Ian Webb, David Baumslag and Rupert Read.
One September morning, the Lord Mayor of London was called to inspect a fire that had recently started in the City. Believing that it posed little threat, he refused to permit the demolition of nearby houses, probably due to the expense of compensating the owners. The fire spread and ultimately destroyed most of the city. The Great Fire of London had begun. Only when the fire became too extensive to be readily halted did the full extent of the danger become evident. Financial regulators today face a similar challenge preventing financial crises- action causes significant costs to some but the consequences of inaction are much more uncertain. To combat this, we argue they should apply the precautionary principle.
Alastair Cunningham, David Bradnum and Alastair Firrell.
Uncertainty is a hot topic for economists at the moment. Have business leaders become more uncertain as a result of the EU referendum? If so, has that uncertainty had any effect on their plans? The Bank’s analysts look at lots of measures of economic uncertainty, from complex financial market metrics to how often newspaper articles mention it. But few of those measures are sourced directly from the trading businesses up and down the country whose investment and employment plans affect the UK economy. This blog reports on recent efforts to draw out what the Bank’s wide network of business contacts are telling us about uncertainty – comparing what we’re hearing now to trends seen in recent years.
Angus Foulis and Saleem Bahaj
The macroprudential toolkit available to policymakers across several central banks is new and largely untested. For example, in the UK, the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee (FPC) has, since the financial crisis, received powers to alter bank capital requirements and to place restrictions on the terms of household mortgages for macroprudential purposes. These policy tools have not been used systemically in the past, so their impact and the FPC’s reaction function remain unclear. Moreover, in contrast to monetary policy, where price stability can be judged against inflation, the objective of macroprudential policymakers – the stability of the financial system – is inherently unobservable. Thus macroprudential policymakers face a high degree of uncertainty over the impact and effectiveness of their tools and a target variable they cannot perfectly observe.
Riccardo M Masolo and Francesca Monti.
Newspapers and other media outlets regularly speculate about what the Bank of England might do in response to current economic conditions. Curiously, however, most of the models we use to carry out our economic and policy analysis completely disregard this type of uncertainty. Many of them consider how people would behave when uncertain about the state of the economy, yet everyone is assumed to know for sure the variables that the central bank will respond to, how aggressively and why. To try and fill this gap between the models we typically use and the reality we actually face, in our paper we explore the effects of Knightian uncertainty about the behaviour of the policymaker in an otherwise standard macro model. Continue reading