Money, Macroeconomics, and Keynes: Essays in Honour of Victoria Chick - Vol. 1

By Philip Arestis; Meghnad Desai et al. | Go to book overview

16

SOME MYTHS ABOUT PHILLIPS'S CURVE 1

Bernard Corry

Some economists have had theorems, models, a statistic or statistical plot or something or other named after them. To take a few examples, listed alphabetically to avoid any suggestion of ranking them, we have Arrow's impossibility theorem, the Cournot point, Gibrat distributions, the Harrod-Domar growth model, Lorenz curves, the Lucas critique, the Modigliani-Miller theorem, Nash equilibrium, Pareto optimality, the Samuelson-Stolper theorem, Solow's growth model, Tobin's 'q', Walrasian equilibrium, and so on. But today I think it is fair to say that among the better, if not best known, is the Phillips curve. 2 Any student that has taken a basic economics course will have heard (even read!) a reference to that curve. Yet there are numerous accounts of, among other things, what it means, where it comes from, what theoretical and or statistical support it has, the policy implications of it, and yet more.

In my contribution to this volume honouring Victoria Chick, I want to look at what I call 'myths' about the Phillips curve. Vicky herself has been one of those instrumental in trying to separate out the 'myths' surrounding Keynes's economics from what goes under the heading 'Keynesian' in the popular economics literature (Chick 1983). Here I wish to make a contribution to the economics of A. W. Phillips versus the literature ('myths') labelled 'the Phillips curve'. I want to contrast what Bill Phillips actually did in his famous paper - what I shall call Phillips's curve - from what has grown up to be 'the Phillips curve'. I also want to emphasise the point made by scholars of Phillips's work that his famous curve was not at all his important contribution to economic inquiry. 3 Does it matter that the myths remain with us for students to pick up from popular textbooks, read by millions, rather than get the truth from esoteric journals and monographs read by hundreds? Well perhaps it does not. 4 Does it make us worse economists by believing in these myths? No, probably not, but I think we do owe a duty to the past contributors to our discipline to 'get the record straight' where this is possible. And indeed it may sometimes be the case that the original version offers much more insight into the actual working of the real world than the modified versions that have usurped the originals.

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