Monetary Policy: The Negative Real Shock Dilemma
♪ ♪ [Alex] So far, we’ve reviewed the challenges that the Fed faces when dealing with a straightforward aggregate demand shock. Now, we’re going to graduate to a more difficult scenario, more difficult for the Fed — a negative real shock to the economy. Recall from earlier articles that a real shock, such as a rapid rise in the price of oil — that will shift the long-run aggregate supply curve to the left, causing growth to decrease and inflation to increase. Unfortunately, combatting these two issues — sluggish growth and high inflation — that requires opposite actions. To decrease inflation, the Fed would have to decrease the money supply and reduce aggregate demand.
That will reduce the growth rate even further. Alternatively, the Fed can try to increase real growth by increasing the money supply and increasing aggregate demand. But that comes at the cost of even higher inflation. And remember, economic data isn’t always easy to understand in real time. It sometimes happens, for example, that the higher inflation rate is seen in the data before the growth rate starts to decline.
So the Fed — it might start to cut back on the money supply before realizing that the economy — it’s heading towards a recession. So the Fed may start to move the economy in the wrong direction before learning what the actual state of the economy is. And this isn’t the end of the dilemma.
And bad news, like an oil shock, can cause people to become pessimistic and to cut back on their spending, causing aggregate demand to fall. Now if you’re confused right now, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Fed economists get confused as well.
It’s just not obvious how to correctly identify the combination of shocks that’s hitting an economy.
And so there’s always lots of heated debate among Fed economists and policymakers about what the right course of action is. Although the Fed has considerable power to influence aggregate demand, the complexity of the economy and the challenges of data quality, timing and control — that leaves lots of room for error.
In fact, the Federal Reserve has probably made some booms and recessions worse rather than better.
Some of the errors of the Fed — we’re going to take those up in the next article.
And this will help us to understand the practical challenges, which are faced by economists, acting in real time to enact monetary policy at the Federal Reserve. [Narrator] You’re on your way to mastering economics. Make sure this article sticks by taking a few practice questions. Or, if you’re ready for more macroeconomics, click for the next article.
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