Public Policy Brief Highlights No. 60A | June 2000
A Dual Mandate for the Federal Reserve
The Pursuit of Price Stability and Full Employment
The Federal Reserve currently has two legislated goals—price stability and full employment—but a debate continues about making price stability the Fed’s primary and overriding goal. Evidence from the recent history of monetary policy contradicts arguments in favor of assigning primacy to inflation fighting and supports giving full employment equal importance. Economic performance under the dual mandate has been excellent, with low unemployment and low inflation, while many European countries whose central banks focus solely on inflation are experiencing double-digit unemployment. The costs of unemployment are high, but the costs of even moderate inflation are estimated to be low. Central bankers, who tend to be inflationaverse, need to be prodded to consider goals other than inflation. And, if the Fed pursues price stability exclusively, the price level is not free to increase in the event of an adverse supply shock to prevent large increases in unemployment. A dual mandate allows the Fed to focus on one goal or the other as conditions demand and to balance policy effects.