The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • Donald N. McCloskey
Reference work entry


Counterfactuals are what ifs, thought experiments, Gedankenexperimenten, alternatives to actual history; they imagine what would have happened to an economy if, contrary to fact, some present condition were changed; in the philosophical literature therefore they are known also as ‘contrary-to-fact conditionals’.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Elster, J. 1978. Logic and society: Contradictions and possible worlds. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  2. Fogel, R.W. 1964. Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in econometric history. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
  3. Fogel, R.W. 1979. Notes on the social saving controversy. Journal of Economic History 39(1): 1–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Goodman, N. 1965. Fact, fiction and forecast, 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merril.Google Scholar
  5. Lewis, D.K. 1973. Counterfactuals. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Lucas, R.E. 1976. Econometric policy evaluation: A critique. Journal of Monetary Economics, Supplementary Series 1: 19–46.Google Scholar
  7. McClelland, P.D. 1975. Causal explanation and model building in history, economics, and the new economic history. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Mill, J.S. 1872. A system of logic, 8th ed. London: Longmans; reprinted, 1956.Google Scholar
  9. Redlich, F. 1968. Potentialities and pitfalls in economic history. Explorations in Entrepreneurial History II, 6(1), 93–108. Reprinted in The new economic history: Recent papers on methodology, ed. R.L. Andreano. New York: Wiley, 1970.Google Scholar
  10. Selten, R., and U. Leopold. 1982. Subjective conditionals in decision and game theory. In Studies in contemporary economics. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  11. Williamson, J.G. 1974. Late Nineteenth-Century American Development: A general equilibrium history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald N. McCloskey
    • 1
  1. 1.