  It would have been a V-shaped recovery.

But obviously I am in the minority here.  Krugman and Mankiw keep linking to these studies again and again, so I have to assume they see something that I don’t.  In my view, promising year after year of near zero rates is like promising year after year of sub-par nominal growth.  The central bank should adopt a policy that is expected to produce a quick recovery from recession, not years more of economic misery.  A policy that if successful will result in much higher nominal interest rates in the future.

To paraphrase frequent commenter JImP, it is not the Fed’s job to predict failure; their job is to create success.  When the economy is severely depressed, backward looking Taylor Rules are nothing but failure rules.  The thing I find so frustrating is that the Fed doesn’t seem to have any ideas about how to create faster nominal GDP growth.  FDR was able to create inflation expectations in a far worse economic environment.  A Fed policy of targeting NGDP futures contracts at a 5% premium would immediately energize the asset markets.  I don’t know if it’s a failure of will, or a failure of imagination, but something is very wrong when after 76 years of dramatic improvements in macroeconomics, we aren’t even able to recreate the successes of the spring of 1933.

We’ve retrogressed since the Great Depression, despite all our smug textbooks that tell us how much smarter we are than the policymakers of the 1930s.  “Oh no, we’d never raise reserve requirements in the middle of a depression.”  Of course we might adopt a policy of paying banks to hoard excess reserves just as the economy is about to fall off a cliff, which has an identical impact on the multiplier.  And at least in the 1930s they had the excuse that the gold standard constrained their actions.

This post is related to an earlier post criticizing Krugman’s argument that in order to be effective monetary stimulus would have to create high inflation expectations.  I think that argument is profoundly wrong, and seems to be based on these frequent Taylor rule studies that Krugman and Mankiw keep linking to.  The inflation numbers cited imply a completely implausible estimate of the slope of the SRAS.  In reality, we don’t need high inflation, we need rapid NGDP growth.  If fear of inflation is holding us back, then we have made a very costly miscalculation.

That post only received 2 comments, about 25 below my average, despite being one of the two or three most important posts that I have ever done.  I’d like to see the blogosphere spend more time discussing this important issue.  To put it as simply as possible, does rapid nominal growth (say 5-7% for example) require high inflation as Krugman seems to assert, or can we get by with relatively low inflation because of the depressed condition of the economy?  I believe that inflation would stay low, even if monetary policy was expansive enough to generate brisk NGDP growth.

For many years now the new Keynesian elite has been assuring us that we would never make the same mistake as the BOJ, that our Fed would not sit by for year after year with sub-par NGDP.  They assured us that the BOJ had weapons they were not using.  If so, then why are we planning years of the same failed policy of near zero interest rates and grudgingly inadequate QE?  Why not pull out one of those foolproof escapes right now?  Why wait?

 

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