What Anchors for the Natural Rate of Interest?
The paper takes a critical look at the conceptual and empirical underpinnings of prevailing explanations of low real (inflation-adjusted) interest rates over long horizons and finds them incomplete. The role of monetary policy, and its interaction with the financial cycle in particular, deserve greater attention. By linking booms and busts, the financial cycle generates important path dependencies that give rise to intertemporal policy trade-offs. Policy today constrains policy tomorrow. The policy regime is not neutral and can exert a persistent influence on the economy’s evolution, including on the real interest rate. This raises serious conceptual and practical questions about the use of the natural interest rate as a monetary policy guidepost. In developing the analysis, the paper also provides a specific critique of the safe asset shortage hypothesis – a hypothesis that has gained considerable popularity in recent years.