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Preview: Oxford Review of Economic Policy - current issue

Oxford Review of Economic Policy Current Issue





Published: Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Thu, 04 Jan 2018 19:46:27 GMT

 



Table of Contents

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT




The rebuilding macroeconomic theory project: an analytical assessment

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
In this paper we review the Rebuilding Macroeconomic Theory Project, in which we asked a number of leading macroeconomists to describe how the benchmark New Keynesian model might be rebuilt, in the wake of the 2008 crisis. The need to change macroeconomic theory is similar to the situation in the 1930s, at the time of the Great Depression, and in the 1970s, when inflationary pressures were unsustainable. Four main changes to the core model are recommended: to emphasize financial frictions, to place a limit on the operation of rational expectations, to include heterogeneous agents, and to devise more appropriate microfoundations. Achieving these objectives requires changes to all of the behavioural equations in the model governing consumption, investment, and price setting, and also the insertion of a wedge between the interest rate set by policy-makers and that facing consumers and investors. In our view, the result will not be a paradigm shift, but an evolution towards a more pluralist discipline.



On the future of macroeconomics: a New Monetarist perspective

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
This article argues that a pressing goal for macroeconomics is to incorporate financial considerations, but we need models with solid microfoundations. In particular, the use of assets in facilitating exchange, as well as different credit (or other financial) arrangements, should be outcomes of, not inputs to, theories. As a preview, I suggest that mainstream macro does a good job explaining many phenomena, and a financial crisis does not disprove such theory. But understanding crises requires better incorporating factors related to money, credit, banking, and liquidity. The approach called New Monetarist economics can help a lot in this regard.



Is something really wrong with macroeconomics?

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Many critiques of the state of macroeconomics are off target. Current macroeconomic research is not mindless DSGE modelling filled with ridiculous assumptions and oblivious of data. Rather, young macroeconomists are doing vibrant, varied, and exciting work, getting jobs, and being published. Macroeconomics informs economic policy only moderately, and not more than nor differently from other fields in economics. Monetary policy has benefitted significantly from this advice in keeping inflation under control and preventing a new Great Depression. Macroeconomic forecasts perform poorly in absolute terms and, given the size of the challenge, probably always will. But relative to the level of aggregation, the time horizon, and the amount of funding, macroeconomic forecasts are not so obviously worse than those in other fields. What is most wrong with macroeconomics today is perhaps that there is too little discussion of which models to teach and too little investment in graduate-level textbooks.



Good enough for government work? Macroeconomics since the crisis

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
This paper argues that when the financial crisis came policy-makers relied on some version of the Hicksian sticky-price IS-LM as their default model; these models were ‘good enough for government work’. While there have been many incremental changes suggested to the DSGE model, there has been no single ‘big new idea’ because the even simpler IS-LM type models were what worked well. In particular, the policy responses based on IS-LM were appropriate. Specifically, these models generated the insights that large budget deficits would not drive up interest rates and, while the economy remained at the zero lower bound, that very large increases in monetary base wouldn’t be inflationary, and that the multiplier on government spending was greater than 1. The one big exception to this satisfactory understanding was in price behaviour. A large output gap was expected to lead to a large fall in inflation, but did not. If new research is necessary, it is on pricing behaviour. While there was a failure to forecast the crisis, it did not come down to a lack of understanding of possible mechanisms, or of a lack of data, but rather through a lack of attention to the right data.



Stagnant productivity and low unemployment: stuck in a Keynesian equilibrium

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
A major challenge is to build simple intuitive macroeconomic models for policy-makers and professional economists as well as students. A specific contemporary challenge is to account for the prolonged slow growth and stagnant productivity that has followed the post-financial crisis recession, along with low inflation despite low unemployment (notably in the UK). We set out a simple three-equation model, which extends the core model in our two recent books (Carlin and Soskice, 2006, 2015) to one with two equilibria and two associated macroeconomic policy regimes. One is the standard inflation-targeting policy regime with equilibrium associated with central bank inflation targeting through monetary policy. It is joined by a second, Keynesian policy regime and equilibrium, with a zero lower bound (ZLB) in the nominal interest rate and a ZLB in inflation in which only fiscal policy is effective (Ragot, 2015). Our approach is related to the Benigno and Fornaro (2016) Keynesian–Wicksellian model of growth with business cycles. It diverges from New Keynesian models because although we attribute model-consistent expectations to the policy-maker, we do not assume that these are the basis for inflation and growth expectations of workers and firms. We compare our approach to Ravn and Sterk’s related multiple equilibrium New Keynesian model (Ravn and Sterk, 2016).



Macro needs micro

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
An emerging consensus on the future of macroeconomics views the incorporation of a role for financial intermediation, labour market frictions, and household heterogeneity in the presence of uninsurable unemployment risk as key needed extensions to the benchmark macro framework. I argue that this is welcome, but not sufficient for macro—and international macro—to tackle the menu of issues that have been facing policy-makers since the recent global crisis. For this purpose, macro needs more micro than the benchmark set-up has been incorporating so far. Specifically, artificial separations between business cycle analysis, the study of stabilization policies, and growth macro, as well as between international macroeconomics and international trade, must be overcome. I review selected literature contributions that took steps in this direction; outline a number of important, promising directions for future research; and discuss methodological issues in the development of this agenda.



An interdisciplinary model for macroeconomics

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Macroeconomic modelling has been under intense scrutiny since the Great Financial Crisis, when serious shortcomings were exposed in the methodology used to understand the economy as a whole. Criticism has been levelled at the assumptions employed in the dominant models, particularly that economic agents are homogeneous and optimizing and that the economy is equilibrating. This paper seeks to explore an interdisciplinary approach to macroeconomic modelling, with techniques drawn from other (natural and social) sciences. Specifically, it discusses agent-based modelling, which is used across a wide range of disciplines, as an example of such a technique. Agent-based models are complementary to existing approaches and are suited to answering macroeconomic questions where complexity, heterogeneity, networks, and heuristics play an important role.



