The Bank of Canada should target full employment: 61 economists
On May 28th, 61 Canadian economists (myself included) signed the following letter urging the federal government to instruct the Bank of Canada to consider full employment and not only inflation when conducting interest rate decisions. It was through the great organization of Mario Seccareccia that this was made possible and has received reviews by several media commentators, notably Barrie McKenna and Neil Macdonald. Follow the links for the PDFs of the English letter, French letter. This is the text of the English letter:
Letter Addressed to Honourable Bill Morneau, Federal Minister of Finance of the
Government of Canada, by Canadian Economists in Support of a Multi-Goal Mandate for the Bank of Canada
We wish to encourage the Canadian Government and, more specifically, the federal Minister of Finance, the honourable Bill Morneau, to instruct the Bank of Canada to pursue policies more consistent with its official broad mandate as stipulated in the preamble to the Bank of Canada Act:
“ … to regulate credit and currency in the best interests of the economic life of the nation, to control and protect the external value of the national monetary unit and to mitigate by its influence fluctuations in the general level of production, trade, prices and employment, so far as may be possible within the scope of monetary action, and generally to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada.” http://laws–lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/B2/page–1.html
The current official mandate of a 2 per cent inflation target is the outcome of a specific monetary policy framework put in place since 1991 when the Bank of Canada and the federal Minister of Finance of the then Progressive Conservative Government of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney agreed on an inflation-targeting regime to conduct Canadian monetary policy. Through a decision of the Cabinet, the Canadian Government renews every five years this specific inflation target agreement with the Bank, with the most recent being in 2016 for the 2016-2021 period. Because this inflation-targeting regime has been in place for over a quarter century, we believe it is time to assess the current framework and open the discussion to the possibility of a broader mandate, which is more consistent with the spirit and intent of the original Bank of Canada Act.
In its current narrow policy framework, the Bank monitors and is supposed to act exclusively on the performance of the actual monthly inflation rate when the latter deviates from its annual target of 2 per cent inflation rate. Admittedly, the Bank takes decisions on the appropriate target overnight interest rate also by monitoring the evolution of the unemployment rate (or the “output gap”, as defined by the Bank of Canada), but this is only for preemptive purposes, as a tool for controlling future inflation, on the basis of some hybrid Phillips Curve relation. There is strong indication, however, that the Phillips Curve is a relatively flat trade-off relation when observing evidence over the last decade or more. For instance, we have witnessed some very wide fluctuations in the unemployment rate since the global financial crisis of 2008, despite relatively small changes in the inflation rate. This suggests that, in addition to demand-side factors, there are other important determinants of the inflation rate over which the central bank has little control. In addition, there is a growing amount of empirical research that indicates that deflationary pressures on the economy triggered by actions of central banks to restrain inflation can be detrimental to the economy, not only in the short term, but also in the long term: output and employment on average never recover the trend levels that were previously forecasted. A side effect of this research is to question the validity of the output gap measures used by central banks to justify their pre-emptive strikes against inflation.
Recognizing the sharp decline in the Bank’s target overnight interest rate despite the small changes in the inflation rate over the last decade, it would appear that both former Governor Mark Carney and current Governor Stephen Poloz have actually shown a high degree of pragmatism since the global financial crisis of 2008. This would suggest that, in practice, the Bank has pursued a policy that has shown great concern also with the level of employment and output, not as a predictor of future inflation, but primarily because high unemployment is detrimental to the welfare of Canadians who find themselves in such a socially unacceptable labour-market state. The same applies for the concern of the Bank with the high household debt ratios of Canadians, which may well be another reason why Governor Poloz has been reluctant to raise interest rates more quickly in recent years, despite the nearly continuous fall in the unemployment rate. Such decisions taken by the Bank have not directly been a response to changes in the inflation rate. They go beyond the Bank’s official single-goal commitment of solely achieving its 2 percent inflation target. The Bank’s behaviour seems, in fact, to be much more consistent with a broader multi-goal mandate that should be entrenched officially in any future government decision guiding monetary policy.
