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The Grumpy Economist: Heterogeneous Agent Fiscal Principle

Right now, I will add an entry to my occasional evaluations of attention-grabbing tutorial papers. The paper: “Worth Degree and Inflation Dynamics in Heterogeneous Agent Economies,” by Greg Kaplan, Georgios Nikolakoudis and Gianluca Violante. 

One of many many causes I’m enthusiastic about this paper is that it unites fiscal concept of the value stage with heterogeneous agent economics. And it exhibits how heterogeneity issues. There was a number of work on “heterogeneous agent new-Keynesian” fashions (HANK). This paper inaugurates heterogeneous agent fiscal concept fashions. Let’s name them HAFT. 

The paper has a superbly stripped down mannequin. Costs are versatile, and the value stage is ready by fiscal concept. Individuals face uninsurable earnings shocks, nevertheless, and a borrowing restrict. In order that they save an additional quantity with a view to self-insure in opposition to dangerous occasions. Authorities bonds are the one asset within the mannequin, so this further saving pushes down the rate of interest, low cost fee, and authorities service debt value. The mannequin has a time-zero shock after which no mixture uncertainty. 

That is precisely the best place to start out. In the long run, after all, we wish fiscal concept, heterogeneous brokers, and sticky costs so as to add inflation dynamics. And on prime of that, no matter DSGE smorgasbord is essential to the problems at hand; manufacturing facet, worldwide commerce, a number of actual property, monetary fractions, and extra. However the genius of an incredible paper is to start out with the minimal mannequin. 

Half II results of fiscal shocks. 

I’m most excited by half II, the results of fiscal shocks. This goes straight to essential coverage questions. 

Observe: This determine plots impulse responses to a focused and untargeted helicopter drop, aggregated on the quarterly frequency. The helicopter drop is a one-time issuance of 16% of whole authorities nominal debt excellent at = 0. Solely households within the backside 60% of the wealth distribution obtain the issuance within the focused experiment (dashed pink line). The orange line plots dynamics within the consultant agent (RA) mannequin. The dashed black line plots the preliminary regular state. Supply: Kaplan et al. Determine 7

At time 0, the federal government drops $5 trillion of additional debt on individuals, with no plans to pay it again. The rate of interest doesn’t change. What occurs? Within the consultant agent financial system, the value stage jumps,  simply sufficient to inflate away excellent debt by $5 trillion. 

(On this simulation, inflation subsequent to the value stage bounce is simply set by the central financial institution, by way of an rate of interest goal. So the rising value stage line of the consultant agent (orange) benchmark isn’t that attention-grabbing. It isn’t a standard impulse response exhibiting the change after the shock; it is the precise path after the shock. The distinction between coloured heterogeneous agent strains and the orange consultant agent line is the essential half.) 

Punchline: Within the heterogeneous agent economies, the value stage jumps a superb deal extra. And if transfers are focused to the underside of the wealth distribution, the value stage jumps extra nonetheless. It issues who will get the cash. 

This is step one on an essential coverage query. Why was the 2020-2021 stimulus a lot extra inflationary than, say 2008? I’ve a number of tales (“fiscal histories,” FTPL), considered one of which is a obscure sense that printing cash and sending individuals checks has extra impact than borrowing in treasury markets and spending the outcomes. This graph makes that sense exact. Sending individuals checks, particularly people who find themselves on the sting, does generate extra inflation. 

In the long run, whether or not authorities debt is inflationary or not comes down as to whether individuals deal with the asset as a superb financial savings automobile, and hold on to it, or attempt to spend it, thereby driving up costs. Sending checks to individuals prone to spend it offers extra inflation. 

