Working Papers

October 2000, No. 00-10

Optimal Monetary Policy

Aubhik Khan, Robert G. King and Alexander L. Wolman

Optimal monetary policy maximizes welfare, given frictions in the economic environment. Constructing a model with two sets of frictions - the Keynesian friction of costly price adjustment by imperfectly competitive firms and the Monetarist friction of costly exchange of wealth for goods - we find optimal monetary policy is governed by two familiar principles. First, the average level of the nominal interest rate should be sufficiently low, as suggested by Milton Friedman, that there should be deflation on average. Yet, the Keynesian frictions imply that the optimal nominal interest rate is positive. Second, as various shocks occur to the real and monetary sectors, the price level should be largely stabilized, as suggested by Irving Fisher, albeit around a deflationary trend path. (In modern language, there is only small 'base drift' for the price level path). Since expected inflation is roughly constant through time, the nominal interest rate must therefore vary with the Fisherian determinants of the real interest rate - as there is expected growth or contraction of real economic activity.

Our Research Focus: Inflation and Monetary Policy

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