A Conference That Would Have Been and Still Will Be

Two months ago, on March 14, 2020, we cancelled our annual Hoover monetary policy conference at Stanford on “Central Bank Strategy Reviews and Their Global Impact” then scheduled for May 1, 2020. The reason was that Stanford declared that “university units should cancel or postpone events they are hosting that involve more than 50 participants.” We were all were disappointed, as the conference was to give a careful review of the monetary policy reviews of the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve, building on the experience of the May 2019 Hoover monetary conference.

But in the weeks since March 14, monetary policy has changed so dramatically that the issues are much bigger and more fundamental than a review of review would suggest. Effective March 16, 2020, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to cut the federal funds rate to “a target range of 0 to ¼ percent,” introduced a host of new purchase or lending facilities, and took actions to let the balance sheet explode, as shown in this figure.

It is now clear that a whole new conference is called far—not a simply a review, but a thorough examination and evaluation of what has happened at the Fed and other central banks in the past two months and what will happen going forward. We are thinking about the best time, recognizing that the normal time of May 2021 will likely be too late, and that October 2020 may be more constructive.   We are also thinking about how to have the conference on-line and remote while preserving the very essential interchanges—many one-on-one–that  have always occurred at the conferences. More on that later.

The aim of this monetary policy conference series has always been to have a rigorous analysis and discussion outside of central banks, but including central bankers as well academics, researchers, market participants, and members of the press at which the best research could be presented, debated, and heard. The proceedings of the May 2019 conference on Strategies for Monetary Policy edited by John Cochrane and me are thus quite relevant for the current debates.  You can download individual chapters for free here with contributions by Clarida, Williams, Bullard, Daly, Kaplan, Mester, Rogoff, Hamilton, Levin, Bordo, Minerd, Papell, Piazzesi, Shultz, Warsh, Wieland, and others.  Our preface summarizes each of the papers.

Now that it is likely that we will move on from a review of central bank ongoing reviews to an evaluation of very recent policy, I should also note that the four papers which were to have been presented at the May 2020 conference are excellent and worth reading, even if they were prepared just before COVID-19 and the responses. Most important they focus on strategies and rules for monetary policy. They are thus quite relevant for the ongoing debates, and you can read drafts of the four papers on-line using these links:

The Elusive Gains from Nationally-Oriented Monetary Policy which was to have been presented by Luca Guerrieri of the Federal Reserve Board

Effects of State-Dependent Forward Guidance, Large-Scale Asset Purchases, and Fiscal Stimulus in a Low-Interest-Rate Environment which was to have been presented by Frank Smets of the European Central Bank

Eight Centuries of Global Real Interest Rates, r-g, and the ‘Suprasecular’ Decline, 1311–2018  which was to have been presented by Paul Schmelzing of the Bank of England

Recovery of 1933. How to Stop Deflation with Fiscal Policy: Past Lessons for the Future, which was to have been presented by Eric Leeper of the University of Virginia

I thank these researchers as well as those who had agreed to attend and discuss the papers including Matteo Maggiori of Stanford, Michael Bordo of Rutgers University, Ramin Toloui of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Barry Eichengreen of UC Berkeley, Harold James of Princeton University, Peter Koudjis of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Volker Wieland of Goethe University, Frankfurt

There also were to have been informed debates on these key policy panels: The Integrated Policy Framework and the Goal of Open Markets, The Balance Sheet and the Supply and Demand for Reserves, and Monetary Policy Strategy Reviews and Financial Markets. I thank those who had agreed to attend and be part of these discussions including John Lipsky of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Andy Filardo of the Bank for International Settlements, Jacob Frenkel of JP Morgan Chase, Lou Crandall of Wrightson ICAP, Darrell Duffie of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Beth Hammack of Goldman Sachs, William Nelson of the Bank Policy Institute, Mickey Levy of Berenberg Capital Markets, Rob Kaplan of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Scott Minerd of Guggenheim Partners, Randy Quarles, Vice Chair for Supervision at the Federal Reserve Board, and Richard Clarida Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board.

The word strategy appears in the title to the 2019 conference volume published this May, and it was to be in the title of the May 2020 conference volume.  That theme is part of the papers in all the conference volumes in the Hoover series as shown in the book covers below. It would be appropriate to have that stay in the title for a fall 2020 conference.

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