As you’ll be able to see, the mannequin additionally introduces some dynamics, the place on this easy setup (versatile costs) the RA mannequin simply offers a value stage bounce. To grasp these dynamics, and extra instinct of the mannequin, have a look at the response of actual debt and the true rate of interest 

The larger inflation implies that the identical enhance in nominal debt is a lesser enhance in actual debt. Now, the essential characteristic of the mannequin steps in: because of self-insurance, there’s primarily a liquidity worth of debt. When you’ve got much less debt, the marginal worth of upper; individuals bid down the true rate of interest in an try and get extra debt. However the greater actual fee means the true worth of debt rises, and because the debt rises, the true rate of interest falls. 

To grasp why that is the equilibrium, it is price trying on the debt accumulation equation, [ frac{db}{dt} = r_t (b_t; g_t) b_t – s_t. ](b_t) is the true worth of nominal debt, (r_t=i_t-pi_t) is the true rate of interest, and (s_t) is the true major surplus. Larger actual charges (debt service prices) elevate debt. Larger major surpluses pay down debt. Crucially — the entire level of the paper — the rate of interest depends upon how a lot debt is excellent and on the distribution of wealth (g_t). ((g_t) is a complete distribution.)  Extra debt means the next rate of interest. Extra debt does a greater job of satisfying self-insurance motives. Then the marginal worth of debt is decrease, so individuals do not attempt to save as a lot, and the rate of interest rises. It really works loads like cash demand,

Now, if the switch had been proportional to present wealth, nothing would change, the value stage would bounce identical to the RA (orange) line.  Nevertheless it is not; in each circumstances more-constrained individuals get extra money. The liquidity constraints are much less binding, they’re keen to save lots of extra. For given mixture debt the true rate of interest will rise. So the orange line with no change in actual debt is now not a gentle state. We will need to have, initially (db/dt>0.) As soon as debt rises and the distribution of wealth mixes, we return to the previous regular state, so actual debt rises much less initially, so it may possibly proceed to rise. And to do this, we’d like a bigger value stage bounce. Whew. (I hope I received that proper. Instinct is tough!)  

In a earlier put up on heterogeneous agent fashions, I requested whether or not HA issues for aggregates, or whether or not it’s nearly distributional penalties of unchanged mixture dynamics. Right here is a superb instance wherein HA issues for aggregates, each for the scale and for the dynamics of the results. 

Here is a second cool simulation. What if, slightly than a lump-sum helicopter drop with no change in surpluses, the federal government simply begins working everlasting major deficits? 

Observe: Impulse response to a everlasting enlargement in major deficits. The dotted orange line exhibits the results of a discount in surplus within the Consultant Agent mannequin. The blue line labelled “Lump Sum” illustrates the dynamics following an enlargement of lump sum transfers. The dashed pink line labelled “Tax Price” plots dynamics following a tax minimize. The orange line plots dynamics within the consultant agent (RA) mannequin. The dashed black line plots the preliminary regular state. Supply: Kaplan et. al. Determine 8.

Within the RA mannequin, a decline in surpluses is precisely the identical factor as an increase in debt. You get the preliminary value bounce, after which the identical inflation following the rate of interest goal. Not so the HA fashions! Perpetual deficits are totally different from a bounce in debt with no change in deficit. 

Once more, actual debt and the true fee assist to grasp the instinct. The true quantity of debt is completely decrease. Which means individuals are extra starved for buffer inventory property, and bid down the true rate of interest. The nominal fee is fastened, by assumption on this simulation, so a decrease actual fee means extra inflation. 

For coverage, this is a vital outcome. With versatile costs, RA fiscal concept solely offers a one-time value stage bounce in response  to sudden fiscal shocks. It doesn’t give regular inflation in response to regular deficits. Right here we do have regular inflation in response to regular deficits! It additionally exhibits an occasion of the overall “low cost charges matter” theorem. Granted, right here, the central financial institution might decrease inflation by simply reducing the nominal fee goal however we all know that is not really easy after we add realisms to the mannequin. 

