"A Look Back at the Consensus Statement," Paper prepared for Cato Institute's 37th Annual Monetary Conference, Washington D.C., November 14, 2019. Published version. Slides. The Federal Reserve has initiated a review of its monetary policy strategy, tools, and communications. The Fed’s current monetary policy strategy is enshrined in a document titled “Statement on Longer-Run Goals and Monetary Policy Strategy,” commonly referred to then as the "consensus statement." In it, the FOMC described its approach to monetary policy, formally announced the Committee’s inflation target of 2 percent, and explicitly declined to establish a numerical target for the unemployment rate. This paper looks back, with the benefit of hindsight, at the consensus statement and the long series of deliberations that led to the Fed finally specifying what price stability looks like quantitatively. Adopting a formal inflation target was a transparency milestone, but limitations of the consensus statement are apparent. They are attributable to the reluctance to surrender discretion and the resistance of strong advocates of the Fed's legislative "employment mandate."
“From ‘Real Bills’ to ‘Too Big to Fail’: H. Parker Willis and the Federal Reserve’s First Century,” H. Parker Willis Lecture, Washington & Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, February 27, 2018. Cato Journal, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Winter 2019), PDF, lecture, H. Parker Willis Lecture Series. Willis was an economics professor at Washington & Lee University who went on to serve as advisor to Congressman Carter Glass during the drafting of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913. He was a die-hard proponent of the "real bills doctrine" -- the idea that monetary policy would be appropriate if the Fed were permitted to lend only against loans arising from "real" commercial transactions such as trade finance or bills of exchange, as opposed to "speculative" investments such as stocks, bonds or commodities. Thus Fed lending was an essential adjunct to effective monetary policy for Willis and other founders of the Federal Reserve. The real bills doctrine was inherently flawed, though, and adherence to it led to Fed policy blunders in the early 1930s. Over time, Fed lending became divorced from monetary policy and lending policy evolved. Rescuing investors in failed financial institutions emerged beginning in the 1970s, setting precedents which arguably encouraged financial fragility and contributed to the financial crisis of 2007-09.
Comments on “Forward Guidance” by Marcus Hagedorn, Jinfeng Luo, Iourii Manovskii and Kurt Mitman. Carnegie-Rochester-New York University Conference on Public Policy Honoring the Contributions of Charles Plosser to Economics, April 20, 2018, Rochester NY. Published comments, slides, conference agenda. I was delighted to participate in a gathering honoring Charlie Plosser.
"On Systemic Risk," presented at the Second Joint Central Bank Research Conference on Risk Measurement and Systemic Risk at the Bank of Japan, Tokyo, Japan, November 16, 1998. Paper, OK, so this is not recent work, but it was not published in the conference proceedings and it strikes me as still relevant.