CHAPTER 36 Five Debates over Macroeconomic Policy Economics

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CHAPTER 36 Five Debates over Macroeconomic Policy Economics N. Gregory Mankiw PRINCIPLES OF N.

CHAPTER 36 Five Debates over Macroeconomic Policy Economics N. Gregory Mankiw PRINCIPLES OF N. Gregory Mankiw Power. Point Slides by 2014 Economics II © 2009 South-Western, a part of Cengage Learning, all rights reserved

In this chapter, look for the answers to these questions: What are the arguments

In this chapter, look for the answers to these questions: What are the arguments on both sides of each of the following debates? § Should policymakers try to stabilize the economy? § Should monetary policy be made by rule or discretion? § Should the central bank aim for zero inflation? § Should the government balance its budget? § Should the tax laws be reformed to encourage saving? 1

Introduction § This course has introduced you to the tools economists use to analyze

Introduction § This course has introduced you to the tools economists use to analyze the behavior of the economy as a whole and the impact of policies on the economy. § This final chapter presents both sides in five classic debates over macroeconomic policy. FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 2

Should Policymakers Try to Stabilize the Economy? Arguments for active stabilization: § Left on

Should Policymakers Try to Stabilize the Economy? Arguments for active stabilization: § Left on their own, economies tend to fluctuate. E. g. , pessimism of households and firms causes a fall in aggregate demand, which causes a recession. § Policymakers can “lean against the wind” – use monetary & fiscal policy to stabilize aggregate demand, output, and employment. § A more stable economy benefits everyone. FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 3

Should Policymakers Try to Stabilize the Economy? Arguments against active stabilization: § Monetary &

Should Policymakers Try to Stabilize the Economy? Arguments against active stabilization: § Monetary & fiscal policy work with long lags, so policy must act in advance of economic changes. § But the shocks that cause fluctuations are unpredictable, and forecasting is highly imprecise. § If policy takes effect too late, it will worsen fluctuations. § So, leave economy to its own devices. FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 4

Should Monetary Policy Be Made by Rule or Discretion? § The Federal Reserve has

Should Monetary Policy Be Made by Rule or Discretion? § The Federal Reserve has almost complete discretion over monetary policy. § Some argue that the Fed should be forced to follow a rule, such as § constant money growth rate § inflation targeting: § increase money growth rate if inflation is below target § decrease money growth rate if inflation is above target 5

Should Monetary Policy Be Made by Rule or Discretion? Arguments against discretion: § Allowing

Should Monetary Policy Be Made by Rule or Discretion? Arguments against discretion: § Allowing central bankers discretion could do great harm if they are incompetent. § Discretion allows the possibility of abuse. § E. g. , using monetary policy to affect election outcomes, causing fluctuations called “the political business cycle. ” § Central bankers who promise price stability may renege if a recession occurs. § Time-inconsistency(時間不一致性): the discrepancy 6 between actual policy and announced policy

2. Should Monetary Policy Be Made by Rule or Discretion? Arguments for discretion: §

2. Should Monetary Policy Be Made by Rule or Discretion? Arguments for discretion: § Discretion allows flexibility to react to unforeseen § § events. Political business cycles and time-inconsistency are theoretical possibilities but not that important in practice. It is difficult to specify rules precisely and to determine what the best rule would be. FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 7

Should the Central Bank Aim for Zero Inflation? § Recall two of the Ten

Should the Central Bank Aim for Zero Inflation? § Recall two of the Ten Principles of Economics from Chapter 1: Prices rise when the government prints too much money. Society faces a short-run tradeoff between inflation and unemployment. § How much inflation should the central bank accept? Is zero inflation the right target? FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 8

Should the Central Bank Aim for Zero Inflation? Arguments for a zero inflation target:

Should the Central Bank Aim for Zero Inflation? Arguments for a zero inflation target: § The costs of inflation (shoeleather, menu, etc. ) can be substantial even for low inflation. § Achieving zero inflation would have temporary costs (higher unemployment) but permanent benefits. § And these costs could be reduced if the commitment to zero inflation is credible if it reduces the rate of inflation people expect. FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 9

Should the Central Bank Aim for Zero Inflation? Arguments against a zero inflation target:

Should the Central Bank Aim for Zero Inflation? Arguments against a zero inflation target: § The benefits of moving from moderate to zero inflation are small, but the costs are large: § Estimates: must sacrifice 5% of a year’s GDP for each 1% reduction in inflation § A disinflation would leave permanent scars: § Investment falls, lowering the future capital stock § Workers’ skills diminish while unemployed § Some of inflation’s costs could be reduced through more widespread indexation. 10

