IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Economics and Reality


  • Harald Uhlig

    (University of Chicago)


This paper is a non-technical and somewhat philosophical essay, that seeks to investigate the relationship between economics and reality. More precisely, it asks how reality in the form of empirical evidence does or does not influence economic thinking and theory. In particular, which role do calibration, statistical inference, and structural change play? What is the current state of affairs, what are the successes and failures, what are the challenges? I shall tackle these questions moving from general to specific. For the general perspective, I examine the following four points of view. First, economics is a science. Second, economics is an art. Third, economics is a competition. Forth, economics is politics. I then examine four specific cases for illustration and debate. First, is there a Phillips curve? Second, are prices sticky? Third, does contractionary monetary policy lead to a contraction in output? Forth, what causes business cycles? The general points as well as the specific cases each have their own implication for the central question at hand. Armed with this list of implications, I shall then attempt to draw a summary conclusion and provide an overall answer.

Suggested Citation

  • Harald Uhlig, 2011. "Economics and Reality," Working Papers 2011-006, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bfi:wpaper:2011-006

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Uhlig, Harald, 2005. "What are the effects of monetary policy on output? Results from an agnostic identification procedure," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 381-419, March.
    2. McCloskey, Donald N, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 481-517, June.
    3. Donald F. Cunningham & Patric H. Hendershott, 1984. "Pricing FHA Mortgage Default Insurance," NBER Working Papers 1382, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Sims, Christopher A., 1992. "Interpreting the macroeconomic time series facts : The effects of monetary policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 975-1000, June.
    5. Lars Peter Hansen & James J. Heckman, 1996. "The Empirical Foundations of Calibration," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 87-104, Winter.
    6. Smith, Adam, 1977. "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226763743 edited by Cannan, Edwin, March.
    7. Leamer, Edward E, 1983. "Let's Take the Con Out of Econometrics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(1), pages 31-43, March.
    8. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-1370, November.
    9. Sims, Christopher A, 1980. "Macroeconomics and Reality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 1-48, January.
    10. Rotemberg, Julio J., 2005. "Customer anger at price increases, changes in the frequency of price adjustment and monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 829-852, May.
    11. Lucas, Robert Jr, 1976. "Econometric policy evaluation: A critique," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 19-46, January.
    12. Frank Smets & Raf Wouters, 2003. "An Estimated Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium Model of the Euro Area," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(5), pages 1123-1175, September.
    13. Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas J. Sargent, 2007. "Introduction to Robustness," Introductory Chapters,in: Robustness Princeton University Press.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Economics and facts
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-01-16 23:00:00


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Favero, Carlo A. & Karamysheva, Madina, 2015. "What Do We Know About Fiscal Multipliers?," CEPR Discussion Papers 10986, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Maritta Paloviita and Matti Viren, 2012. "Analyzing the relationships between survey forecasts for different variables and countries," Discussion Papers 76, Aboa Centre for Economics.
    3. Marek Rusnak & Tomas Havranek & Roman Horvath, 2013. "How to Solve the Price Puzzle? A Meta‐Analysis," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 45(1), pages 37-70, February.
    4. Dieter Bögenhold, 2014. "Schumpeter’s Idea of a Universal Social Science," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 42(2), pages 205-215, June.
    5. Antonia López-Villavicencio & Valérie Mignon, 2013. "Nonlinearity of the inflation-output trade-off and time-varying price rigidity," EconomiX Working Papers 2013-1, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
    6. repec:eee:macchp:v2-71 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Bögenhold, Dieter, 2014. "Schumpeter's Idea of a Universal Science," MPRA Paper 58115, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Tony Lawson, 2014. "Modelación matemática e ideología en la economía académica," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 16(30), pages 25-51, January-J.
    9. Bill Russell, 2013. "Macroeconomics: science or faith based discipline?," Dundee Discussion Papers in Economics 276, Economic Studies, University of Dundee.
    10. Ramey, V.A., 2016. "Macroeconomic Shocks and Their Propagation," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • B13 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Neoclassical through 1925 (Austrian, Marshallian, Walrasian, Wicksellian)
    • B22 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Macroeconomics
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
    1. Economic Logic blog


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bfi:wpaper:2011-006. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Toni Shears). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.