To see simply why that is the equilibrium, and why surpluses are totally different than debt, once more return to the debt accumulation equation, [ frac{db}{dt} = r_t (b_t, g_t) b_t – s_t. ] Within the RA mannequin, the value stage jumps in order that (b_t) jumps down, after which with smaller (s_t), (r b_t – s_t) is unchanged with a continuing (r). However within the HA mannequin, the decrease worth of (b) means much less liquidity worth of debt, and other people attempt to save, bidding down the rate of interest. We have to work down the debt demand curve, driving down the true curiosity prices (r) till they partially pay for among the deficits. There’s a sense wherein “monetary repression” (artificially low rates of interest) by way of perpetual inflation assist to pay for perpetual deficits. Wow!

Half I r<g

The primary concept a part of the paper can also be attention-grabbing. (Although these are actually two papers stapled collectively, since as I see it the idea within the first half is in no way needed for the simulations.) Right here, Kaplan, Nikolakoudis and Violante tackle the r<g query clearly. No, r<g doesn’t doom fiscal concept! I used to be so enthused by this that I wrote up a bit notice “fiscal concept with damaging rates of interest” right here. Detailed algebra of my factors beneath are in that notice,  (An essay r<g and in addition a r<g chapter in FTPL explains the associated difficulty, why it is a mistake to make use of averages from our actual financial system to calibrate good foresight fashions. Sure, we are able to observe (E(r)<E(g)) but current values converge.) 

I will give the fundamental concept right here. To maintain it easy, take into consideration the query what occurs with a damaging actual rate of interest (r<0), a continuing surplus (s) in an financial system with no development, and ideal foresight. You may assume we’re in hassle: [b_t = frac{B_t}{P_t} = int e^{-rtau} s dtau = frac{s}{r}.]A damaging rate of interest makes current values blow up, no? Effectively, what a couple of completely damaging surplus (s<0) financed by a completely damaging curiosity value (r<0)? That sounds high-quality in circulation phrases, however it’s actually bizarre as a gift worth, no? 

Sure, it’s bizarre. Debt accumulates at [frac{db_t}{dt} = r_t b_t – s_t.] If (r>0), (s>0), then the true worth of debt is generically explosive for any preliminary debt however (b_0=s/r). Due to the transversality situation ruling out actual explosions, the preliminary value stage jumps so (b_0=B_0/P_0=s/r). But when (r<0), (s<0), then debt is secure. For any (b_0), debt converges, the transversality situation is glad. We lose fiscal value stage dedication. No, you’ll be able to’t take a gift worth of a damaging cashflow stream with a damaging low cost fee and get a wise current worth. 

However (r) isn’t fixed. The extra debt, the upper the rate of interest. So  [frac{db_t}{dt} = r(b_t) b_t – s_t.] Linearizing across the regular state (b=s/r), [frac{db_t}{dt} = left[r_t  + frac{dr(b_t)}{db}right]b_t – s.] So even when (r<0), if extra debt raises the rate of interest sufficient, if (dr(b)/db) is giant sufficient, dynamics are domestically and it seems globally unstable even with (r<0). Fiscal concept nonetheless works! 

You’ll be able to work out a straightforward instance with bonds in utility, (int e^{-rho t}[u(c_t) + theta v(b_t)]dt), and simplifying additional log utility (u(c) + theta log(b)). On this case (r = rho – theta v'(b) = rho – theta/b) (see the notice for derivation), so debt evolves as [frac{db}{dt} = left[rho  – frac{theta}{b_t}right]b_t – s = rho b_t – theta – s.]Now the (r<0) half nonetheless offers secure dynamics and a number of equilibria. But when (theta>-s), then dynamics are once more explosive for all however (b=s/r) and financial concept works anyway. 

This can be a highly effective outcome. We normally assume that in good foresight fashions, (r>g), (r>0) right here, and consequently optimistic vs damaging major surpluses (s>0) vs. (s<0) is a vital dividing line. I do not know what number of fiscal concept critiques I’ve heard that say a) it would not work as a result of r<g so current values explode b) it would not work as a result of major surpluses are all the time barely damaging. 