Its Budget? Arguments for balancing the budget: § Government debt places a burden on

Its Budget? Arguments for balancing the budget: § Government debt places a burden on future § § generations. Budget deficits crowd out investment, reducing economic growth and future living standards. While deficits may be justified during recessions or wars, the surging peacetime debt of recent decades is unsustainable and detrimental. FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 11

Should the Government Balance Its Budget? Arguments against balancing the budget: § The burden

Should the Government Balance Its Budget? Arguments against balancing the budget: § The burden of the government debt is exaggerated; it’s only a tiny % of a person’s lifetime income § Cutting the deficit could do more harm than good: § Cutting education would reduce human capital § accumulation and future living standards Raising taxes reduces incentives to work and save § Focusing on the deficit diverts attention from other programs that redistribute income across generations, such as Social Security. § Debt/income ratio more relevant than debt itself 12

Should the Tax Laws Be Reformed to Encourage Saving? Arguments for tax reform to

Should the Tax Laws Be Reformed to Encourage Saving? Arguments for tax reform to encourage saving: § One of the Ten Principles of Economics: § A nation’s standard of living depends on its ability to produce g&s. Higher saving provides more funds for capital accumulation, which increases productivity and living standards. FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 13

Should the Tax Laws Be Reformed to Encourage Saving? Arguments for tax reform to

Should the Tax Laws Be Reformed to Encourage Saving? Arguments for tax reform to encourage saving: § Another of the Ten Principles of Economics: § § People respond to incentives. The current U. S. tax system discourages saving: § High marginal tax rates reduce return on saving § Some saving is taxed twice (as corporate income and again as personal income) § High tax rates on bequests (up to 55%!!!) Replace income tax with a consumption tax to increase the incentive to save FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 14

Should the Tax Laws Be Reformed to Encourage Saving? Arguments against tax reform to

Should the Tax Laws Be Reformed to Encourage Saving? Arguments against tax reform to encourage saving: § Such tax reform would mainly benefit the wealthy, who need tax relief the least. § Estimates of the interest-rate elasticity of saving are low, so tax incentives may not increase saving much. § Reducing taxes on capital income may increase the government budget deficit, negating the benefits of higher private saving. § Increase national saving directly by reducing the budget deficit. FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 15

CONCLUSION § Economics teaches us “there’s no such thing as a free lunch. ”

CONCLUSION § Economics teaches us “there’s no such thing as a free lunch. ” There are few easy answers and many unresolved questions. § Crafting the best policy requires knowing the pros and cons of every alternative. § Being an informed voter requires the ability to evaluate the candidates’ policy proposals. § Knowing the principles of economics helps in these endeavors. FIVE DEBATES OVER MACROECONOMIC POLICY 16

CHAPTER SUMMARY § Advocates of active policy argue that the economy is inherently unstable

CHAPTER SUMMARY § Advocates of active policy argue that the economy is inherently unstable and believe that policy can manage aggregate demand to help stabilize output and employment. Critics of active policy note that policies act with long lags and can end up destabilizing the economy rather than helping it. § Advocates of monetary policy rules argue that discretionary policy can suffer from incompetence, abuse, and time-inconsistency. Critics of rules argue that the flexibility of discretion is important for responding to changing economic circumstances. 17

CHAPTER SUMMARY § Advocates of zero inflation argue that inflation has many costs and

CHAPTER SUMMARY § Advocates of zero inflation argue that inflation has many costs and no benefits. The costs of achieving zero inflation are temporary, while the benefits are permanent. Critics claim that the costs of low inflation are small, whereas the recession necessary to reduce inflation is quite costly. § Advocates of balancing the budget note that deficits burden future generations by raising their taxes and lowering their incomes. Critics argue that the deficit is only one part of fiscal policy and should be considered in a broader context. 18

CHAPTER SUMMARY § Advocates of reforming the tax laws to encourage saving note that

CHAPTER SUMMARY § Advocates of reforming the tax laws to encourage saving note that current tax laws discourage saving. Higher saving would increase investment, productivity growth, and future living standards. Critics argue that such reforms would mainly benefit the wealthy, and that such changes may have only a small effect on saving. They feel that reducing the budget deficit would be a more effective and more equitable way to increase national saving. 19