Also, strong, shared and sustainable growth and full and productive employment are among the goals of the United Nations that were adopted in 2015 in its 2030 Agenda to promote sustainable development, and full employment remains a goal for the US Federal Reserve under the Humphry-Hawkins Full Employment Act. We believe that such goals should be part of a broader vision of the Bank of Canada’s strategy to improve the well-being of all Canadians.
That is why we are proposing that the Bank of Canada Act be amended to move the preamble text into the Act itself and thus become section 1 of the Act. We also propose to add the notion of full and productive employment as defined in Goal 8 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. This article could read as follows: Article 1: The mandate of the Bank of Canada is to regulate credit and currency in the best interests of the economic life of the nation, to control and protect the external value of the national monetary unit and to mitigate by its influence fluctuations in the general level of production, trade, prices and employment, so far as may be possible within the scope of monetary action, and generally to promote the economic and financial welfare of Canada as well as full and productive employment.
We also propose to add a new article to the Act pertaining to the framework of monetary policy. It could read as follows: Article 2: In the name of the principle of transparency and to ensure the conformity of the framework of monetary policy with the mandate of the Bank of Canada set out in Article 1 of the Act, twelve months before the renewal of its (five-year) framework for the conduct of monetary policy, the government and the Bank of Canada table for the consideration of the Parliament of Canada (the House of Commons and the Senate) an evaluation of the monetary policy framework for previous years, including the effects of this policy on economic growth, inflation, employment and income distribution at the national and regional levels. This report also includes a presentation of the proposed new five-year framework for the conduct of monetary policy.
We believe that this expanded mandate would be more consistent with the spirit of the original Act. It would also make monetary policy more transparent and understandable to all Canadians who know very well that such a policy can have an impact not only on the rate of inflation but also on economic growth, the level of employment and unemployment rate, as well as on the distribution of income and wealth of Canadians.
Mario Seccareccia (Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Ottawa)
Marc Lavoie (Senior Chair of Excellence, University of Sorbonne Paris Cité, and Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Ottawa)
Hassan Bougrine (Full Professor of Economics, Laurentian University)
Louis-Philippe Rochon (Full Professor of Economics, Laurentian University)
John Smithin (Professor Emeritus of Economics and Senior Scholar, York University)
Mathieu Perron-Dufour (Associate Professor of Economics, Université du Québec en Outaouais)
Lars Osberg (McCulloch Professor of Economics, Dalhousie University)
Pierre Fortin (Professor Emeritus, Department of Economics, Université du Québec à Montréal)
Kari Polanyi Levitt, CM (Professor Emerita of Economics, McGill University)
Mel Watkins (Professor Emeritus of Economics and Political Science, University of Toronto and Adjunct Research Professor, Institute of Political Economy, Carleton University)
Jim Stanford (Harold Innis Industry Professor of Economics, McMaster University, and Director, Centre for Future
Brian MacLean (Full Professor of Economics, Laurentian University)
Ian Hudson (Professor of Economics, University of Manitoba)
Robert Dimand (Professor of Economics, Brock University)
Sheila Dow (Professor Emerita of Economics, University of Stirling, UK, and Adjunct Professor of Economics, University of Victoria)
Jordan Brennan (Economist, Research Department at Unifor, Toronto, and Visiting Scholar, Harvard Law School)
Lynne Fernandez (Errol Black Chair in Labour Issues, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Manitoba)
Simon Black (Assistant Professor, Department of Labour Studies, Brock University)
Marjorie Griffin Cohen (Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University, and Chair, BC Fair Wages Commission)
Michel Chossudovsky (Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Ottawa)
Ellen Russell (Associate Professor, Digital Medial and Journalism and Social and Environmental Justice, Wilfrid Laurier
Anupam Das (Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts, Economics, Justice and Policy Studies, Mount Royal University, Calgary)
Andrew Jackson (Adjunct Research Professor, Institute of Political Economy, Carleton University)
Lynne Pajot (Research Specialist, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Ottawa)
Larry Kazdan (Retired Instructor of Accounting, British Columbia Institute of Technology)
Anna Klimina (Associate Professor of Economics, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan)
