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Vol. 90, No. 3, Part 1 (Posted 2008-05-01)

Laffer Traps and Monetary Policy

by Patrick A. Pintus

This article focuses on the interaction, in a stylized economy with flexible prices, of monetary and fiscal policy when both are active—active in the sense that how the policy instrument is set depends on the state of the economy. Fiscal policy finances a given stream of government expenditures through distortionary labor taxes, and it operates under a strict balanced-budget rule. If monetary policy is passive, the economy may occasionally switch, because of self-fulfilling expectations, from the neighborhood of a “Laffer trap” equilibrium to the saddle-path leading to the high-welfare steady state. In the low-welfare stationary state, output, investment, and consumption are low while the tax rate is correspondingly high. However, active monetary policy may, by following a rule such that the nominal interest rate responds positively to the state of the economy, push the economy toward the high-welfare equilibrium and rule out expectation-driven business cycles.

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