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Evolutionary economics and the counterfactual threat: on the nature and role of counterfactual history as an empirical tool in economics

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  • Dominique Foray

    () (IMRI, Universit, Dauphine, 75775 Paris Cedex, France)

  • Robin Cowan

    () (MERIT, University of Maastricht, PB 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands)

Abstract

Counterfactual conditional statements are ubiquitous in any scientific endeavour. This paper contains an analysis of the nature of counterfactual conditionals and the conditions under which they are considered assertable by scientists. The paper then applies this analysis to the use of counterfactuals in evolutionary economics, arguing that because evolutionary economics is inherently concerned with historical processes it cannot avoid the use of counterfactual history as one of its tools of empirical analysis. We discuss the strengths and pitfalls of counterfactual history. We argue that because evolutionary economics starts from the foundation that randomness may be inherent in any economic system, the very aspects of evolutionary economics that make counterfactual history a desirable empirical tool also make that tool difficult to employ.

Suggested Citation

  • Dominique Foray & Robin Cowan, 2002. "Evolutionary economics and the counterfactual threat: on the nature and role of counterfactual history as an empirical tool in economics," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 12(5), pages 539-562.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:joevec:v:12:y:2002:i:5:p:539-562
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    Cited by:

    1. Giorgio Fagiolo & Paul Windrum & Alessio Moneta, 2006. "Empirical Validation of Agent Based Models: A Critical Survey," LEM Papers Series 2006/14, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    2. Marielle Berriet-Solliec & Jacques Baudry & Pierre Labarthe, 2010. "L'évaluation des politiques à l'épreuve des faits : apports des débats autour des approches evidence based policies," INRA UMR CESAER Working Papers 2010/5, INRA UMR CESAER, Centre d'’Economie et Sociologie appliquées à l'’Agriculture et aux Espaces Ruraux.
    3. Thomas Brenner & Claudia Werker, 2004. "Empirical Calibration of Simulation Models," Computing in Economics and Finance 2004 89, Society for Computational Economics.
    4. Giorgio Fagiolo & Alessio Moneta & Paul Windrum, 2007. "A Critical Guide to Empirical Validation of Agent-Based Models in Economics: Methodologies, Procedures, and Open Problems," Computational Economics, Springer;Society for Computational Economics, vol. 30(3), pages 195-226, October.
    5. G. Fagiolo & C. Birchenhall & P. Windrum, 2007. "Empirical Validation in Agent-based Models: Introduction to the Special Issue," Computational Economics, Springer;Society for Computational Economics, vol. 30(3), pages 189-194, October.
    6. Bulat Sanditov, 2004. "ICT Revolution, Globalization and Informational Lock-in," Working Papers geewp39, Vienna University of Economics and Business Research Group: Growth and Employment in Europe: Sustainability and Competitiveness.

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