September 1, 2009

Thought Experiments, Counterfactuals, and Comparative Analysis

  • Paul Dragos Aligica

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Anthony Evans

    Assistant Professor of Economics, ESCP-EAP European School of Management
Contact us
To speak with a scholar or learn more on this topic, visit our contact page.

This article discusses the problem of “thought experiments” in Austrian economics and takes as a starting point Lawrence Moss’ argument on the divide between the older Austrian economists—for whom thought experiments were crucial—and the new generation that, in Moss’ view, has “abandoned” such methods. The article is an attempt not only to bridge this alleged divide but also to contribute to the development of the Austrian methodology. It is argued that what may be perceived as “abandonment” bolsters rather than precludes the role of thought experiments in the Austrian paradigm. The article identifies an entire family of comparative and counterfactual analysis research strategies available to the Austrians, all enjoying a solid epistemological and methodological grounding. The “comparative-counterfactual analytics” pattern threads together the conjectural histories, spontaneous orders and empirical case studies of the contemporary Austrians, with the classic tradition of older works. Consequently, the recent evolution of Austrian scholarship should not be seen as an aberration or abandonment but as a deliberate, natural and commendable development.

Purchase the article

Citation (Chicago Style)

Aligica, Paul Dragos and Anthony J. Evans. "Thought Experiments, Counterfactuals, and Comparative Analysis." Review of Austrian Economics, Vol. 22, no. 3, 2009.