"First the Keynesians say QE “won’t work” because in their flawed interest rate-oriented models it doesn’t work at the zero bound. Then the Fed does QE1 and the dollar plunges 4% on the news. Mere rumors of QE2 are enough to push stocks and commodities up sharply, as well as TIPS spreads. So now they are forced to argue that it works, but it works for the wrong reason, so it still doesn’t work. Or something like that. I.e. it works because it’s a signal for more expansionary future monetary policies, not because of more money today. Fine, but isn’t that arguing about how many QE transmission mechanisms can dance on the head of a pin? Does it work or not, that’s the question. (If you haven’t read my preceding post, do so first.)
But the bigger flaw in the Keynesian argument is that they don’t seem to realize that monetary policy always works through signaling, not just at the zero bound."
Ummm... right. Isn't that what we've always thought?
The zero lower bound isn't the point where expectations start to matter. It's the point where current interest rates lose traction because debt starts to look an awful lot like cash (what Glasner has called "some unpleasant Fisherian arithmetic"*). As Sumner says, "monetary policy always works through signaling", but that's the entire point of the New Keynesian IS curve, which was around long before the market monetarist blogosphere emerged to save the day. So why is Sumner suggesting that Keynesians "don't seem to realize" a point they've been making for decades?
I know Brad DeLong's probable answer but I hope there are others because as you all know that answer troubles me.
The other point I'd make is that just because this is something that was made explicit and formal by New Keynesianism does not mean it was something the Old Keynesians missed. The point was made explicitly by Keynes himself (although it was not made formally), and it's not a particularly complicated point. The reason the Old Keynesian models didn't have it was because they were simpler and the Rational Expectations revolution hadn't happened yet. The fact that expectations were not formally modeled does not mean that expectational issues weren't understood by Old Keynesians.
Here's my advice: If you want to know what a caricature Old Keynesian would say, take Scott Sumner at his word on what the disagreements are on monetary policy today. If you are interested in what they actually say you're going to need to look elsewhere.
And what endlessly frustrates me about this is that all this artificial division among economists makes good policy less likely not more likely.