That is all flawed. The evaluation, as on this instance, exhibits is that fiscal concept can work high-quality, and would not even discover, a transition from (r>0) to (r<0), from (s>0) to (s<0). Financing a gentle small damaging major surplus with a gentle small damaging rate of interest, or (r<g) is seamless. 

The essential query on this instance is (s<-theta). At this boundary, there isn’t a equilibrium any extra. You’ll be able to finance solely a lot major deficit by monetary repression, i.e. squeezing down the quantity of debt so its liquidity worth is excessive, pushing down the curiosity prices of debt. 

The paper staples these two workouts collectively, and calibrates the above simulations to (s<0) and (r<g). However I wager they’d look nearly precisely the identical with (s>0) and (r>g). (r<g) isn’t important to the fiscal simulations.* 

The paper analyzes self-insurance in opposition to idiosyncratic shocks as the reason for a liquidity worth of debt. That is attention-grabbing, and permits the authors to calibrate the liquidity worth in opposition to microeconomic observations on simply how a lot individuals endure such shocks and wish to insure in opposition to them. The Half I simulations are simply that, heterogeneous brokers in motion. However this theoretical level is way broader, and applies to any financial drive that pushes up the true rate of interest as the quantity of debt rises. Bonds in utility, right here and within the paper’s appendix, work. They’re a standard stand in for the usefulness of presidency bonds in monetary transactions. And in that case, it is simpler to increase the evaluation to a capital inventory, actual property, overseas borrowing and lending, gold bars, crypto, and different technique of self-insuring in opposition to shocks. Normal “crowding out” tales by which greater debt raises rates of interest work. (Blachard’s r<g work has a number of such tales.) The “segmented markets” tales underlying religion in QE give a rising b(r). So the overall precept is powerful to many alternative sorts of fashions. 

My notice explores one difficulty the paper doesn’t, and it is an essential one in asset pricing. OK, I see how dynamics are domestically unstable, however how do you are taking a gift worth when r<0? If we write the regular state [b_t = int_{tau=0}^infty e^{-r tau}s dtau = int_{tau=0}^T e^{-r tau}s dtau + e^{-rT}b_{t+T}= (1-e^{-rT})frac{s}{r} + e^{-rT}b,]and with (r<0) and (s<0), the integral and ultimate time period of the current worth components every explode to infinity. It appears you actually cannot low cost with a damaging fee. 

The reply is: do not combine ahead [frac{db_t}{dt}=r b_t – s ]to the nonsense [ b_t = int e^{-r tau} s dtau.]As an alternative, combine ahead [frac{db_t}{dt} = rho b_t – theta – s]to [b_t = int e^{-rho tau} (s + theta)dt =  int e^{-rho tau} frac{u'(c_t+tau)}{u'(c_t)}(s + theta)dt.]Within the final equation I put consumption ((c_t=1) within the mannequin) for readability. 

  • Low cost the circulation worth of liquidity advantages on the shopper’s intertemporal marginal fee of substitution. Don’t use liquidity to provide an altered low cost fee.  

That is one other deep, and ceaselessly violated level. Our low cost issue tips don’t work in infinite-horizon fashions. (1=E(R_{t+1}^{-1}R_{t+1})) works simply in addition to (1 = Eleft[beta u'(c_{t+1})/u'(c_t)right] r_{t+1}) in a finite horizon mannequin, however you’ll be able to’t all the time use (m_{t+1}=R_{t+1}^{-1}) in infinite interval fashions. The integrals blow up, as within the instance. 

This can be a good thesis matter for a theoretically minded researcher. It is one thing about Hilbert areas. Although I wrote the low cost issue e-book, I do not know easy methods to lengthen low cost issue tips to infinite intervals. So far as I can inform, no one else does both. It isn’t in Duffie’s e-book. 

Within the meantime, for those who use low cost issue tips like affine fashions — something however the correct SDF — to low cost an infinite cashflow, and you discover “puzzles,” and “bubbles,” you are on skinny ice. There are many papers making this error. 

