Have postwar economic fluctuations been stabilized?
Previous investigations of whether the volatility of the U.S. economy diminished after World War II have been inconclusive because of questionable prewar macroeconomic aggregates. We examine, more broadly, the hypothesis of the stabilization of the postwar economy by focusing on the duration of business cycles, rather than their amplitude; in the process, we avoid the debate about the quality of prewar aggregates. Using distribution-free statistics, we find clear evidence of postwar duration stabilization in terms of a shift toward longer expansions and shorter contractions. Moreover, we find ...
Chaos, taxes, stabilization, and turnover
Inflation, asset markets, and economic stabilization: lessons from Asia
In 1980's, a new convention emerged in the economics profession - that central banks' primary, even sole, responsibility should be controlling consumer price inflation. By the 1990's, this view was gaining credibility in policy circles, and various countries mandated that their central banks make inflation their primary focus (generally with and escape clause in the event of a severe economic shock). Here in the United States, this orthodoxy never gained official status; rather, the U.S. policy goal remains promoting stable long-term growth using a variety of theoretical approaches. ; The ...
The double play: simultaneous speculative attacks on currency and equity markets
This paper investigates the potential for foreign speculators to profit from simultaneously taking short positions in foreign exchange and equity markets under a fixed exchange rate regime, in what has been termed as the double play. Such a strategy is considered when the monetary authority is faced with two conflicting objectives exchange rate stability and low interest rates. While the monetary authority may not be able to directly intervene to stabilize interest rates under the fixed exchange rate regime, it may consider intervention in equity markets to head off speculative pressure on ...
Chaos, sunspots, and automatic stabilizers
We study a one-sector growth model which is standard except for the presence of an externality in the production function. The set of competitive equilibria is large. It includes constant equilibria, sunspot equilibria, cyclical and chaotic equilibria, and equilibria with deterministic or stochastic regime switching. The efficient allocation is characterized by constant employment and a constant growth rate. We identify an income tax-subsidy schedule that supports the efficient allocation as the unique equilibrium outcome. That schedule has two properties: (i) it specifies the tax rate to be ...
Regulation and financial innovation
a speech to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's 2007 Financial Markets Conference, Sea Island, Georgia (via satellite)
The impact of creditor protection on stock prices in the presence of credit crunches
Data show that better creditor protection is correlated across countries with lower average stock market volatility. Moreover, countries with better creditor protection seem to have suffered lower decline in their stock market indexes during the current financial crisis. To explain this regularity, we use a Tobin q model of investment and show that stronger creditor protection increases the expected level and lowers the variance of stock prices in the presence of credit crunches. There are two main channels through which creditor protection enhances the performance of the stock market: (1) ...
A quantitative defense of stabilization policy
In an analysis of the value of growth and stabilization of consumption, Robert Lucas presents a stunning set of calculations implying that a permanent increase in the growth rate of consumption of only one-tenth percentage point per year is worth nearly 50 times as much to consumers as complete elimination of consumption variability. This is because the higher growth of consumption is worth a lot while the reduced variability is worth virtually nothing (at least in the post-war United States). Taken at face value, such a result supports the pursuit of feasible growth policies but calls into ...
Can financial innovation help to explain the reduced volatility of economic activity?
The stabilization of economic activity in the mid 1980s has received considerable attention. Research has focused primarily on the role played by milder economic shocks, improved inventory management, and better monetary policy. This paper explores another potential explanation: financial innovation. Examples of such innovation include developments in lending practices and loan markets that have enhanced the ability of households and firms to borrow and changes in government policy such as the demise of Regulation Q. We employ a variety of simple empirical techniques to identify links between ...
The automatic fiscal stabilizers: quietly doing their thing
This paper presents theoretical and empirical analysis of automatic fiscal stabilizers, such as the income tax and unemployment insurance benefits. Using the modern theory of consumption behavior, we identify several channels--insurance effects, wealth effects and liquidity constraints- -through which the optimal reaction of household consumption plans to aggregate income shocks is tempered by the automatic fiscal stabilizers. In addition we identify a cash flow channel for investment. The empirical importance of automatic stabilizers is addressed in several ways. We estimate elasticities of ...