Fear of Liftoff: Uncertainty, Rules and Discretion in Monetary Policy Normalization

34 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2015

See all articles by Athanasios Orphanides

Athanasios Orphanides

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; Asia School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 26, 2015


The Federal Reserve’s muddled mandate to attain simultaneously the incompatible goals of maximum employment and price stability invites short-term-oriented discretionary policymaking inconsistent with the systematic approach needed for monetary policy to contribute best to the economy over time. Fear of liftoff — the reluctance to start the process of normalization after the end of a recession — serves as an example. Causes of the problem are discussed, drawing on public policy and cognitive psychology perspectives. The Federal Reserve could adopt a framework that relies on a simple policy rule subject to periodic reviews and adaptation. Replacing meeting-by-meeting discretion with a simple policy rule would eschew discretion in favor of systematic policy. Periodic review of the rule would allow the flexibility to account for and occasionally adapt to the evolving understanding of the economy. Congressional legislation could guide the Federal Reserve in this direction. However the Federal Reserve may be best placed to select the simple rule and could embrace this improvement on its own, within its current mandate, with the publication of a simple rule along the lines of its statement of longer-run goals.

Keywords: Federal Reserve, liftoff, discretion, policy rules, policy normalization

JEL Classification: E32, E52, E58, E61

Suggested Citation

Orphanides, Athanasios, Fear of Liftoff: Uncertainty, Rules and Discretion in Monetary Policy Normalization (August 26, 2015). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 5142-15, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2649953 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2649953

Athanasios Orphanides (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/faculty/detail.php?in_spseqno=54058

Asia School of Business ( email )

Jalan Kuching, Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan K
Kuala Lumpur, MA

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