A minor criticism: The paper would not present nuts and bolts of easy methods to calculate a HAFT mannequin, even within the easiest instance. Observe against this how trivial it’s to calculate a bonds in utility mannequin that will get many of the identical outcomes. Give us a recipe e-book for calculating textbook examples, please!

Clearly this can be a first step. As FTPL shortly provides sticky costs to get affordable inflation dynamics, so ought to HAFT. For FTPL (or FTMP, fiscal concept of financial coverage; i.e. including rate of interest targets), including sticky costs made the story way more practical: We get a 12 months or two of regular inflation consuming away at bond values, slightly than a value stage bounce. I can not wait to see HAFT with sticky costs. For all the opposite requests for generalization: you simply discovered your thesis matter. 

Ship typos, particularly in equations. 


*Greg wrote, and identified this is not precisely proper. “In the usual r>g, s>0 case, a rise want to carry actual property (comparable to extra earnings threat) results in a decrease actual fee and better actual debt – the usual “secular stagnation” story. With r<g, s<0, an elevated want to carry actual property results in greater actual charges and better debt.” To grasp this remark, you must have a look at the availability and demand graph within the paper, or in my notice. The “provide” of debt within the regular state (b = s/r/), plotted with (r) as a perform of (b) flips signal from a declining curve to a rising curve when (s) and (r) change signal. The “demand” ( r(b)) is upward sloping. So when demand shifts out, (b) rises, however (r) falls when (r>0) and rises when (r<0). With optimistic rates of interest, you produce a larger quantity of actual debt, for a similar surplus, with a decrease actual rate of interest. With damaging rates of interest and a damaging surplus, you produce extra debt with a much less damaging actual fee. Hmm. The (r<g) area continues to be a bit bizarre. There may be additionally the opportunity of a number of equilibria, just like the New-Keynesian zero certain equilibria; see the paper and notice.  

Erzo Luttmer has a associated HAFT paper, “Everlasting Main Deficits, Idiosyncratic Lengthy-Run Threat, and Development.” It is calibrated in way more element, and in addition extra detailed on the r<g and future deficit questions. It contains fiscal concept (p. 14) however doesn’t appear centrally centered on inflation. I have not learn it but, however it’s essential for those who’re getting in to those points. 

I nonetheless regard r<g as a technical nuisance. In many of the circumstances right here, it doesn’t relieve the federal government of the necessity to repay money owed, it doesn’t result in a Magic Cash Tree, and it doesn’t undermine fiscal value stage dedication. I’m nonetheless not a fan of OLG fashions, which delicately want the financial system really to go on for infinite development. I am not completely persuaded HA is first-order essential for getting mixture inflation dynamics proper. The Phillips curve nonetheless looks as if the most important rotten timber within the ship to me. However these points are technical and complicated, and I might be flawed. Consideration is restricted, so you must place your bets on this enterprise; however fortuitously you’ll be able to nonetheless learn after different individuals work it out!  

Noah Kwicklis at UCLA has a really attention-grabbing associated paper “Switch Funds, Sacrifice Ratios, and Inflation in a Fiscal Principle HANK

I numerically clear up a calibrated Heterogeneous Agent New-Keynesian (HANK) mannequin that options nominal rigidities, incomplete markets, hand-to-mouth households, nominal long-term authorities debt, and energetic fiscal coverage with a passive financial coverage rule to research the implications of the fiscal concept of the value stage (FTPL) in a setting with wealth and earnings inequality. In mannequin simulations, the full cumulative inflation generated by a fiscal helicopter drop is essentially decided by the scale of the preliminary stimulus and is comparatively insensitive to the preliminary distribution of the funds. In distinction, the full actual GDP and employment response relies upon way more strongly on the steadiness sheets of the switch recipients, such that funds to and from households with few property and excessive marginal propensities to devour (MPCs) transfer mixture output way more strongly than funds to or from households with low MPCs….




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