Kim Jarvi (Senior Economist, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Toronto)
Robert Chernomas (Professor of Economics, University of Manitoba)
David Macdonald (Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Ottawa)
Isabella Bakker (Distinguished Research Professor, York University)
Pierre-Antoine Harvey (Economist, Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), Montreal)
Brenda Spotton Visano (Full Professor, Department of Economics and School of Public Policy & Administration, York University)
Paul Makdissi (Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa)
Myra Yazbeck (Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa)
Joan McFarland (Professor of Economics, St. Thomas University)
Toby Sanger (Senior Economist, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Ottawa)
Harold Chorney (Professor, Political Economy, Concordia University)
Michael Bradfield (Retired Professor of Economics, Dalhousie University)
Shehrnaz Choksi (Lecturer (Retired) Economics Department, Vanier College, Montreal)
Eric Kam (Associate Professor of Economics, and Director, Learning and Teaching, Ryerson University)
Roy Culpeper (Senior Fellow, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, and Adjunct Research Professor, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University)
Marguerite Mendell, CM (Professor, School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University, and Director, Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy)
Paul Bowles (Professor of Economics, University of Northern British Columbia)
Myron Frankman (Retired Professor of Economics, McGill University, and Senior Research Fellow, Centre for International Sustainable Development Law)
Fiona MacPhail (Professor and Chair, Department of Economics, University of Northern British Columbia)
Ricardo Grinspun (Associate Professor of Economics, York University)
Paul Tulloch (Director of Research, LivingWork Analytics)
Mark Peacock (Full Professor of Economics, Department of Social Science, York University)
Anthony Myatt (Professor of Economics, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton)
Mustapha Ibn Boamah (Associate Professor of Economics, University of New Brunswick, Saint John)
Rob Moir (Associate Professor of Economics, University of New Brunswick, Saint John)
Najib Khan (Assistant Professor of Finance, John Molson School of Business, Concordia University)
Raphaël Langevin (Economist and Research Associate at IRIS, Montreal)
Manfred Bienefeld (Professor Emeritus, School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University)
Roderick Hill (Professor of Economics, University of New Brunswick, Saint John)
Talan Iscan (Full Professor and Chair, Department of Economics, Dalhousie University)
Pierre Paquette (Professor of Economics and Management, Royal Military College, Kingston)
Andrew Sharpe (Executive Director, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, Ottawa)
Gordon Betcherman (Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa)
Martha MacDonald (Professor of Economics, Saint Mary’s University)
Mohamed Douch (Associate Professor and Head, Management & Economics Department, Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston)
Déclaration des économistes canadiens – Banque du Canada – Mai 2018
Declaration by Canadian Economists – Bank of Canada – May 2018
Inflation targeting spells bad fiscal policy
William Mitchell is Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia
“The evidence is that while inflation targeting does not generate significant improvements in the real performance of the economy, the ideology that accompanies inflation targeting does damage the real economy because it embraces a bias towards passive fiscal policy which in our view locks in persistently high levels of labour underutilisation.
Disinflationary monetary policy and tight fiscal policy can bring inflation down and stabilise it but it does so at the expense of creating and maintaining a buffer stock of unemployment. The policy approach is seemingly incapable of achieving both price stability and full employment. I constantly write about these failings.
An examination of the research literature suggests that inflation targeting has not been effective in achieving its aims. This is despite the constant claims by the proponents to the contrary. Only a minority of the research literature supports the contrary view.
The most comprehensive and rigorous work on the impact of inflation targeting is the 2003 study by Ball and Sheridan who aimed to measure the effects of inflation targeting on macroeconomic performance in 20 OECD economies, of which seven adopted inflation targeting in the 1990s.
They used special econometric techniques (which are widely accepted) to compare nations that had adopted targeting to those that had not. Overall, Ball and Sheridan found that inflation targeting does not deliver superior economic outcomes (mean inflation, inflation variability, real output variability, long-term interest rates).”