IN THE latter part of this week, monetary policymakers and theorists from around the world were due to attend the Jackson Hole symposium, 6,800 feet up in the mountains of Wyoming. Many people—aggrieved savers and yield-hungry investors—probably wish they would never come back down. To their critics, central bankers seem strangely committed to two unpardonable follies: eroding the interest people earn on their savings and inflating the prices they pay at the shops.

It was, therefore, brave of one central banker—John Williams of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco—to argue on August 15th that the Fed might need to raise its 2% inflation target or replace it with an alternative if it is successfully to fight the next downturn. Some economists favour an inflation target of 4%. This is not as outlandish as it sounds. Indeed, the notion that new circumstances require a new target may appear quite run-of-the-mill to central bankers from the developing world who are taking part in the symposium.

Much criticism of the West’s central bankers rests on the myth that they are wholly responsible for rock-bottom rates. In fact, they seek the...Continue reading