It is time to add another victim to the ever-growing list of institutions (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers) and theories (value at risk, fair value accounting and originate to distribute) which have been tested by the financial crisis and found wanting. The central bank practice of inflation targeting — the jewel in the crown of modern monetary economics — has palpably failed.
Over the last two decades, inflation targeting has emerged as the most popular strategy for monetary policy among the world’s major central banks, and become something of a state-of-the-art choice among theorists and central bankers.
Even the Fed, long skeptical, considered announcing a formal target for inflation last year. Senior officials considered whether it would be a useful way to counter the threat of deflation by providing an “anchor” for expectations about future prices. In the end the central bank ducked the decision and decided to press ahead with long-term inflation forecasts instead, as a form of “soft” targets.
But the experience of major central banks over the last five years — both those pursuing formal targets and those like the Fed which have been employing “shadow” ones — suggests inflation targeting has failed and will need to be overhauled once the immediate crisis has passed.