The financial system and the natural real interest rate: towards a ‘new benchmark theory model’

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
The 2008 financial crisis revealed serious flaws in the models that macroeconomists use to research, inform policy, and teach graduate students. In this paper we seek to find simple additions to the existing benchmark model that might let us answer three questions. What caused the boom and crisis? Why has the recovery been slow? And, how should policy respond to that slow recovery? We argue that it is necessary to add financial frictions to the benchmark model. This allows us to study the effects of leveraged financial institutions, and of a yield curve based on preferred habitats. Such features will cause endogenous changes in the natural real interest rate and the spread between that interest rate and the rate which influences expenditure decisions. They are likely to radically change the way in which the model responds to shocks. We point to some promising models that incorporate these features.



DSGE models: still useful in policy analysis?

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
This paper discusses the usefulness of DSGE models in monetary and fiscal policy analysis. While the recent crisis has exposed some weaknesses in these models, I argue that DSGE models currently have few contenders to replace them as core models in the policy process. The prominent role for forward-looking behaviour and their simplicity make DSGE models very suitable for policy analysis. In addition, DSGE models are flexible enough to be used for many purposes, while other models are often more limited in terms of the questions they can address. As a result, I argue that improved DSGE models—modified to take the lessons of the recent crisis into account—will remain as a workhorse tool in many policy institutions for a long time to come.



The future of macroeconomics: macro theory and models at the Bank of England

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
The adoption as policy models by central banks of representative agent New Keynesian dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models has been widely criticised, including for their simplistic micro-foundations. At the Bank of England, the previous generation of policy models is seen in its 1999 medium-term macro model (MTMM). Instead of improving that model to correct its considerable flaws, many shared by other non-DSGE policy models such as the Federal Reserve’s FRB/US, it was replaced in 2004 by the DSGE-based BEQM. Though this clearly failed during and after the global financial crisis, it was replaced in 2011 by the DSGE COMPASS, complemented by a ‘suite of models’. We provide a general critique of DSGE models for explaining, forecasting and policy analyses at central banks, and suggest new directions for improving current empirical macroeconomic models based on empirical modelling broadly consistent with better theory, rather than seeking to impose simplistic and unrealistic theory.



Modelling a complex world: improving macro-models

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Macro models have come under criticism for their ability to understand or predict major economic events such as the global financial crisis and its aftermath. Some of that criticism is warranted; but, in our view, much is not. This paper contributes to the debate over the adequacy of benchmark DSGE models by showing how three extensions, which are features that have characterized the global economy since the early 2000s, are necessary to improve our understanding of global shocks and policy insights. The three extensions are to acknowledge and model the entire global economy and the linkage through trade and capital flows; to allow for a wider range of relative price variability by moving to multiple-sector models rather than a single good model; and to allow for changes in risk perceptions which propagate through financial markets and adjustments in the real economy. These extensions add some complexity to large-scale macro-models, but without them policy models can oversimplify things, allowing misinterpretations of shocks and therefore costly policy mistakes to occur. Using over-simplified models to explain a complex world makes it more likely there will be ‘puzzles’. The usefulness of these extensions is demonstrated in two ways: first, by briefly revisiting some historical shocks to show how outcomes can be interpreted that make sense within a more complex DSGE framework; then, by making a contemporary assessment of the implications from the proposed large fiscal stimulus and the bans on immigration by the Trump administration which have both sectoral and macroeconomic implications that interact.



On the future of macroeconomic models

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
Macroeconomics has been under scrutiny as a field since the financial crisis, which brought an abrupt end to the optimism of the Great Moderation. There is widespread acknowledgement that the prevailing dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models performed poorly, but little agreement on what alternative future paradigm should be pursued. This article is the elaboration of four blog posts that together present a clear message: current DSGE models are flawed, but they contain the right foundations and must be improved rather than discarded. Further, we need different types of macroeconomic models for different purposes. Specifically, there should be five kinds of general equilibrium models: a common core, plus foundational theory, policy, toy, and forecasting models. The different classes of models have a lot to learn from each other, but the goal of full integration has proven counterproductive. No model can be all things to all people.



Ending the microfoundations hegemony

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
The New Classical Counter Revolution changed macromodelling methodology and ushered in the hegemony of microfounded models. Yet, in reality, at any particular point in time there is a trade-off between data coherence and theoretical coherence, and insisting that all academically respectable modelling should be at one extreme of this trade-off is a major mistake. The paper argues that if more traditional structural econometric models (SEMs) had been developed alongside microfounded models, links between finance and the real economy would have been more thoroughly explored before the financial crisis, allowing macroeconomists to respond better to the Great Recession. Just as microfoundations hegemony held back macroeconomics on that occasion, it is likely to do so again. Macroeconomics will develop more rapidly in useful directions if microfounded models and more traditional SEMs work alongside each other, and are accorded equal academic respect.



Where modern macroeconomics went wrong

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Abstract
This paper provides a critique of the DSGE models that have come to dominate macroeconomics during the past quarter-century. It argues that at the heart of the failure were the wrong microfoundations, which failed to incorporate key aspects of economic behaviour, e.g. incorporating insights from information economics and behavioural economics. Inadequate modelling of the financial sector meant they were ill-suited for predicting or responding to a financial crisis; and a reliance on representative agent models meant they were ill-suited for analysing either the role of distribution in fluctuations and crises or the consequences of fluctuations on inequality. The paper proposes alternative benchmark models that may be more useful both in understanding deep downturns and responding to them.