Brad Delong kindly posted a long extract from my previous post (about Martin Feldstein) on his blog. The post elicited a longish comment from Robert Waldmann who has been annoyed with me for a while, because, well, because he seem to think that I have an unnatural obsession with monetary policy. Now it’s true that I advocate monetary easing, and think monetary policy, properly administered, could help get our economy moving again, but it’s not as if I have said that fiscal policy can’t work or shouldn’t be tried. So I don’t exactly understand why Waldmann keeps insisting that he won’t calm down. Anyway, let’s have a look at Waldmann’s comment.
After making a number of very cogent criticisms of the Feldstein piece that I criticized, Waldman continues:
On the other hand I also disagree with Glasner. This is the usual and I will not calm down.
Well, you maybe you should reconsider.
Then, quoting from my post on Feldstein,
“does he believe the Fed incapable of causing the price level to increase?” Obviously not (it made no sense to type the question) as he fears higher inflation.
That’s true, I started by asking why Feldstein believed a 20% increase in commodity prices was a bubble. I pointed out in my next sentence that if the Fed was causing inflation, then the increase in commodity prices was not a bubble.
I wish for higher inflation, but, unlike Glasner, I don’t hope for it. the Fed has made gigantic efforts to stimulate and inflation is well below the 2% target. What would it take to convince Glasner that the Fed can’t cause higher prices right now ? It seems to me that his faith is completely impervious to data.
OK, fair question. My point is that the Fed is still committed to a 2% inflation target. If the Fed said that it was aiming to increase the price level by 10% within a year and would take whatever steps necessary to raise prices by 10% and failed, that would be a fair test of the theory that the Fed can control the price level. But if the Fed is saying that it’s aiming at a 2% annual increase in the price level, and its undershooting its target, but isn’t even saying that it will do more to increase the rate of inflation, I don’t see that the proposition that the Fed can control the price level has been refuted by the evidence. The gigantic efforts that Waldmann references have all been undertaken in the context of a monetary regime that is committed to not letting the rate of inflation exceed 2%.
Continuing to quote from my post, Waldmann writes:
“Rising asset prices indicate the expectation of QE is inducing investors to shift out of cash into real assets”
Note the clear assumption. QE is the only possible cause of any change in asset prices. Glasner assumes that nothing else changes or that nothing else matters. He basically assumes that there is nothing under the sun but monetary policy.
I think I am being entirely fair to him. I think that, in fact, he assumes not only that monetary policy affects macroeconomic developments but that it is the only thing which affects macroeconomic developments. He has made this very clear when debating me. I think his identifying assumption is indefensible.
Sorry, but where is that clear assumption made? I said that rising asset prices could be attributed to an expectation that QE would increase the rate of inflation. My empirical study showed a strong correlation between inflation expectations and asset values, a correlation not present in the data before 2008. I didn’t say and my empirical study never suggested that asset prices depend on nothing else but inflation expectations, so I am at a loss to understand why Waldmann thinks that that is what I was assuming. What I do say is that monetary policy can affect the price level, not that monetary policy is the only thing that can affect the price level.
Waldmann concludes with a question:
I am curious as to whether there is another possible interpretation of Glasner.
The answer, Professor Waldmann, is yes! Why won’t you take “yes” for an answer? I hope that helps calm you down. It should.
PS I am sorry that I have not responded to comments recently. I have just been too busy. Perhaps over the weekend.