Bennett T. McCallum of Carnegie Mellon University and the National Bureau of Economic Research and a visiting scholar at the Richmond Fed discusses whether central banks should set higher inflation targets, such as 4 percent rather than 2 percent. Some economists have argued that because providing monetary stimulus when interest rates are at the zero lower bound is more difficult, central banks should consider increasing their inflation rate targets. McCallum notes that the benefits of providing additional monetary stimulus at the zero lower bound must be weighed against the costs of maintaining higher inflation outside of that scenario. To make that comparison, he explores pertinent research and theory, including Milton Friedman’s “optimal quantity of money” result, New Keynesian literature on resource misallocation caused by price stickiness that affects only some sellers, and the contention that the zero lower bound does not necessarily constitute a limit to monetary stimulus.
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