Vague Fed

Arnold Kling complains about vague fed policy.

Everyone is acting as if in order to maintain the Fed's independence, the Fed must be allowed to be vague about its targets, vague about how it might achieve those targets, secretive about how it thinks its actions influence those targets, and ad hoc in its approach to deciding when to take action. I would suggest re-examining such assumptions.

Part the Fed's focus in non-panic times is spent making sure they don't surprise the markets too much. In order to avoid surprising the markets, the Fed has to be vague in order to slowly walk the market towards their plans, which they are probably still in the process of figuring out.

"My suggestion is that, if you get asked those questions, just say we're examining nontraditional methods and there are many different ways in which we can address the issue. I would be as nonspecific as you know how to be. The major reason is that I don't think we will know until we start to address the issue." - Greenspan in 2003, discussing what the Fed might do as interest rates approach the zero bound

If they stated their shifting views in real time the market might react in an extreme manner when the message changed, and unexpected sources of volatility are generally harmful to a leveraged economy. Furthermore, if the message changed too often, there would eventually be points where the market might ignore the Fed due to the low signal to noise ratio. Then the Fed would lose control of the very useful tool of managing future expectations. So in order to keep this tool, they have to be very sparing with their use of clear messaging.